Earth Shall Not Be Desolate

Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay

Immisit Dominus pestilentiam is among the earliest surviving works of Jan Dismas Zelenka, dating from 1709. It was composed for Holy Week services at Prague’s Saint Salvator Church.

In commemoration of the time between Christ’s arrest in the garden and his Resurrection on Easter morning, the Blessed Sacrament was removed from the main church and adored in a specially arranged Holy Sepulcher.

The text of this particular piece concerns a plague that the Lord sends upon Israel, in which seventy thousand men perish. King David builds an altar and offers sacrifices upon it. In answer to the people’s prayers, Israel is spared destruction.

Dramatizing this story allows us to meditate on our own sins and the devastation they have brought upon the world. As we contemplate the ultimate sacrifice offered on our behalf by David’s Son, the King of Kings, we mingle our own tears of contrition with his most precious blood.

There is an excellent recording of the work by Collegium Marianum.

Here follow live performances, by the same ensemble, of two of its arias:

Remember, Lord, thy covenant, and say to the angel of destruction: earth shall not be desolate.
Pray for me, tears, witnesses of a suffering soul; bewail in the depths of the heart the sins thou has committed.

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