Good Friday: The Reproaches

The Reproaches, known in Latin as the Improperia, are suggested to be chanted during the Veneration of the Cross during the solemn liturgy of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday.  They’re not often done, unfortunately, but I think they are worth our reflection.  They come partly from the book of the Prophet Micah, who laments the many ways the people of Israel have spurned the Lord and foretells their destruction because of it.  In the sixth chapter, the prophet sets up the Lord’s case:

 

My people, what have I done to you?
how have I wearied you? Answer me!
I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
from the place of slavery I ransomed you;
And I sent before you Moses,
Aaron, and Miriam. (Micah 6:3-4)

The Reproaches take up this theme, telling of the many ways God has offered salvation to his people, and how that offer has been spurned over time.  This is serious stuff, because it lays down the case of how our sins put our Lord on the Cross today.  I have to admit, if one doesn’t feel guilty in some way after hearing the Reproaches, one may not be capable of affective emotion!  Here is the text:

1 and 2: My people, what have I done to you
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you out of Egypt,
from slavery to freedom,
but you led your Savior to the cross.

2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: Holy is God! 
2: Holy and strong! 
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

1 and 2: For forty years I led you
safely through the desert.
I fed you with manna from heaven,
and brought you to a land of plenty; but you led your Savior to the cross.

Repeat “Holy is God…”

1 and 2: What more could I have done for you.
I planted you as my fairest vine,
but you yielded only bitterness:
when I was thirsty you gave me vinegar to drink,
and you pierced your Savior with a lance.

Repeat “Holy is God…”

II.

1: For your sake I scourged your captors
and their firstborn sons,
but you brought your scourges down on me.

(Repeated throughout by Choir 2)
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you from slavery to freedom
and drowned your captors in the sea,
but you handed me over to your high priests.
2: “My people….”

1: I opened the sea before you,
but you opened my side with a spear.
2: “My people….”

1: I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud,
but you led me to Pilate’s court.
2: “My people….”

1: I bore you up with manna in the desert,
but you struck me down and scourged me.
2: “My people….”

1: I gave you saving water from the rock,
but you gave me gall and vinegar to drink.
2: “My people….”

1: For you I struck down the kings of Canaan.
but you struck my head with a reed.
2: “My people….”

1: I gave you a royal scepter,
but you gave me a crown of thorns.
2: “My people….”

1: I raised you to the height of majesty,
but you have raised me high on a cross.
2: “My people….”

And here is a nice chant of it, courtesy of Youtube:

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