The improperia are the center, the absolute zero of Christian worship: here, Christ as God incarnate, speaking from the Cross, asks the World why they have treated him so unjustly. In the worship of Christ Church, this is recited by the choir as pairs of parishioners come forward to perform a full-body prostration in front of the Cross, and to kiss the feet of the Corpus Jesu hung thereon.

The form of the verses are as follows: The first line gives an example of God's grace to the Israelites, the second, one of the tortures of the Passion.(This is not considered to be anti-Semitical, just a general observation of how the Truth was received by the World.)

The chorus sings: "O my people, what have I done unto thee,
or wherein have I wearied thee?
Testify against me."

It's a very emotional moment. Somehow, my mind flits back about thirty years, when I was a militant atheist in a Catholic college, sneaking Communion wafers from a chapel, and kissing another Corpus in an altogether different way. And to the Initiation of the Ordo Templi Orientis in New York, where the Christus was live and truly without clothing, and I became one of Crowley's minions (and on technicalities, a Jew, a Freemason, and a Catholic), Kate Bush's Running Up that Hill, possibly the most blasphemous of all songs, yes, even worse than Patti Smith's Gloria(and Patti Lee is my one and only fantasy female love now and ever...), and my thoughts go to the fact that I haven't made the Stations of the Cross this Lent, and the alternate Stations written by Alfred Jarry and J. G. Ballard and Matt Howarth. And all of them fuse into one, for they have led me to this place, and all I can think of is that to walk, in front of those assembled, awkwardly with the man in front of me, and prostrate and kiss, is all that is being expected of me, and all I have to do...And I walk the gauntlet of singing people, whose faces are so beautiful, if only because I know them so well, and kneel and kiss, and I know I've done right.

And that's all.

Im`pro*pe"ri*a (?), n. pl. [L., reproaches.] Mus.

A series of antiphons and responses, expressing the sorrowful remonstrance of our Lord with his people; -- sung on the morning of the Good Friday in place of the usual daily Mass of the Roman ritual.

Grove.

 

© Webster 1913.

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