The Eighth Word of Christ (On the Spiritual Sense of the Echo Aria Flößt, mein Heiland from “Christmas Oratorio” by Bach)


Since F. Spitta described the echo aria Flößt, mein Heiland from Christmas Oratorio by J. S. Bach a s
a Spielerei of the master, it has been a lot of speculations about what might be a “serious” spiritual meaning
of this piece of the great work. Among hot-button issues there are such topics as on whose behalf sing
the voices in the aria, which events from childhood or adolescence of Christ are reflected in it, to which festivals
of the church year refers this piece.
The author suggests that the aria has a link with the tradition of honoring the Seven Last Words of Christ on
the Cross, which has received the original development in the 18th-century German religious poetry. In the
famous Passion libretto by B. H. Brockes the gesture of Jesus, who bows the head at the moment of death,
is treated as an additional, the very last word (and also the very last act) of Christ, by which he demonstrates
the accomplishing of the salvation of mankind. As it is demonstrated in the article, the aria Flößt, mein
Heiland is the dialogue of the Christian soul with the Child Jesus, whose babble is seen by virtue of faith as
a prototype of the future Seven Last Words. Whereas, the prototype of the echo aria in the oeuvre of Bach
is the bass aria with choral Mein teurer Heiland from the St John Passion, wherein the corresponding
fragment of the Brockes’ libretto is used in a slightly modified form. Afterwards some of the changes have
had an impact on the conception of the aria Flößt, mein Heiland.


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