Wednesday, March 16, 2011


This is an odd sort of post, serving as a kind of spiritual bookend to my direct appeal for disaster relief in Japan. I've already made mention of my prayers for the victims of last week's earthquake and tsunami, and I've asked readers of this blog to add their own prayers. Since prayer is so often expressed through music, I thought it might be a good idea to augment our prayers of petition with a musical offering.

One of Japan's greatest modern composers, Tōru Takemitsu first gained widespread attention outside his own country with his Requiem for Strings, heard above in a 1990 performance by the New Japan Philharmonic under the direction of Seiji Ozawa. Takemitsu composed his Requiem in 1957 as a tribute to fellow composer Fumio Hayasaka, who had died two years earlier at the age of forty-one. This single-movement instrumental work may not be a "requiem" in the traditional sense, but it remains appropriately somber and subdued.

The second musical selection in this post depicts another sort of requiem, which some readers will recognize as a traditional Orthodox panikhida, offered here in Japanese at Holy Annunciation Cathedral in Kyoto. If you would like to know what is being sung, take a look at this English text of the panikhida. The Orthodox Church in Japan was born through the missionary efforts of nineteenth-century Russian bishop Nikolai Kasatkin, venerated today as St. Nicholas of Japan. Like Japanese Roman Catholics, the Orthodox in Japan are a small minority in a largely secular society still marked by Buddhist and Shinto influences. Even so, through its very existence the Orthodox Church in Japan offers a potent reminder that Byzantine Christianity is just as universal as its Latin counterpart.

As the situation there still seems to be getting worse before it gets any better, please join me in continuing to pray for Japan. AMDG.


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