B Minor Mass

My dear Parents,

As I write this letter, the Schleichers, as Ursel told me, are all listening to the B minor Mass for today’s Repentance Day. For years it has been part of Repentance Day for me, just as the St. Matthew Passion is part of Good Friday. I remember quite clearly the evening I heard it for the first time. I was eighteen years old, was coming from a Harnack seminar in which he had discussed my first seminar paper very graciously and had expressed the hope I would someday become a church historian; I was still quite full with this when I entered the Philharmonic Hall; then the great “Kyrie eleison” began, and at that moment everything else sank away completely. It was an indescribable impression. Today I am moving through it by memory, section by section, and rejoice that the Schleichers are able to listen to what is for me Bach’s most beautiful music.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, letter from Tegel Prison to his parents, November 17, 1943 (DBW-RE, p. 159)

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