All Saints Day. The Catholic world honours today those who died as martyrs and were canonized. These people died because they believed in the God revealed through Jesus. They were persecuted by Roman emperors, Muslim invaders, Protestant opponents and modern-day tyrants. How valuable a cause must it be to be ready to die for it? Isn’t it strange that some would rather die for their country in a military conflict than stand up for a domestic policy cause like the defense of human rights?
Sarah was ninety years old. It took me a while to see the reference to the Genesis 17:17. It took me some twenty years to trace the title of this piece back to the Old Testament. Sarah gave birth to her son Isaac at the age of 90, Abraham, the father, being 100 years old at the miraculous birth of the boy. Neither father nor mother did believe God when he announced to both that Abraham would have a true heir and that he intended to establish a Covenant with Abraham and later with Isaac – the very origin of the Jewish religion. But God kept word and the miracle happened. A singular event which has its parallel in the New Testament: the miraculous birth of Jesus by a virgin of the name of Mary.
Brother. The first time someone outside my family called me “brother” – well, that was a memorable moment. Some 25 years ago, while I studied political sciences in Munich, I had picked up a stranded student from Nigeria, well dressed in a suit, not knowing anybody in Germany, not speaking a word of German and naively hoping to begin his engineering studies within a few weeks. Or was it me who was naive? Anyway, my sense of solidarity compelled me to help him out with a warm meal, that he insisted to pay back, with directions as where to find the university, the dining hall and the Studentenwerk. And I tried to find some Nigerian expats who could guide him through the first weeks in Germany.
Today, Luxembourg celebrates its national holiday. For decades, this day has been marked by cherished traditions: fireworks, a military parade and a solemn mass with an even more solemn Te Deum. Lully, Bach, Händel, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Kodaly, Britten… many composers have set this early Christian hymn of praise to music. But one of the most impressive versions I know has been written by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, who turned 80 last year. I have a wonderful record released by the German label ECM recorded by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra conducted by Tonu Kaljuste.