The Bible and Brahms' Requiem

Carol Bechtel

READ : Psalm 126:5-6

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy. (v. 5)

My colleague, Stan Rock, has been fighting a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He told me once that Brahms’ Requiem has been an important “coach” for him in this battle. When I asked him why, he said, “Because of its honesty and its hope.”

Honesty and hope. I think Stan put his finger on the secret to the Requiem’s potential for opening our hearts to God’s healing touch. It does not shy away from the depth of human suffering. Yet, it enfolds its listeners with a quiet confidence in God’s saving power.

Today’s verses from Psalm 126 are set to music in the first movement of the Requiem. They capture both the honesty and the hope that Stan spoke of. Tears are a real part of grief, after all, and the psalm does not try to deny them. Yet, it does help us to see them in a new way. Using images of seed time and harvest, the psalmist prays that God will turn the seeds of our tears into a bountiful harvest of joy.


Merciful God, help us to feel your love, even in the midst of our grief. Help us to trust that you will turn the seeds of our sorrow into a harvest of joy.