Jon Sobrino, SJ, is one of the leading voices of liberation theology in Latin America. He has written numerous books, including Jesus the Liberator (1991), The Principle of Mercy: Taking the Crucified People from the Cross (1994), Christ the Liberator (1999), and No Salvation Outside the Poor (2008). He holds a doctorate in theology from Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt and has been awarded numerous honorary degrees.

Born in Spain, Fr. Sobrino has lived in El Salvador for most of his adult life, teaching theology at the Central American University, which he helped to found (Universidad Centroamericana). Passionate concern for the poor has been integral to his lifelong theological project. His writings reflect upon “the God of the poor and of the victims,” the God of Jesus of Nazareth.

Fr. Sobrino experienced firsthand the ravages of the bloody civil war that engulfed El Salvador from 1980 to 1992 and claimed the lives of some 75,000 Salvadorans. In 1989, members of the elite Atlacatl unit of the Salvadoran army burst into the Jesuit residence of the Universidad Centroamericana, and shot dead six Jesuit priests on the faculty, because of their “subversive” work on behalf of the poor. They also killed a housekeeper and her teenage daughter, as they had been ordered to “leave no witnesses.” Fr. Sobrino was the only survivor, as he happened to be in Thailand at the time, giving a talk.

This massacre was an act of such wanton brutality that it caused the light of international attention to shine on the conflict and hasten its resolution. The martyrs of El Salvador died in solidarity with many others who perished in that conflict. Their death drew attention to those whose lives have been destroyed through poverty, hunger, lack of basic human rights, violence, and war—lives deprived of hope and freedom.

It is perhaps inevitable for Christians to associate innocent suffering with the Cross. Yet the Cross is not the end of the story. In the midst of a world of injustice and death, what does it mean to believe in the Resurrection? In his writings Fr. Sobrino has said, “I am writing from a place of victims and I am trying to reflect from their situation on these texts [of Scripture] that speak about a crucified man who was raised.” We asked him to speak with us about resurrection.

Production Credits

Rita Ferrone, producer
Gene Palumbo, director

Sachin Ramabhadran, editor

Our sincere thanks to the Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” in El Salvador, where this interview was filmed, and the audiovisual department staff who filmed it.


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0  License.

Recommended Citation: Sobrino, Jon. (2015) “Resurrection,” The Yale ISM Review: Vol. 1: No. 2, Article 11. Available at:

View article as a PDF: Resurrection

A Study Guide to Performing the Passion

Performing the Passion is a documentary produced by Margot Fassler and Jacqueline C. Richard at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music in 2009. It features a contemporary performance of the 1725 version of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion, conducted by Simon Carrington. Performers and scholars from Yale and elsewhere appear in the film. They describe and reflect upon this great work of musical art and the experience of performing it.

The following study guide is intended for groups of adults. It may be used in settings such as adult education programs, retreats, small faith communities, choir and sacred arts gatherings, and schools. This guide is written for the group leader who will shepherd the discussion and who will insure that all present are invited and encouraged to participate. (A handout of the discussion questions is provided below.) The introductions and questions may be adapted to those who participate, and simplified or shortened as needed.

Alternatively, the guide may be used by individuals as a self-study project, in which case journaling would take the place of discussion.

The film has been divided into two sections for the purposes of this study guide. The time frame for the study is three hours, including introductions, discussions, and a break. For large groups, additional time may need to be allotted.


Arrange the seating so that the participants form small groups (4–6 persons).
Materials: Handout, means of projection for the videos, white board or large sheet of paper, markers.

Begin (20 minutes)

  1. The leader welcomes everyone. If the participants do not already know one another, allow time for introductions within the small groups. Ask the participants to share their answers these questions: How familiar are you with the music of J.S. Bach? With the St. John Passion (very familiar, somewhat familiar, not at all familiar)? What do you find engaging about his music, if you are familiar with it?
  2. On a large sheet of paper or a white board, have the participants brainstorm a list of as many themes of the Passion of Jesus that they can think of (suffering, betrayal, etc.). In small groups, discuss: If you were preparing a creative musical presentation of the Passion today, what themes would you want to bring forward and why?

View Part I

Invite the participants to view the first portion of the video: “Performing the Passion, Part I.” (30 minutes)

produced by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music
with support from The Lilly Endowment, Inc.
©2009 Yale Institute of Sacred Music

Reflect and Discuss (30 minutes)

  1. In the 1725 version, shown in the video, the first theme that appears is human sinfulness and the call to repentance (“Humankind, bewail your great sin.”). Later, we hear about Peter’s betrayal and the joy and difficulty of being a follower of Jesus. How do these themes compare with the ones you identified before watching the video? In your view, how do the themes of the Passion that Bach brings forward—the sin of humankind and the path of discipleship—affirm or challenge audiences today?
  2. Several aspects of musical preparation for performing the Passion were discussed in the video: how rehearsals are ordered, how soloists prepare for their roles, vocal techniques, etc. What impressed you as you watched these preparations for performing the Passion? Were there any surprises or questions raised for you? Discuss the implications of what was said in the film concerning musicianship.
  3. At one point in the video the observation is made that for Bach’s audience, “The chorales are the high point.” Why was this the case? For you as a listener today, how do the various musical forms (recitative, arias, chorales) make a difference in how you engage with the music? With the story?
  4. In its original liturgical setting, the first part of the Passion was followed by a one-hour sermon. Why do you think the sermon was inserted here, rather than at the end of the work? If you had to preach after having heard this much of the story, what sort of message would you proclaim?

BREAK (20 minutes)

View Part II (42 minutes)

Re-gather the group to view Part II of the video.

produced by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music
with support from The Lilly Endowment, Inc.
©2009 Yale Institute of Sacred Music

Reflect and Discuss (30 minutes)

  1. The charge that Bach’s St. John Passion is anti-Jewish is discussed in the video. What facts or observations in that discussion particularly impressed you? According to Christian theology “all of mankind is responsible” for the Passion. Therefore no one group bears the blame for the death of Jesus. Do you think this is well understood today? Why or why not?
  2. Rather than dwelling on the violence of the Crucifixion, St. John’s Passion presents us with an account of the glorification of the Son of God. How is the glorious quality of the Passion expressed in Bach’s portrayal? When the viola da gamba accompanies the words of Jesus from the cross, “It is finished,” what feeling does the music evoke in you? What is finished?
  3. A commenter in the video says, “The hero of Judah, Jesus, has won the struggle for all of us.” Bach expresses the intensity of this triumph in the music. But he then returns to the very intimate and personal response of the believer—a mixture of sorrow and hope. Why do you suppose Bach did not simply end on a triumphant note? Why do “floods of tears” follow, and what does this say about our human response to the Passion?
  4. A Eucharistic theology emerges in the final portion of Bach’s musical work. Jesus is the Paschal lamb; sins are forgiven and death is overcome through his suffering and triumph. How are these elements related to the Lord’s Supper / celebration of the Eucharist, as you understand it?
  5. The motet by Jacob Handl, inspired by Isaiah 57, starts with the words: “Behold how the righteous one dies / and no one takes notice; / the righteous are taken away, / and no one pays attention.” What does this text reveal about Christ’s Passion? What response does this ending invite from the listener?

Conclude (8 minutes)

Ask the participants to reflect on what they have learned in this study, and to identify an insight they want to remember. Depending on time, they may name that insight aloud to the whole group, or in their small groups, or to the person next to them.

Direct their attention to the list of materials for further reading, which appears on the handout, and encourage them to read them.

Conclude by thanking all who participated.


Click for PDF: Performing the Passion Participant Handout

This material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0  License.

Recommended Citation: Ferrone, Rita. (2015) “Study Guide to Performing the Passion,” The Yale ISM Review: Vol. 1: No. 2, Article 5. Available at:

View article as a PDF: A Study Guide to Performing the Passion