Easterfestival Imago Dei


For the secular society of our time the sacrificium has become incomprehensible, as the essence of the modern age is to strictly separate questions of faith from rational cognitive faculty. This suppression of the holy also leads to a profanation of the term sacrifice

Keep on reading the festival's foreword by artistic director Jo Aichinger

Stripped of all religious or cultural meaning, the question arises of the sense of sacrifice in affluent societies, where the individual’s strive for happiness and economic success has become the highest maxim. It has become too abstract to strive for ideals worth sacrificing ourselves for, on the contrary, reality makes the losers in the race for wealth permanently feel to be the victims – victims of circumstances, politics, economy – or they actually are. The lacking possibilities to have influence, the loss of control over one’s own destiny, hence powerlessness, all this causes a dilemma between desire and reality, which not only has political consequences but also a negative influence on a society’s morals. As it doesn’t make sense to be a victim oneself, it makes sense to find victims. The scapegoat from ancient times celebrates its resurrection in a metaphoric abomination. Currently it is the refugees who have been assigned this role – or better, migrants, who want to participate in the wealth of our Western societies. They are victims of war and persecution or the after effects of colonialism. Even the responsible politicians could be regarded as victims, namely of circumstances, economic interests, or political strategy.

But if all actors are victims, who is the offender?

To answer this question it is useful to return to the meaning of “sacrifice” again: sacrifice as an offering, as conscious renunciation, as devotion in the truest sense of the word. What is not meant here is the phenomenon of fashionable asceticism, whose only purpose is self-optimisation for economic interests. Only those who are ready to demonstrate permanent availability by rejecting the pleasures of life, self-discipline of the own body, seem to be successful in our society. This avoidance of desire that should lead to the perfect self, however, clearly contradicts ascesis in its philosophical sense: Humans are imperfect. But through exercise – the original meaning of the word “ascesis” – he or she can voluntarily attain self-control and virtues, including righteousness as an essential component of the Christian doctrine that also comprises compassion.

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” (Isaiah, 32:17)

Hence, fighting injustice and hardship is demanded from believers in the Christian fasting period. Sacrifice and devotion are exercises for reverence – a different kind of thinking – and an inner freedom – by letting go of dependencies. The Easter penitential season serves as preparation for the Passion of Christ, for the most important celebration of Christianity, Easter, commemorating the sacrifice of Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice.

20 years “Imago Dei” delves into the multilayered topic of sacrifice, from the sacrificium to the sacrificial feast: with music and rituals from the Arab region (Ensemble Mazaher, the singing Berber women Roudaniates), from the Eastern edge of Europe (the Georgian men’s choir Didgori together with writer Bodo Hell), and a sacrificial feast (Paul Renner, star cooks, and the NAMES Ensemble); with sounds from modern-day Eastern Europe and contemporary sound artists about ages of war, totalitarian systems, and cultural upheavals (Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” with the piano duo Ferhan and Ferzan Önder, chamber music by Schnittke and Weinberg with Gidon Kremer and soloists of the Kremerata Baltica as well as the Wachauer Pestbläser together with writer Josef Winkler); and with prominent works of spiritual music from occidental Baroque (Monteverdi’s “Vespers of the Blessed Virgin” with the choir Ad Libitum & Ensemble Barucco, Protestant Passion and resurrection cantatas, and Bach’s “The Musical Sacrifice” with Ensemble La Dolcezza).



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