Bonhoeffer once said that he thought he would die at age forty. In fact, he made it to thirty-nine. Bonhoeffer loved the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, especially the magnificent St. Matthew Passion. But Bethge had introduced him to Heinrich SchÃ¼tz, Bach’s musical predecessor, whose polychoral compositions had enriched the tradition of Lutheran church music. During Advent 1940, Bonhoeffer and Bethge had performed the music of SchÃ¼tz during a sojourn at Ettal Benedictine Monastery in Bavaria. Among their favorites was “Bone Jesu” from SchÃ¼tz’s Kleine Geistliche Konzerte: “O good Jesus, Word of the Father/splendor of the Father’s glory/on whom the angels long to gaze/teach me to do Your will.” The melody and words of this sacred song were in Bonhoeffer’s mind as his hopes for release from prison dimmed. He had memorized the musical notation to this song and transcribed some of it onto the final letters he wrote. In this way, he continued to share his life and bless the world until the very end.
Earlier, Bonhoeffer had written these words to Eberhard and Renate Bethge:
The world lives by the blessing of God and of the righteous and thus has a future. Blessing means laying one’s hands on something and saying, Despite everything, you belong to God. This is what we do with the world that inflicts such suffering on us. We do not abandon it; we do not repudiate, despise or condemn it. Instead we call it back to God, we give it hope, we lay our hand on it and say: May God’s blessing come upon you, may God renew you; be blessed, world created by God, you who belong to your Creator and Redeemer.