Above, Fernando Ortega
April 2018 – A cruel tribunal, a ruthless mob, a skull-like hill, a rugged cross, and – in spite of it all – a prophecy of hope and restoration. These are the subjects of Fernando Ortega’s album, The Crucifixion of Jesus.
Ortega came on the scene of Christian music in 1997 with his first major label deal and his debut album, This Bright Hour. He introduced to the Christian music scene something grounded, complex, and soulful.
Now over a decade later, Ortega is renowned for his fresh take on classic hymns such as “Be Thou My Vision” and “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” His passion and love for his work are evident in his album, The Crucifixion of Jesus, as they are in the words he shares with AFA Journal.
AFA Journal: Why create an album on the crucifixion?
Fernando Ortega: The Crucifixion of Jesus is part of a larger project I intend to complete in the next few years. My goal is to record an album for each liturgical season: Advent, The Birth of Jesus, The Epiphany, Lent, The Crucifixion of Jesus, The Resurrection of Jesus, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time. Had I recorded in the right order, Advent would have been my first in the series. It was merely a matter of timing. Still, I was excited to create and record a series of songs and readings based on a subject that is not often focused on.
AFAJ: The album begins with a beautiful chorus of “Blessed Be Our God.” Why was it important to begin on that note of praise?
FO: “Blessed Be Our God” is a song I composed for our Good Friday Tenebrae service at Hope Church [Albuquerque N.E. Heights] where I help lead worship. I found the text in an ancient Holy Week liturgy I was reading. I’m not sure exactly why it was included in that mass, but for me, it serves as an emphatic declaration that God is to be praised, even in the face of death. It reminds me of the passage in Isaiah 50:7 – “Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.”
AFAJ: How did working on this project as a whole impact you personally?
FO: It was powerful – living in those texts, repeating them, and rehearsing them, etc., for over a year. Most of the album was recorded in my living room with no one else around. It was intense, for sure. But in the end, I feel like I understand the crucifixion way more than I did when I first began the project.
AFAJ: How do you hope people are affected by what they hear in the album?
FO: I hope it helps to remind Christians that the resurrection is absolutely foundational, that the Christian life is not all about being “positive” or “uplifting.” The Good News begins with a huge negative that we can’t gloss over or sidestep in order to get to the happy part, and that negative is the Crucifixion.
AFAJ: What does the cross mean to you?
FO: It was the ultimate symbol of disgust, repulsion, disdain, horror, and humiliation that could be heaped upon a societal reject in those days. And it is the path our God chose to take upon Himself. Blessed be our God, forever and ever!
The Crucifixion of Jesus is available at online and music retailers.