Epiphany II: Pic & Cantata of the Week

Cold Blue. Photo by David Cornwell

(Click on picture to see larger image)

• • •


Bach Cantata BWV 155, “My God, how long? How long?”

This cantata for the second Sunday in Epiphany, like Bach’s other works for this Sunday (BWV 3, 13), emphasizes spiritual distress and its resolution in Christ. The Gospel for the morning in Bach’s day was the story of the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11), and Bach chose texts that emphasize the movement from minor to major keys, from lack to provision, from questioning the presence and power of God in the midst of trouble, to trust in his goodness.

Today’s sample is a sprightly soprano aria, the climactic movement of this cantata, which encourages this trust.

As Julian Mincham comments, “The soprano aria is the one movement of this cantata which can be described as being truly joyous and it encapsulates the delight and, indeed, relief of complete commitment—-Heart, throw yourself into His merciful arms—-lay your burdens and oppressions upon His compassionate shoulders.”

• • •

Wirf, mein Herze, wirf dich noch
In des Höchsten Liebesarme,
Dass er deiner sich erbarme.
Lege deiner Sorgen Joch,
Und was dich bisher beladen,
Auf die Achseln seiner Gnaden.

Throw yourself, my heart, just throw yourself
into the loving arms of the Almighty,
so that he may feel compassion for you.
Place the yoke of your cares
and what has burdened you up till now
on the shoulders of his grace.

Cantata Text by Richard Stokes

Today’s photo by David Cornwell at Flickr

5 thoughts on “Epiphany II: Pic & Cantata of the Week

  1. Yes, presenting extreme examples is one way of answering the question. I have experienced meaningful Evangelical style worship in settings that were as evocative of God’s Presence as the Lutheran church I attended for five years in Oregon where the organist transposed the hymns on the fly to a key where even I could sing along. Before that I started out with a Pentecostal church where the pastor’s wife led congregational singing at the piano. She went about three hundred pounds and didn’t need a band backing her. I attended a Rob Bell service where the drummer sat in an enclosure so as not to visually distract, probably unique in Christendom. The local Methodist church’s band is an old guy with a trombone. As far as I can make out, these cantatas were not meant to include congregational singing, but I wasn’t there at the time. I do understand that there was congregational grumbling about Bach’s music being too loud. It’s all good, but I’m still listening to 24/7 Bach as we speak and waiting for the next said service to roll around.

    I added a link to 24/7 Bach above but it didn’t survive the trip. Anyone could find it searching The Global Bach Community. Superb listening station.


  2. There is a difference. My wife directs a choir in church, and its contribution is part of the service. So it was in Bach’s day. It didn’t supplant the liturgy or the congregation, it merely gave the people another way of hearing the Word. And the congregation sang their hymns as well. Bach’s cantatas certainly were brilliant, but they didn’t take over the service.

    In evangelical congregations the worship bands are supposed to be “leading” congregational worship through song, but often do so at the expense of congregational singing. It seems to me that the point is often rather to overwhelm the congregation with a sense of something — much like a rock concert is about the experience — and the congregation’s (audience’s) part is to get “caught up” in the music’s flow to somehow “feel God moving” in our midst.

    This is not true of all contemporary worship music or churches that use it. But often the underlying theology is still there even when the resources to overwhelm the congregation are not. Take it from one who “led worship” for many years.


  3. Another Churchless Sunday, waiting for the first Sunday of next month and the spoken service with no music. However I wouldn’t mind if they played a cantata as long as I wasn’t expected to sing. Spent several minutes this morning trying to figure out what is the difference between presenting one of these cantatas to a listening audience and the practice we love to castigate of Evangelical worship musical presentations. Yes, I know, one has drums, the other doesn’t, but in principle what’s the difference.

    Only thing I could come up with is whatever floats yer boat. But one thing these Cantata Sundays do for me is to remind me to turn on 24/7 Bach. Probably considered sacrilege by some to use Bach as background music, but for me it is a good way to spend a Churchless Sunday.


  4. –> “Throw yourself, my heart, just throw yourself
    into the loving arms of the Almighty,
    so that he may feel compassion for you.
    Place the yoke of your cares
    and what has burdened you up till now
    on the shoulders of his grace.”

    I’m reading Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” (which may have just supplanted Brennan Manning’s “Ragamuffin Gospel” as my favorite book on God’s grace), and that seems to be the common theme of Nouwen’s take on the parable and Rembrandt’s painting. Return home and “throw yourself into the loving arms” of the Father, who is so ready to show you how boundless His love is, and put “what has burdened you” on the shoulders of His grace.


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