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EPIPHANY VII (Sexagesima Sunday)
Sexagesima Sunday) is the name for the second Sunday before Ash Wednesday in the Gregorian Rite liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, and also in that of some Protestant denominations, particularly those with Anglican and Lutheran origins.
Bach wrote three cantatas for this Sunday: BWV 18, 181, 126.
BWV 18, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven,” is an early Bach cantata (1713). Ryan Turner of Emmanuel Music describes its importance in Bach’s musical development:
Soon after arriving in Weimar in 1713 Bach discovered the Italian concerti that he was to arrange for keyboard solo. These Italian works were to be very influential in the development of his international style. The Sinfonia that opens our cantata is Bach’s first original foray into the Italian concerto form. The movement for the unusual combination of four violas and continuo shows complete mastery of the Italianate style that he had seen in the Vivaldi models that had so impressed him.
The Gospel for that Sunday was Luke 8:4-15, the parable of the sower. Richard Stokes’s text emphasizes the life-giving power of God’s Word from Isaiah 55 and the enemies of God’s Word, who continually seek to rob it of its effectiveness in the world. Before the final chorale, a soprano aria states the believer’s desire to honor God’s Word above all (“My soul’s treasure is God’s word”).
Today, we will ignore the sung parts, and give us all an opportunity to meditate on God’s Word as we listen to the beautiful opening Sinfonia from this day’s cantata.