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The Gospel for this Sunday in Bach’s day was John 16:16-23, a text in which Jesus warns his disciples, “Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.”
‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.’ Then some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying to us, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”; and “Because I am going to the Father”?’ They said, ‘What does he mean by this “a little while”? We do not know what he is talking about.’ Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, ‘Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.
Bach’s cantata for Jubilate Sunday (Easter IV), BWV 12 – “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen,” is plaintive, meditative, and utterly beautiful. It is one of his earlier works in Weimar (1714), revived for later use in Leipzig in 1724. Today we will listen to parts 1-2 of this poignant cantata, the opening Sinfonia and the chorus, “Weeping, lamenting, worry, apprehension”. In contrast to most of Bach’s triumphant and optimistic Easter cantatas, this cantata reminds the listener that “We must enter through much tribulation into God’s kingdom.”
The Sinfonia has a lovely oboe solo that draws us in to the quiet, thoughtful atmosphere of the entire piece. The chorus, in which the words marking the disciples’ sadness are pronounced and then overlap, was later arranged by Bach to form the Crucifixus of the great Mass in B minor. These movements, as well as the arias that follow and final chorale of BWV 12, remind us through their breathtaking beauty that God’s joy may be found even in the midst of tears.
anxiety and distress
are the bread of tears of Christians
who bear the mark of Jesus.
Text by Salomo Franck