January 23, 2021

Easter V: Pic & Cantata of the Week

Nesting Dove

(Click on picture for larger image)

• • •

Today we present the first two movements from a cantata about Jesus’ promise of a Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

Bach’s cantata BWV 108, based on the Gospel passage John 16:5-15, is called “Es ist euch gut, daß ich hingehe,” translated “It is expedient for you that I go away.”

Craig Smith writes:

Jesus’ predictions of what would happen to the church and how his followers would deal with matters of faith after his departure are mostly dealt with in the Gospel of John. These difficult and sometimes esoteric concepts are the basis for most of the Sundays between Easter and the Ascension. The Sunday called Cantate has one of the thorniest readings in the whole lectionary. Marianne von Ziegler uses two extensive quotes from the designated passage from the gospel of John as the cornerstone of her text for the Cantata BWV 108.

The work begins with an elaborate aria for bass, oboe d’amore and strings. In it Jesus tells the disciples that it is good that he is leaving them; that only with his absence can the Holy Spirit be there. …The oboe d’amore takes the lead with an elegant extremely flexible line, so highly ornamented and unpredictable in its direction that the accompanying strings can hardly keep up. By the third bar the opening statement has become mysterious and attenuated. It becomes progressively clear that the melody represents the Holy Spirit, something undefinable and later on clearly characterized [in the KJV] as “for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.” This concept of the Holy Spirit as something that is a reflection of those who perceive it is central not only to the imagery of this cantata, but also to the very structure of the music.

It is good for you that I should go away;
for if I do not go away

the comforter will not come to you.
But if I go

I shall send him to you.


The opening bass aria is followed by an aria for tenor with a powerful, wide-ranging violin accompaniment in which the disciple responds with a statement of trust.

No doubt can disturb me
from hearing your word, Lord.
I believe, if you go away

then I can be comforted
that among the redeemed
I shall come to the haven I long for.


  1. Susan Dumbrell says

    suitably chastened
    may forgiveness be given
    I ask for Your Grace.

  2. Robert F says

    come Holy Spirit
    to the places that you fill
    and fill them again

  3. Susan Dumbrell says

    such Grace from you and from God.
    Blessings be yours

  4. Susan Dumbrell says

    I spent this afternoon at the Nursing Home singing karaoke WW1 songs with the residents.
    There must be Grace there somewhere.,

    A creased face which pleads
    escape with me, let us go now
    old tears wet his cheeks

    • Susan Dumbrell says

      further to the above, early this morning


      such expectations
      slip through fingers with old age
      I wake again, sigh

    • Rick Ro. says

      –> “…singing karaoke WW1 songs…”

      Someone actually made such a thing?! Cool! And if grace wasn’t there initially, you brought it with you.

  5. Robert F says

    Good pic, good cantata.

  6. >> . . . one of the thorniest readings in the whole lectionary.

    Now that’s an intriguing statement. Turns out, apparently, that this speaks of Jesus’ explanation of what the “Advocate” will do when he shows up: “And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement . . . .” Jesus goes on to explain what he means by this, an explanation which I have never fully understood, and which, privately, I don’t believe you understand either, whoever you are. Certainly the church has offered many further explications of sin, righteousness, and judgement, but I’m thinking that the Holy Spirit proves the church often to be as confused about these matters as the world, at least ever since the church forced God into three shoeboxes, and maybe before.

    I don’t much understand the explanations given for Bach’s music either. I listen to the selections and read the text, and then I turn on The Global Bach Community and let Big John wail the rest of the day with no idea whether what I am listening to is out of the sacred box or the secular, which is pretty much how I listen to the Holy Spirit as well. It seems to me that if the church at large has one big failing in common, it is in ignoring the reality of the “Avocate” other than several times removed from within the confines of the intellect. In my experience there are scattered exceptions to this.

    This is all irrelevant except as I step into the morass left by others. I look out the window and the critters down at the feeder have other concerns which are of the moment, usually trying to eat without being eaten, which now that I think of it is basically what I’m trying to do as well.

    Please give Daily Bread
    and protect us from Darkness
    without and within

    • Ron Avra says

      I have to agree, Charles. This is one of the most perplexing passages in scripture.

      • Ron, I had to laugh yesterday at your adventure in the swamp. My backwoods are separated from the front by three connected swamps and the only way across when I moved here were some precarious stepping stones. I’ve been slowly trying to haul rocks and improve the crossing, but every day I try to make it to the back woods on my prayer walk and sometimes it gets a bit wobbly getting there, especially after a heavy rain or a snowmelt. Sometimes it gets a bit wobbly at the Monastery too, and you can’t hear the frogs for all the folks lost in the backwoods. But every day someone brings a rock or two for the crossing, oftentimes more.

  7. After Bach there never seems to be anything left to say
    I don’t even know why I posted this
    The wind moving on the face of the pond shivered the sun into a cluster of diamonds

Speak Your Mind