January 19, 2021

3rd Sunday after Trinity: Cantata & Pic of the Week

Banff HDR. Photo by Paul Gorbould

(Click on picture for larger image)

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I’m deeply thrilled about our choice of worship music today. We present three movements from, perhaps, J.S. Bach’s greatest cantata: BWV 21, “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis” (My heart was deeply troubled).

Craig Smith describes this magnificent work and gives its background:

Several years into his tenure as music director to the court of Weimar, Johann Sebastian Bach was instructed to write one cantata a month for the chapel services. Near the beginning of this series Bach wrote what was to be his largest sacred Cantata, “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis,” BWV 21.  Not only was this work written to go with the readings for the third Sunday after Trinity, but it served as a farewell to the gravely ill Prince Johann Ernst of Sachsen-Weimar. The young prince, who had been one of Bach’s favorite and most talented pupils, was on his way to a spa in Swabia where he later died.  Bach uses the main tune from a movement of Vivaldi’s D Minor Concerto, Opus 3 #11, as the theme for the opening chorus.  The concerto had been a favorite of the prince and with its moving text describing a grave illness, the whole movement should be seen as an homage to the young prince.

The work itself covers many different styles. The second and last choruses probably date from very early in Bach’s career.  The opening and the great chorale prelude “Sei nun wieder zufrieden,” were written in 1714. Many of the movements were extensively revised for Bach’s first Leipzig Cantata cycle in 1723.  Certainly the work has a refinement and finish to it unknown in his early Weimar years.

I have chosen three pieces from this long, complex, two-part cantata that I think fit well together and provide a message that moves from the troubled soul to transcendent praise. May it move us all this Lord’s Day!

First, the final chorus from part one, which takes its text from Psalm 42, urging the troubled soul to wait upon God:

Why do you trouble yourself, my soul,
and are so restless in me?
Wait for God; for I will yet thank Him,
since He is the help of my countenance and my God.

Second, a sprightly tenor aria in which the believer encourages his soul to rejoice in the God who has come to him in Jesus “with heavenly delight.”

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Rejoice, soul, rejoice, heart,
fade now, troubles, disappear, pains!
Change, weeping, into pure wine,
my aching now becomes a celebration for me!
Burning and flaming is the purest candle
of love and of comfort in my soul and breast,
since Jesus comforts me with heavenly delight.

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Finally, an awe-inspiring chorale that lifts us into the heavenly realms of “praise and honor and glory and power.”

The Lamb, that was slain,
is worthy to receive power, and riches,
and wisdom and strength,
and honor and glory and praise.
Praise and honor
and glory and power
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen, Alleluia!

• • •

Photo by Paul Gorbould at Flickr. Creative Commons License


  1. Something of a first — an iMonk article without a single comment? Blame it on (a) the July 4th weekend or (b) the absence of anything controversial in it ? Not even an appreciative comment? I don’t know, but it’s scary. Did the Lutheran rapture take place today?

    • Susan Dumbrell says

      Possibly none of the above. However, the Cantata was a bit dreary. This is said by a Bach enthusiast.

  2. For whatever reason, the videos of the Bach pieces this week continued on beyond the usual short excerpt, which I found positive and left me feeling much less like I was listening to a dirge. I don’t listen with the same ears as the learned music doctors, but it usually seems to me that a short excerpt does violence to Bach and destroys whatever effect the cantata must have had in the original setting.

    Since our almost achieved record silence has been broken, the often accompanying photos of native middle eastern peoples disturbs my sense of Bach in a way that paintings from that period or videos of the recording artists do not. I realize this is way beyond the control of CM, and lays me wide open for charges of bigotry and prejudice, but I feel an agenda at work here. In particular shoving a photo of a suffering child in my face sets off all my alarms of being manipulated and I immediately raise shields against it. There is a time and place for this that we do not take nearly often enough, and yes, the cantatas concern trouble and suffering, but they end on a note of God’s love and comfort which apparently is not strong enough to overcome the pain of a suffering child for the editors of these videos.

  3. What I find in the words is I put this honestly is that they are what I would like to hear and are beautiful Just like I would expect them to be. My gut feeling is who is he speaking to man or God and which is more important to him in the song. I myself have found that this question becomes difficult at times, My words in my head are so beautiful but are they real. What choice is there but to wait on my God but does it mean I have to be always so overjoyed that I do not feel. Bull…. I feel just as he made me to. These words above are the best I can do but rarely do I see them happen if at all. I spread the ashes of a good friend in gardens where he liked to lay. Foot prints in the snow my memory of one I was so fond of. Great world I live in and the meat grinder I go down everyday, yet still I have hope in what has been given in grace. If not than hell is what I will go to praying all the way that none follow because I’m going to give all he can handle.

  4. I sang this piece with the Plano Civic Chorus & Orchestra back in the early 80’s – what a thrill it was!

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