Patterico's Pontifications

10/21/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 99

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am



It is the twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan” (What God does is well done).

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 10:35-45:

The Request of James and John

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words, echoing Jesus’s words of trusting in God only, and attaining greatness and delight only through service and suffering:

What God does is well done,
His will remains righteous;
However he begins my affairs,
I will silently keep to Him.

. . . .

When the bitterness of the cross
struggles with the weakness of the flesh,
nevertheless it is well done.
Whoever, through misapprehension,
considers the cross unbearable,
will also in the future never share delight.

Happy listening! Soli Deo gloria.

UPDATE: I would be remiss if I did not point out that the duet near the end is truly lovely. I am listening to it a second time now. Even if you skip the rest of the piece, listen to the duet:

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

10/14/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 97

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 8:43 am



It is the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “In allen meinen Taten” (In all that I do / In all my undertakings).

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 10:17-31:

The Rich and the Kingdom of God

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words:

In all my actions
I take counsel from the Highest,
who owns and is capable of everything;
In all things He must give,
so that they may prosper,
His own advice and assistance.

There is nothing, early or late,
to all my efforts,
my worries are in vain.
He may do with my affairs
according to His will,
I place them at His disposal.

Both chorale movements in today’s cantata — at the beginning and at the end — are based on the famous melody “Innsbruck, ich muß dich lassen” (Innsbruck, I Must Leave You) by Heinrich Isaac. The final chorale (lasting less than a minute) in particular has a more straightforward rendition of the melody:

This tune may sound familar to fans of the St. Matthew Passion, because it is used twice in that work, for example here:

Happy listening! Soli Deo gloria.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

10/7/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 139

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am



The most happy man is he who knows how to bring into relation the end and beginning of his life.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It is the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott” (Happy is the man, who to his God).

Alert readers may recognize that we have heard this one before. But last October, when I first started publishing these cantata posts, I had no resources to try to match the text of the cantata to the text of the Gospel reading. Now I do, and this one fits today’s reading, so I’m using it once more. It’s lovely, and worth listening to again.

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 10:2-16:

Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

“What did Moses command you?” he replied.

They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

The Little Children and Jesus

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

The text of today’s piece is available here. Its opening words contain an echo of Jesus’s words about coming to the kingdom of God “like a little child”:

Fortunate the person who upon his God
can place a truly childlike reliance!
Although sin, the world, and death
and all the devils may hate him,
nevertheless he remains well pleased,
if only he has won God as his friend.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

9/30/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 73

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am



It is the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir” (Lord, as you will, so let it be done with me).

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 9:38-50 and sounds like an inversion of the famous George W. Bush line about the terrorists:

Whoever Is Not Against Us Is for Us

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

Causing to Stumble

“If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where

“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’

Everyone will be salted with fire.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words:

Ah, our will remains perverted,
quickly contrary, quickly dashed,
never considering death;
but a Christian, educated in God’s spirit,
teaches itself to sink into God’s will
and says:

Lord, as You will,
then squeeze, you pangs of death,
the sobs out of my heart,
if my prayer is only acceptable before You.

Lord, as You will,
then lay my limbs
down in dust and ashes,
this most corrupted image of sin.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

9/23/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 166

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am



It is the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Wo gehest du hin?” (Where are you going?).

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 9:30-37:

Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words, which are a stark reminder of the eternal importance of Christ to those who, like the disciples on the road, are becoming preoccupied with worldly concerns and worldly greatness, which can all end in an instant:

I beseech You, Lord Jesus Christ,
keep me in Your thoughts
and do not let me ever, at any time,
waver from this purpose,
rather to adhere closely to this,
until my soul, out of its nest,
arrives in heaven.

Just as rainwater quickly runs off
and easily washes out many colors,
so also does joy in the world
of which so many people hold so many pieces;
for although one sometimes sees
his wished-for fortune blossom,
yet even in the best days,
completely unexpected, the last hour tolls.

Take care and be wary
when good fortune smiles.
For so easily on earth
things can change before evening,
which in the morning was never considered.

The title of the cantata (“Where are you going?”)* refers to a passage at the beginning of chapter 16 of the book of John:

I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, “Where are you going?”

But the words of the cantata ask this question of the followers of Christ:

1. Aria B
Where are you going?

2. Arie T
I will think about heaven
and not give my heart to the world.
For whether I go or stay,
this question remains in my mind:
humanity, ah humanity, where are you going?

At the end of the cantata there appear these words:

Who knows how near my end is?
Time runs out, death approaches,
Ah, how quickly and swiftly
can my death-struggle come upon me!
My God, I beseech through Christ’s blood,
make my end good!

Astute followers of this series will recall the words “Who knows how near my end is?” (in German: “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende?”) from BWV 27, which we heard last month on the thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost. Take a few short moments to compare the different ways in which Bach sets that line to music in the two cantatas. The basic melody is the same, but the setting of the words is quite different. (The four musical examples which follow are only a few seconds each, so it’s well worth your time to play each.)

Here is the line from BWV 27, which we heard in August:

And here is the line from today’s cantata, BWV 166:

This second version is a bit faster and less elaborate, and the emotional effect is strikingly different. Although the rest of the passage is not completely identical in the two cantatas, the verses both end with these words: “My God, I beseech through Christ’s blood, make my end good!” (in German: “Mein Gott, ich bitt durch Christi Blut, Mach’s nur mit meinem Ende gut!”). Let’s hear the two different settings of these words, beginning with BWV 27 from August:

The slow pace, canon-like entry to the voices, and elaborations of the musical line in BWV 27 provide a very different effect from the simplicity of the end of today’s cantata, BWV 166, which sets the same words to the same melody, but in a simpler and more direct fashion:

I hope this little comparison has enriched your understanding of both cantatas and of Bach’s art, and provides a nice musical companion to today’s Gospel lesson.

Happy listening!

*Many sources translate “Wo gehest du hin?” as “Where are you heading?” but in this post I translate it throughout as “Where are you going” to match the language of this passage from John.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

9/16/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 159

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am



It is the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem” (Behold, let us go up to Jerusalem).

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 8:27-38:

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Jesus Predicts His Death

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

The Way of the Cross

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words:

Your Cross is already prepared for You,
where You will bleed to death;
here scourges are sought, there reeds are bound,
Your bonds await You;
Ah, don’t go there Yourself!

. . . .

I follow after You
I will stay here with You,
through spitting and shame,
do not scorn me!
I will still embrace You on the Cross,
I will not leave You,
even as Your heart breaks.
I will not release You from my breast,
When Your head grows pale
at the last stroke of death,
And if You must depart at last,
Then I will hold You fast
You shall find Your grave in me.
In my arm and bosom.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at least The Jury Talks Back.]

9/9/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 35

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am



It is the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Geist und Seele wird verwirret” (Spirit and soul become confused). Today we have a live performance, which is always fun:

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 7:24-37:

Jesus Honors a Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Jesus Heals a Deaf and Mute Man

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words:

You give hearing to the deaf,
speech back to the dumb,
indeed, even more,
at a word You open the lids of the blind.
These, these are miracles,
and their power
is inexpressible even to the choir of angels.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

9/2/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 131

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am



It is the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir” (Out of the depths I call, Lord, to You).

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23:

That Which Defiles

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

. . . .

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

. . . .

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. The cantata, one of Bach’s earliest, was based on Psalm 130. It contains these words, the humility of which stand in stark contrast to the haughty challenges of the Pharisees:

I am also a troubled sinner,
whose conscience gnaws him,
and would gladly, in Your blood
be washed clean of sin,
like David and Manassah.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

8/26/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 49

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am



It is the fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen” (I go forth and seek with longing).

Today’s Gospel reading is John 6:56-69, which continues the theme of the last two weeks: Jesus as the bread of life. Apparently it didn’t go over well with everyone.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Many Disciples Desert Jesus

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. The second recitative (section 5) contains these words of joy in accepting the invitation to the holy banquet of redemption:

How happy I am!
Heaven is raised up for me:
Majesty itself calls and sends its servants,
so that the fallen race
in the hall of heaven
at the banquet of redemption
might be a guest,
here I come, Jesus, let me in!

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

8/19/2018

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 27

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am



It is the thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende?” (Who knows how near to me my end?)

Today’s Gospel reading is John 6:51-58, which continues last week’s theme of Jesus as the bread of life.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words, which remind the listener of Christ’s admonition in the Gospel passage that those who drink his blood have eternal life:

Who knows how near my end is?
It is known to dear God alone,
whether my pilgrimage on the earth
might be short or longer.
Time runs out, death approaches,
And finally it comes down to this,
that they will meet each other.
Ah, how quickly and swiftly
can my death-struggle come upon me!
Who knows, whether today
my mouth might not speak its last words.
Therefore I pray all the time:
My God, I beseech through Christ’s blood,
make my end good!

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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