April 24, 2017

Pic & Cantata of the Week: Epiphany VI (Septuagesima)

Waterfall – Maine Botanical Gardens 2014

(Click on picture to see larger image)

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EPIPHANY VI (Septuagesima Sunday)

Bach Cantata BWV 84, “I am content with my fortune”

Septuagesima Sunday is an observance that was dropped from the calendar which was revised following Vatican II, but the name is still in use in the traditional calendars. Septuagesima is the name given to the third from the last Sunday before Lent in the Catholic and Anglican churches, and the Lutheran Church Year continues using the name. The term is used to mark the first Sunday in the the period known as the “Pre-Lenten” season or Shrovetide, which lasts until Ash Wednesday. The next two Sundays are called Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, the latter sometimes also called Shrove Sunday.

Bach wrote three cantatas for this Sunday: BWV 144, 92, and 84.

The latter is a good example of a simple yet robust cantata by Bach. As Simon Crouch observes: “One of Bach’s supreme gifts was to make so much out of what seems so little. Here is a good example. The cantata for solo soprano, BWV 84 has the very straightforward structure of aria, recitative, aria, recitative, chorale. None of the movements has a complicated orchestration or musical structure and the total duration is typically under fifteen minutes. The effect, however, is delightful.”

This cantata uses an anonymous text based on a poem by Picander in its first four movements and a chorale by Amilie Juliane von Schwarsburg-Rudolstadt from as its final movement. The theme is the blessedness of resting in God’s goodness and being content with God’s gifts. The simplicity and delightfulness of this cantata provides us a good opportunity to post a recording of the entire work today. Enjoy this lovely recording by the Collegium Vocale, directed by Philippe Herreweghe.

I am content with the fortune
that my dear God bestows on me.
If I am not to have the comfort of riches,
then I thank Him for little gifts
and am also not worthy of these.

God indeed owes me nothing,
and if He gives me something,
then He shows me that He loves me;
I can earn nothing for myself from Him,
for whatever I do is my duty.
Yes! Even though my deeds seem good,
yet I have really set nothing right at all.
But a person is so impatient
that he is often troubled
when dear God doesn’t give to him in abundance.
Hasn’t He, for a long time now,
nevertheless fed and clothed us
and in the future will blessedly
raise us to His glory?
It is enough for me,
that I needn’t go hungry to bed.

I eat my little bit of bread with joy
and heartily leave to my neighbor his own.
A peaceful conscience, a happy spirit,
a thankful heart, that gives praise and thanks,
increases its blessing, sweetens its need.

In the sweat of my brow
I will meanwhile enjoy my bread,
and when my life’s course,
the evening of my life, is concluded,
then God will hand out the pennies to me,
then heaven will stand open.
O! If I have this gift
as my gracious reward,
then I need nothing else.

Meanwhile I live contented in You
and die without any trouble,
I am satisfied with what God plans,
I believe and am completely certain:
through Your grace and Christ’s blood
you will make my end a good one.

Comments

  1. Johann Sebastian was definitively not an adherent of today’s prosperity gospel. He’d be run out on a rail for his negative witness and lack of faith.

    • Indeed. “Try to be be content with pennies from heaven” is not the selling point of Christianity in many American churches.

  2. Love the words to this.

  3. Absolutely beautiful music and words.

  4. Christiane says:

    “The theme is the blessedness of resting in God’s goodness and being content with God’s gifts.”

    So, what kind of life do I need to live in order to stop taking everything and everyone for granted ?
    The abundance of choices and material well-being has saturated us to the point where we are bloated with it, and floundering in it. What is the ‘way back’ to a simpler existence where ‘less is more’?

    At this stage of my life, what is it I really am ‘needing’;
    and what is superfluous, unnecessary, and tying me down to the Earth with it’s unnecessary heaviness?

    Time to sort myself out. And find a ‘Gethsemane’ of my own. Maybe to go into the deep forest where I am not judged or condemned, but where there is offered only peace. There is still time to do this. 🙂

  5. Christiane says:

    Sorting out ‘needs’ from ‘wants’. How much of what we ‘need’ is already ‘there’ right in front us being taken for granted and never acknowledged or put to use?

    A journey into the great forest where peace for the soul is on offer at no costs
    http://jonnajinton.se/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/vinterskog-011805.jpg

    • I might wait until Spring before wandering that particular forest and yes, as long as we are walking on the earth there is time and the merciful Holy Spirit to refine and refresh us.