In 1708, Johann Sebastian Bach performed a
cantata at the annual inauguration of the new town council in Mühlhausen. It was entitled “Gott ist mein König” (God is my King).
It quotes a number of verses from Psalm 74, such as vs. 12: “Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.”
And vs 16: “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth.”
It closes with this prayer:
Das neue Regiment
Auf jeglichen Wegen
Bekröne mit Segen!
Friede, Ruh und Wohlergehen,
Müsse stets zur Seite stehen
Dem neuen Regiment.
Glück, Heil und großer Sieg
Muss täglich von neuen
Dich, Joseph, erfreuen,
Dass an allen Ort und Landen
Ganz beständig sei vorhanden
Glück, Heil und großer Sieg!
The new government
in every way
crown with blessing !
May peace, rest and prosperity
always stand by the side
of the new government.
Good fortune, salvation and great victory
must daily anew
delight you, Joseph,
so that in all lands and places
there may be continually by you
good fortune, salvation and great victory!
Probably one of my all-time favorite cantatas, with these words of Jesus standing in the center:
This is the opening of Bach’s cantata for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (BWV 132). The video shows Bach’s own score. I love that it takes up to ten measures to sing the word Bahn—that’s like 85 notes. The road that John the Baptist comes to prepare seems to be a long and bumpy one.
This is the week that I listen to Bach’s Cantata 140 “Wachet auf” in preparation for the last Sunday in the church year. There are so many things that I love about this cantata and the hymn on which it is based. Here’s just one.
There are two soprano-bass arias. As Bach tends to do, the bass is the Vox Christi, the voice of Christ, and the soprano is the voice of the Christian soul (or perhaps the church). In the first of these, it is the bride who asks the bridegroom “when are you coming?” His response is “I’m coming.” Then she sings, “Come, Jesus.” Again, he replies, “I’m coming.”
Isn’t that just the way it is with Jesus and his bride? She keeps on asking, because life in this world—waiting for him—is hard, and she wants nothing more than to see him and be with him, and because she loves him.
His response is always the same. His word and promise never change. But it’s comforting to hear his promise from his voice.
And the amazing thing about this piece of music—it makes me cling to the voice of Christ all the more.