Respice in me. Psalm 25
Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me, O Lord: for I am desolate, and in tribulation: look thou upon mine affliction, and my travail: and forgive me all mine iniquities, O my God. Unto thee, O Lord, will I lift up my soul: my God, in thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen. Turn thee unto me . . .
O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I St. Peter 5:5-11
Brethren: all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
[Psalm 55] O cast thy burden upon the Lord: and he shall nourish thee. When I cried unto the Lord, he heard my voice: from the battle that was against me.
Alleluia, alleluia. [Psalm 7] God is a righteous judge, strong and patient, and God is provoked every day. Alleluia.
St. Luke 15:1-10
At that time: Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
[Psalm 9] They that know thy Name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast never failed them that seek thee: O Praise the Lord, which dwelleth in Sion: for he forgetteth not the complaint of the poor.
[St. Luke 15] I say unto you: There is joy in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
A student of the celebrated teacher and composer Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967), Lajos Bárdos (1899–1986) was a significant figure in the development during the 20th century of Hungarian choral music. His setting of today’s Offertory, Sperent in te (“Let them trust in thee”), was composed in 1946. It is sung here by the Italian ensemble Coro Anthem di Monza, directed by Paola Versetti. The Latin text for the Offertory is presented (with translation) below the embedded video.
Sperent in te omnes qui noverunt nomen tuum, Domine,
Let them trust in thee all who know thy name:
quoniam non derelinquis quaerentes te.
for thou dost not forsake them that seek thee, O Lord.
Psallite Domino qui habitat in Sion,
Sing ye to the Lord, who dwelleth in Sion:
quoniam non est oblitus orationes pauperum.
for he hath not forgotten the prayers of the poor.
Regarded as one of Bach’s most elegant and moving cantatas, Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis (BWV 21, “My heart was deeply troubled”) was first performed in 1713 when Bach was chamber and court organist in Weimar. In 1723, near the beginning of his long tenure in Leipzig, he rearranged the cantata, making some revisions in many of itss movements. He may have made further changes later, so that today’s recordings of the work reflect the evolution of a beautiful work-in-progress.
Following an introductory Sinfonia movement, the opening chorus is based on a verse from Psalm 94 which echoes the spirit of today’s Introit: “I had much affliction in my heart, but your consolations restore my soul.” This is followed by a soprano aria, accompanied by a plaintive oboe: “Sighs, tears, grief, distress, anxious longing, fear and death gnaw at my oppressed heart. I feel misery, pain.” (The text form the entire cantata is available here).
The Epistle reading for today exhorts believers to cast all their care upon God. Bach spends the entire first half of this cantata (his longest, as it happens), describing the intense turmoil of a troubled heart; the first half ends with a text from Psalm 42:
Why are you distressed, my soul,
and are so restless in me?
Wait on God; for I shall yet thank him
that I shall see him as my help and my God.
Not only the Epistle reading, but the passages from the Psalms in today’s Introit and Gradual also portray a soul in need of comfort from God, comfort which is finally revealed in the cantata’s second half, which begins with a duet featuring the bass and soprano soloists representing a dialogue between Jesus and the soul of the believer.
The choral movement following this duet is remarkable. It features the soloists repeating the words “Sei nun wieder zufrieden, meine Seele, denn der Herr tut dir Guts” (“Be satisfied again now, my soul, for the Lord does good to you”). After several repetitions of this affirmation, the entire tenor section of the choir begins singing a stanza from a hymn by Georg Neumark (1621-1681):
What help to us are heavy sorrows
What help to us are our ‘woe’ and ‘alas’?
What does it help, that we every morning
sigh over our troubles?
We make our cross and suffering
only greater through sadness.
This is sung to a chorale melody to which we sing the hymn “If thou but trust in God to guide thee.” After the tenors finish their stanza, the soloists continue repeating that single line while the sopranos sing another stanza from Neumark’s hymn:
Do not think in the heat of your distress
that you have been abandoned by God
and that that man sits in God’s bosom
who always feeds on good fortune.
The course of time changes many things
and appoints his end to everything.
These few comments about the structure of this stirring cantata are a feeble effort to encourage you to listen to the entire work, text in hand, preferably having meditated a bit on the Biblical texts that are the backbone to this Sunday’s worship.
Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis is performed below by La Chapelle Royale and Collegium Vocale Gent under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe. The soloists are Barbara Schlick, soprano; Howard Crook, tenor, and Peter Harvey, bass.
The following poem is from John Keble’s The Christian Year (1827).
There is joy in the presence of the angels of God
over one sinner that repenteth.
St. Luke 15:10.
O hateful spell of Sin! when friends are nigh,
To make stern Memory tell her tale unsought,
And raise accusing shades of hours gone by,
To come between us and all kindly thought!
Chilled at her touch, the self-reproaching soul
Flies from the heart and home she dearest loves,
To where lone mountains tower, or billows roll,
Or to your endless depth, ye solemn groves.
In vain: the averted cheek in loneliest dell
Is conscious of a gaze it cannot bear,
The leaves that rustle near us seem to tell
Our heart’s sad secret to the silent air.
Nor is the dream untrue; for all around
The heavens are watching with their thousand eyes,
We cannot pass our guardian angel’s bound,
Resigned or sullen, he will hear our sighs.
He in the mazes of the budding wood
Is near, and mourns to see our thankless glance
Dwell coldly, where the fresh green earth is strewed
With the first flowers that lead the vernal dance.
In wasteful bounty showered, they smile unseen,
Unseen by man — but what if purer sprights
By moonlight o’er their dewy bosoms lean
To adore the Father of all gentle lights?
If such there be, O grief and shame to think
That sight of thee should overcloud their joy,
A new-born soul, just waiting on the brink
Of endless life, yet wrapt in earth’s annoy!
O turn, and be thou turned! the selfish tear,
In bitter thoughts of low-born care begun,
Let it flow on, but flow refined and clear,
The turbid waters brightening as they run.
Let it flow on, till all thine earthly heart
In penitential drops have ebbed away,
Then fearless turn where Heaven hath set thy part,
Nor shudder at the Eye that saw thee stray.
O lost and found! all gentle souls below
Their dearest welcome shall prepare, and prove
Such joy o’er thee, as raptured seraphs know,
Who learn their lesson at the Throne of Love.