Er kommt, er kommt
Johann Sebastian Bach’s stirring Cantata 140 sounds the turn of the Church’s liturgical year toward Advent.
After the magnificent opening chorus, Wachet auf, the tenor recitative proclaims: “Er kommt, er kommt” — “the Bridegroom comes!”
And the first duet between the Christian disciple (soprano) and the Lord (bass) tenderly evokes the Jesus mysticism which constitutes the theological heart of Bach’s cantatas.
I have long maintained that Dante and Bach are among the very greatest theologians in the Western Christian tradition. And that music and poetry can be theological forms as precise in their way and certainly much more evocative than many a conceptually abstract academic treatise.
One of my favorites “Advent” poems comes from the wonderful collection, Gitanjali, of the Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore:
Have you not heard his silent steps?
He comes, comes, ever comes.
Every moment and every age,
every day and every night he comes, comes, ever comes.
Many a song have I sung in many a mood of mind,
but all their notes have always proclaimed,
“He comes, comes, ever comes.”
In the fragrant days of sunny April through the forest path he comes,
comes, ever comes.
In the rainy gloom of July nights on the thundering chariot of clouds
he comes, comes, ever comes.
In sorrow after sorrow it is his steps that press upon my heart,
and it is the golden touch of his feet that makes my joy to shine.
A blessed Advent season.