It is the second Sunday in Lent. The title of today’s cantata is “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen” (I will gladly carry the Cross). The performance features Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, a nice choice for a cantata composed entirely for the bass (at least until the final chorale). Fischer-Dieskau’s intelligence and uniquely recognizable voice make this a very special performance:
It’s hard for me to listen to this man sing without chills running down my spine. What greater evidence could there be of God’s existence than a piece like this, and a voice like his to sing it?
Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 8:31-38:
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.”
These are words that stick with you long after the reading is done, and the very title of the cantata shows it to be a perfect pairing with the reading. For a reading in which Jesus says: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must … take up their cross and follow me,” no music could accompany the message better than a cantata titled “I will gladly carry the Cross.” The text of today’s cantata is available here, and the opening aria contains these words:
I will gladly carry the Cross,
it comes from God’s dear hand,
and leads me, after my troubles,
to God, in the promised land.
There at last I will lay my sorrow in the grave,
there my Savior himself will wipe away my tears.