Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist
The first piece, by Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707), is based on the hymn, “To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray” (LSB 768). Stanza 1 calls us to pray to the Holy Spirit, and stanzas 2-4 are prayers directed to the Holy Spirit, referred to as “sweetest Love” and “Transcendent Comfort.” In stanza 2 we pray for our hearts to be set aglow with “sacred fire,” “That with hearts united we love each other.” Each stanza ends with the plea, “Lord, have mercy!” Buxtehude decorates the melody, found in the soprano, with various ornaments, creating a flowing setting of this prayer.
Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist
The second piece, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), is based on the hymn, “Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest” (LSB 498). It is a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts with might and peace, empowering us to share God’s good news with the world. The melody is closely related to Veni Creator Spiritus, a 9th-century Pentecost chant. In Bach’s playfully joyous setting, the hymn tune appears first in the soprano voice, then is repeated in the pedal.
I find it interesting that these two prayers to the Holy Spirit, from the same time period, differ in character as much as they do. The Spirit can move in our lives in many different ways. Which piece better reflects your experience of the Holy Spirit? Does the other piece allow you to be open to new ways the Spirit might be moving in you?