1. Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern,
Voll Gnad und Wahrheit von dem Herrn,
Die süsse Wurzel Jesse!
Du Sohn David aus Jakobs Stamm,
Mein König und mein Bräutigam,
Hast mir mein Herz besessen;
Schön und herrlich, gross und ehrlich, reich von Gaben,
Hoch und sehr prächtig erhaben.
1. How beautifully the morning star [Jesus]1 shines,
Full of grace and truth from the Lord,2
The sweet3 root of4 Jesse!5
[Jesus,] you son of6 David from Jacob’s line,7
My king and my bridegroom,8
Have taken possession of my heart;
Beautiful and glorious, great and honorable, rich in gifts,
Highly and very magnificently exalted.9
2. Du wahrer Gottes und Marien Sohn,
Du König derer Auserwählten,
Wie süss ist uns dies Lebenswort,
Nach dem die ersten Väter schon
So Jahr als Tage zählten,
Das Gabriel mit Freuden dort
In Bethlehem verheissen!
O Süssigkeit, o Himmelsbrot!
Das weder Grab, Gefahr, noch Tod
Aus unsern Herzen reissen.
2. You true son of God and of Mary,10
You king of the ones chosen [for salvation],
How sweet to us is this [promised] word of [eternal] life,11
According to which already the earliest [biblical] patriarchs12
Reckoned [their] years [of waiting] as [if they were] days,13
[This word] that [the angel] Gabriel, with joy,
[Had also] promised there [to the shepherds] in Bethlehem!14
O sweetness; o [eucharistic] bread of heaven15
That neither grave, danger, nor death
[Can] pluck from our hearts!16
3. Erfüllet, ihr himmlischen göttlichen Flammen,
Die nach euch verlangende gläubige Brust!
   Die Seelen empfinden die kräftigsten Triebe
   Der brünstigsten Liebe
   Und schmecken auf Erden die himmlische Lust.
3. Fulfill, you heavenly divine flames [of love],17
The believing breast longing for you.
   The souls [of believers] feel the strongest impulses
   Of most ardent love [from Jesus],
   And taste [in the eucharist]18 heavenly delight on earth.
4. Ein irdscher Glanz, ein leiblich Licht
Rührt meine Seele nicht;
Ein Freudenschein ist mir von Gott entstanden,
Denn ein vollkommnes Gut,
Des Heilands Leib und Blut,
Ist zur Erquickung da.
So muss uns ja
Der überreiche Segen,
Der uns von Ewigkeit bestimmt
Und unser Glaube zu sich nimmt,
Zum Dank und Preis bewegen.
4. An earthly radiance, a physical light19
Does not bestir my soul;
A halo of joy20 has arisen unto me from God,
Because [by God’s luminous grace] a perfect good21
Is here for restoring [us],22
The savior’s [sacramental] body and blood.23
Thus, yes,
The abundant blessing [of the sacrament],
Which [was] intended for us from eternity24
And [which] our faith partakes of,25
Must move us to thanks and praise.
5. Unser Mund und Ton der Saiten
Sollen dir
Für und für
Dank und Opfer zubereiten.
   Herz und Sinnen26 sind erhoben,
   Mit Gesang,
   Grosser König, dich zu loben.
5. Our mouth and [the] sound of strings
Ever and ever,
Prepare thanks and offerings to you [Jesus].
   Hearts and minds are lifted up,
   With singing,
   To praise you, great king.
6. Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh,
Dass mein Schatz ist das A und O,
Der Anfang und das Ende;
Er wird mich doch zu seinem Preis
Aufnehmen in das Paradeis,
Des klopf ich in die Hände.
Komm, du schöne Freudenkrone, bleib nicht lange,
Deiner wart ich mit Verlangen.
6. How so heartily glad I am indeed
That my darling/treasure27 [Jesus]28 is the alpha and omega,
The beginning and the end;
He will indeed take me up into paradise
For his [eternal] praise;29
At this I clap my hands.
Come, you beautiful crown of joy, tarry not long;
[Exceedingly fair bridegroom, Jesus,]30 I wait for you with longing.
(transl. Michael Marissen & Daniel R. Melamed)

GENERAL NOTE: The text of this cantata presents the first and last stanzas of a hymn intact as the first and last movements of the cantata; the inner movements paraphrase the inner stanzas.

1 In the Luther Bibles of Bach’s day, Jesus is called “a (bright) morning star” in Revelation 22:16, “Ich, Jesus, . . . bin die Wurzel des Geschlechts David, ein heller Morgenstern” (“I, Jesus, . . . am the root [technically, the ‘root-shoot’ that springs from a ‘root’] of the lineage of [king] David [of Israel], [I am] a bright morning star”). Morning stars are planets—i.e., the biblical writers considered planets to be stars—such as Venus that rise before the sun does. The sense of the metaphor was that Jesus as God’s Davidic messiah ushered in a new age illuminated by the light of the gospel. The New Testament Greek word underlying Luther’s adjective “helle” (“bright”) was also used figuratively to mean “beautiful” or “splendid” (hence the “schön” in the chorale text).

2 This line derives its full sense from John 1:14, “Das Wort ward Fleisch und wohnete unter uns, und wir sahen seine Herrlichkeit, . . . voller Gnade und Wahrheit” (“The [eternal] Word [of God] became [the] flesh [of the body of Jesus] and dwelled [temporally] among us [humans here on earth], and we saw his glory, . . . full of grace and truth”).

3 For the word “sweet” applying to Jesus, see also line 3 in movement 2 (and fn. 11), below.

4 In the older German that is being quoted here (from the Luther Bibles of Bach’s day), the “Jesse” (without “s”) in “die Wurzel Jesse” is genitive, “the root of Jesse” (not nominative, “the root, Jesse”); in modern Bibles, the genitive here is given as “Wurzel Jesses,” “Wurzel Isais,” or “Wurzel des Isai.”

5 In Luther’s rendering of Romans 15:12 the apostle Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah as saying “Es wird sein die Wurzel Jesse, und der auferstehen wird zu herrschen über die Heiden; auf den werden die Heiden hoffen” (“There will be the root [technically, as in the quotation from Revelation 22:16 in fn. 1 above, the ‘root-shoot’ that springs from the ‘root’] of Jesse [the father of king David of Israel], and he will arise [in his birth and in his resurrection from the dead] to rule over the gentiles; on him will the gentiles hope”).

6 On the genitive in older German (i.e., sometimes without an “s” at the end of the noun), see fn. 4, above. Contemporary hymnbooks did, however, sometimes read “Du Sohn Davids” here.

7 As narrated in Matthew 1:2-17 and Luke 3:23-38, which are genealogies of Jesus as God’s royal messiah.

8 Jesus is understood, in classical Christianity, to be “king” (God’s royal messiah) on earth and “bridegroom” in the end-time marital union of God and the church expected to take place in heaven.

9 These last two lines take the language of two biblical passages and conflate their senses. Luther’s rendering of Psalm 104:1 reads—its “Lord God” understood as referring to Jesus—“HERR, mein Gott, du bist sehr herrlich; du bist schön und prächtig geschmückt” (“LORD, my God, you are very glorious; you are beautifully and magnificently adorned”). Luther’s rendering of Isaiah 52:13 reads—its “servant” understood as referring to Jesus—“Mein Knecht . . . wird erhöht und sehr hoch erhaben sein” (“My servant . . . will be raised and be very highly exalted/lifted-up [onto the cross and then into heaven]”). Note that in older German, “erhoben” (this is the orthography employed in line 5 of movement 5, but not here at the end of movement 1), “erhuben,” or “erhaben” was used as the past tense for “erheben” (literally, “to lift up”; or, figuratively, “to extol”) and that modern German would ordinarily use only “erhoben.” Modern German sometimes does still use “erhaben,” however, in printings of this biblical verse, as “erhaben” also carries the sense of “sublime” (which “erhoben” does not).

10 “Du wahrer Gottes und Marien Sohn” means “You true son of God and of Mary.” Note that “You true God and son of Mary” would have been “Du wahrer Gott und Sohn Marias” or “Du wahrer Gott und Sohn Mariens.”

11 Psalm 119:103 declares to God, “Dein Wort ist meinem Munde süsser denn Honig” (“Your word is, to my mouth, sweeter than honey”); In 1 John 1:1, Jesus is called the “Wort des ewigen Lebens” (“Word of eternal life”); and in John 6:35, he is called the “Brot des Lebens” (“[sweet-tasting] bread of [eternal] life”). See also fn. 15, below.

12 Probably a (cryptic) allusion to the sentiments of John 8:56, where Jesus says to the Jews, “Abraham, euer Vater, ward froh, dass er meinen Tag sehen sollte; und er sah ihn und freute sich” (“Abraham, your father, was glad [at the prospect] that he should see my day; and [with the eyes of faith in God’s promises] he saw it [the day/advent of God’s messiah] and rejoiced”). Note that in Hebrews 7:4, Abraham is called “der Patriarch” (“the patriarch [of the Jewish people; or, of the nation of Israel]”).

13 Compare the similar sentiments about the experience of time in Genesis 29:20, “Jakob [diente] um Rahel sieben Jahre, und sie deuchten ihn, als wärens einzelne Tage, so lieb hatte er sie” (“Jacob served [Laban] seven years for [the hand of Laban’s daughter] Rachel, and they [the years] seemed to him [Jacob] as if it [the waiting] were [only seven] respective days, such love had he for her”).

14 As narrated in Luke 2:8-10.

15 “Manna” is a food that God in Exodus 16 provides as “bread from the skies/heavens” (Hebrew, “lechem min hashamayim”; in Luther’s German, “Brot vom Himmel” [“bread from heaven”]) to sustain the Israelites in the wilderness during their exodus from slavery in Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. In John 6:25-59 the term “manna” contrasts with “the true bread from heaven”—Greek, “arton ek tou ouranou ton alethinon”; in Luther’s German this is rendered as “das rechte Brot vom Himmel” (“the proper bread from heaven”)—that Jesus provides, which is said to confer eternal life; also, in John 6:35 and 6:48, Jesus says “Ich bin das Brot des Lebens” (“I am the bread of [eternal] life”). See also line 5 of movement 3 and lines 5–6 of movement 4, which reflect John’s apparent eucharistic application; and see also fn. 11, above.

16 This draws on the language and sentiments of John 10:28, which states that no one will “snatch/pluck” (Luther Bibles, “reissen”) the “sheep” (the followers of Jesus) from the hand of the “shepherd” (Jesus). Here the idea is that the physical body of Jesus, partaken of through the sacrament of communion, is in the heart of the believer and cannot be snatched away.

17 This line draws on the language of Song of Songs 8:6, which in the Luther Bibles of Bach’s day reads “Liebe ist stark; . . . ihre Glut ist feurig und eine Flamme des HERRN” (“Love is strong; its fervor is fiery and a flame of the LORD”). In traditional Christian interpretation, “the Lord” here refers to Jesus.

18 Hebrews 6:4 speaks of those who “geschmeckt haben die himmlische Gabe” (“have tasted the heavenly gift”); Luther understood this “gift” eucharistically, in light of traditional eucharistic understanding of the Gospel of John’s speaking of Jesus as “the proper bread from heaven” (see fn. 15, above).

19 German theologians in Bach’s day and earlier made a distinction between “ein leiblich/leibliches Licht” (“a physical light”; especially, e.g., the light of the sun, moon, and stars), as opposed to “ein geistlich/geistliches Licht” (“a spiritual light”; especially, e.g., “das helle Licht des Evangeliums” [“the bright light of the gospel”], i.e., the good news of Christian salvation, as expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:4). A similar distinction was made, e.g., between “ein leiblicher Krieg” (“a physical war”) and “ein geistlicher Krieg” (“a spiritual war”).

20 The “Freudenschein” is a synonym for “Gnadenschein,” the halo that surrounds Jesus’s head and back in artistic depictions of his glory.

21 Some of this language is derived from James 1:17, “Alle gute Gabe und alle vollkommene Gabe kommt von obenherab, von dem Vater des Lichts” (“All good gifts and all perfect gifts come down from above, from [God,] the father of light”).

22 Drawing on Matthew 11:28, where Jesus says, “Kommet her zu mir, alle, die ihr mühselig und beladen seid, ich will euch erquicken” (“Come here, to me, all you who are travailed and weighed down; I will restore you”).

23 That is, the consecrated bread and wine of the sacrament of communion. According to Lutheran teaching, the body and blood of Jesus are physically present “in, mit und unter” (“in, with, and under/among”) the communion elements.

24 Lines 4–5 draw on Ephesians 1:3-4, “Gelobet sei Gott und der Vater unsers HERRN Jesu Christi, der uns gesegnet hat mit allerlei geistlichem Segen in himmlischen Gütern durch Christum; wie er uns denn erwählt hat durch denselbigen, ehe der Welt Grund gelegt war” (“God and the father of our LORD Jesus Christ be praised, [the father] who has blessed us with all manner of spiritual blessing in heavenly goods through Christ [such as the sacrament of communion], just as he chose us [for salvation] through this same person [Jesus, from eternity,] before the foundation of the world was laid”).

25 The reflexive “zu sich nehmen” (literally, “to take in to oneself/itself”) is often employed in speaking of the intake of food and as such is thus most often translated as “to ingest.” A more elevated rendering is “to partake of,” and this seems better suited to this poetry’s subject, the eating of bread and drinking of wine in the sacrament of communion. The word “Glaube” in the phrase “Und unser Glaube zu sich nimmt” is nominative, and thus this line does not mean “and takes our faith [in] to itself” (which would have required the accusative, “Und unsern Glauben zu sich nimmt”).

26 Technically, the nominative plural of “[der] Sinn” was, and is, “[die] Sinne,” but in poetry the plural was often given as “Sinnen,” especially when accommodating end rhymes.

27 “Schatz” here can mean simply “darling” or “sweetheart,” but the word is used frequently, in a variety of other meanings in the Luther Bibles, and a key passage, Colossians 2:3, speaks of “[Christi,] in welchem verborgen liegen alle Schätze der Weisheit und der Erkenntnis” (“[Christ,] in whom lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”), a passage drawing on language from Isaiah 11:1-2 that in Christian interpretation was applied to Jesus as God’s messiah.

28 In Revelation 22:13, Jesus says “Ich bin das A und das O, der Anfang und das Ende, der Erste und der Letzte” (“I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last”); “alpha” (Α) and “omega” (Ω) are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.

29 “Zu seinem Preis” here means not “as his prize” or “at [costly] price” but “for his praise.” The Luther Bibles of Bach’s day used this phrase, e.g., in Romans 3:7, “so die Wahrheit Gottes durch meine Lüge herrlicher wird zu seinem Preis, warum sollte ich denn noch als Sünder gerichtet werden” (“if [as some might perversely say,] the truth of God becomes more glorious unto/for his praise through my lie, why should I then yet be judged [i.e., assessed] as [a] sinner”).

30 The antecedent for this “you,” and for the metaphorical “crown of joy,” was “Jesulein” (“darling Jesus”), “dem wunderschönen Bräutgam mein” (“the exceedingly fair bridegroom of mine”) from lines 4–6 in the previous stanza of this well-known hymn. (Note that those three lines were skipped over in the poet’s paraphrasing of that stanza for movement 5 of this cantata libretto.)