I enter this new year feeling unsettled and, I must admit, somewhat fearful. The best I can offer you on this day (but it is good!) is one of the most inspiring songs I know for uncertain, difficult times. The inspiration comes as much from knowing the author's situation as from the song itself. "Von guten Mächten" is based on a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written to his family as a Christmas greeting from prison, not long before his execution by the Nazis.

There are several settings of Bonhoeffer's text, as well as a few textual variations and of course differences in translation. Below is a popular version that I find incredibly moving. The first is sung by the composer and is beautiful in its simplicity. Best of all it includes English subtitles, at least if your YouTube settings are correct.

The second has no subtitles, but is an absolutely gorgeous orchestral version.

Enjoy, and take hope. Gott ist mit uns am Abend und am Morgen und ganz gewiß an jedem neuen Tag.

Here is the full German text, followed by what Google Translate has to say about it. Don't miss the additional verses.

Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben,
behütet und getröstet wunderbar,
so will ich diese Tage mit euch leben
und mit euch gehen in ein neues Jahr.

Noch will das alte unsre Herzen quälen,
noch drückt uns böser Tage schwere Last.
Ach Herr, gib unsern aufgeschreckten Seelen
das Heil, für das du uns geschaffen hast.

Und reichst du uns den schweren Kelch, den bittern
des Leids, gefüllt bis an den höchsten Rand,
so nehmen wir ihn dankbar ohne Zittern
aus deiner guten und geliebten Hand.

Doch willst du uns noch einmal Freude schenken
an dieser Welt und ihrer Sonne Glanz,
dann wolln wir des Vergangenen gedenken,
und dann gehört dir unser Leben ganz.

Laß warm und hell die Kerzen heute flammen,
die du in unsre Dunkelheit gebracht,
führ, wenn es sein kann, wieder uns zusammen.
Wir wissen es, dein Licht scheint in der Nacht.

Wenn sich die Stille nun tief um uns breitet,
so laß uns hören jenen vollen Klang
der Welt, die unsichtbar sich um uns weitet,
all deiner Kinder hohen Lobgesang.

Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen,
erwarten wir getrost, was kommen mag.
Gott ist bei uns am Abend und am Morgen
und ganz gewiß an jedem neuen Tag.

 

Faithfully and quietly surrounded by good powers,
wonderfully protected and comforted,
so I want to live with you these days
and go with you into a new year.

The old one still wants to torment our hearts
We are still burdened by bad days.
Oh Lord, give to our frightened souls
the salvation for which you made us.

And you hand us the heavy goblet, which is bitter
of sorrow filled to the top,
so we gratefully accept it without trembling
from your good and beloved hand.

But do you want to give us joy again
in this world and its sunshine,
then we want to remember the past,
and then you own our life entirely.

Let the candles burn warm and bright today,
that you brought into our darkness
bring us together again if you can.
We know that your light shines in the night.

When the silence now spreads deep around us
so let us hear that full sound
the world that invisibly expands around us,
all your children high praise.

By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered,
we expect confidently what may come.
God is with us in the evening and in the morning
and certainly every new day.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 12:06 pm | Edit
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Comments

One of my German friends posted this song (the first version) early in the pandemic.
I think what was especially striking at that time was the line
führ, wenn es sein kann, wieder uns zusammen.
Bring us back together, when it is possible. (I think the "if you can" in the Google translation is a bit off - the subject of kann is es, not du) More like "if it can be"



Posted by Kathy Lewis on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 5:10 pm

I didn't like that line, either. I've come a long way from my ultra-Calvinist PCA days, but "if you can" when applied to God still rings false. Some would argue that "if it can be" is really the same thing, but I think not. And it can't be wrong to say the latter, given who said, "If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me."



Posted by SursumCorda on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 6:14 pm

Sunday we sang yet another setting, composed and played by Martin Völlinger. It alternates from minor to major and is beautifully haunting. We all had fun improvising with him at the piano. Your viola is getting good use! (And my fingers almost bled!)



Posted by Janet on Friday, January 22, 2021 at 5:06 am

I see you made good use of your pre-lockdown weekend! I don't suppose Martin's version is published somewhere?



Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, January 22, 2021 at 8:28 am

No, he hasn't published it yet, because of rights issues with the poem, apparently.



Posted by Stephan on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 at 4:13 pm
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