Gott ist gegenwärtig
|"Gott ist gegenwärtig"|
An 1878 print in a Philadelphia hymnal
"Gott ist gegenwärtig" (God is present) is a Christian hymn in German by the Reformed writer Gerhard Tersteegen, published in 1729, based on a 1680 melody by Joachim Neander. The hymn, with the melody simplified, is part of the Protestant hymnal Evangelisches Gesangbuch as EG 165 and the 2013 Catholic hymnal Gotteslob as GL 387. Seven of its eight stanzas are part of the Mennonite hymnal as No. 1. The hymn is regarded as an expression of Christian mysticism. It was translated to English in various versions.
The Reformed theologian and author Gerhard Tersteegen has been described as a mystic, longing for a spiritual union with God. He published "Gott ist gegenwärtig" in his collection Geistliches Blumengärtlein inniger Seelen (Spiritual little flower garden of intimate souls) in 1729. The melody mentioned there is that of the hymn "Wunderbarer König" written by Joachim Neander in 1680.
The hymn, with the melody simplified, is part of the Protestant hymnal Evangelisches Gesangbuch as EG 165. It was not included in the Catholic hymnal Gotteslob after a discussion, but was marked to appear as an ecumenical song (marked "ö") in the following edition in March 1988. In the Gotteslob of 2013, it is GL 387, in the section Leben in Gott - Lob, Dank und Anbetung (Life in God – praise, thanks and adoration). Seven of its eight stanzas are part of the Mennonitisches Gesangbuch as No. 1. It has been translated to English in several versions, including "God himself is with us."
Each stanza follows the complex pattern of Neander's "Wunderbarer König" with eight lines of irregular length. Each line with an uneven number rhymes with the following line, AABBCCDD. The trochee rhythm has alternating stressed and light syllables, marked x and -. Longer syllables are marked by a following space. The form is called Pokalstrophe because the typography of a stanza resembles a chalice, in an artful form of Baroque poetry:
x–x–x – x–x–x –
x–x–x – x–x–x –
x – x
x – x
Content and text
Tersteegen's original title for the hymn was "Erinnerung der herrlichen und lieblichen Gegenwart Gottes", meaning raising awareness of the glorious and lovely presence of God, one of Tersteegen's main topics. In the first three stanzas the awareness of God is expressed from the perspective of the congregation, then in stanzas 4–8 the awareness is expressed from the perspective of the individual.
God's presence is declared, and adored with the angels, but also prayed for. In the fifth stanza, Tersteegen evokes a mystic union, writing: "Ich in dir, du in mir, laß mich ganz verschwinden, dich nur seh'n und finden." (I in you, you in me, let me completely disappear, only see and find you.) The following text is given as in current hymnals but with the original text in footnotes:
1. Gott ist gegenwärtig. Lasset uns anbeten
5. Luft, die alles füllet, drin wir immer schweben,
2. Gott ist gegenwärtig, dem die Kerubinen
6. Du durchdringest alles; lass dein schönstes Lichte,
3. Wir entsagen willig allen Eitelkeiten,
7. Mache mich einfältig, innig, abgeschieden,
4. Majestätisch Wesen, möcht ich recht dich preisen
8. Herr, komm in mir wohnen, lass mein’ Geist auf Erden
Melody and settings
Neander's melody for "Wunderbarer König" (Wonderful King) had a wide range and was more suitable for solo singing or small groups of singers. It was simplified early for congregational use, sacrificing the interesting rhythmic differences of the original. In current hymnals, some features of the original were restored.
Heinrich von Herzogenberg composed a chorale cantata in 1897 on the occasion of Tersteegen's bicentenary, encouraged by Friedrich Spitta. In 2019, when Tersteegen's 250th anniversary of death was remembered, the alto-saxophonist Uwe Steinmetz composed a cantata on the song, titled God is Now, scored for mixed choir, big band, pipe organ and live electronics. It was premiered at the Gedächtniskirche in Berlin on 3 April 2019, with students and the NDR Bigband.
The hymn has been translated or adapted to English in different ways. John Wesley translated it as "Only God is with us", first published in Hymns & Sacred Poems in 1739. His translation of the first six stanzas was described as free but in the spirit of Tersteegen's poem. It was printed, with variants, in several English and American hymnals. Another free translation, "The Lamb is slain, let us adore", was written by W. Delamotte, and was first printed in the Moravian Hymn Book of 1742. A version "God reveals His presence" was written by Frederick William Foster and John Miller, who tried to match the metre of the melody. It appeared first in the Moravian Hymn Book of 1789. It was modified to a form in three stanzas, which is in common use, by William Mercer and published in his hymnal Church Psalter & Hymn Book in 1855.
- Originally: "schlagt"
- Originally: "Heilig, heilig, singen alle Engel Chören, / wann sie dieses Wesen ehren".
- Originally: "sanfte und im stillen Frieden"
- Grub, Udo (2012). Evangelische Spuren im katholischen Einheitsgesangbuch "Gotteslob" von 1975 (in German). Münster: LIT Verlag. pp. 202–203. ISBN 978-3-64-311663-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Marti, Andreas (2012). "Gott ist gegenwärtig" (PDF). Musik und Gottesdienst (in German) (66): 139–142. Retrieved 21 October 2019.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Nagorni, Klaus (9 Jul 2013). "SWR2 Lied zum Sonntag / Gott ist gegenwärtig". SWR (in German). Retrieved 29 October 2019.
- Prooijen, Ton van (2004). Limping but Blessed: Jürgen Moltmann's Search for a Liberating Anthropology. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi. ISBN 90-420-16647.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Shantz, Douglas H. (2013). Gerhard Tersteegen (1697–1769). An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe. JHU Press. pp. 62–66. ISBN 978-1-42-140830-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Steiger-Hoffleit, Claudia (2001). Herbst, Wolfgang (ed.). Tersteegen, Gerhard. Wer ist wer im Gesangbuch? (in German). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. pp. 320–322. ISBN 978-3-52-550323-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- "387 ö / Gott ist gegenwärtig (L) / Leben in Gott - Lob, Dank und Anbetung". Gotteslob (in German). 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
- "Herzogenberg, Heinrich von (1843-1900) / Gott ist gegenwärtig - Choralkantate (Partitur)". Carus-Verlag (in German). Retrieved 29 October 2019.
- ""God is Now" - Gott ist gegenwärtig". SRH Hochschule der populären Künste (in German). 3 April 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
- "Gott ist gegenwärtig!". hymnary.org. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
- "Gott ist gegenwärtig". The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Canterbury Press. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
- "Uwe Steinmetz: "God is Now"". NDR (in German). 3 April 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
- ""Gott ist gegenwärtig" - Lied von Gerhard Tersteegen". ZDF (in German). 17 August 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
- Jürgen Henkys: "Gott ist gegenwärtig" in: Hansjakob Becker et al.: Geistliches Wunderhorn. Große deutsche Kirchenlieder. 2nd ed.. Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-48094-2, pp. 337–344.
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