HYMN 266 Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates//Handel/Fling wide the Door
Updated: Nov 27, 2021
Danish: Gør dør høj, gør porten vid!
German: Macht hoch die Tür
Icelandic: Gjör drynar breiðar, hliðið hátt
Norwegian: Gjør døren høy, gjør porten vid!
Swedish: Gör porten hög, gör dörren bred
Text: Georg Weissel (1590-1635) Tune: Johan Anastasius Freylinghausen (1670-1739); Truro
1. Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates; Behold, the King of glory waits; The King of kings is drawing near; The Savior of the world is here!
2. Fling wide the portals of your heart; Make it a temple, set apart From earthly use for heaven's employ, Adorned with prayer and love and joy.
3. Redeemer, come, with us abide; Our hearts to thee we open wide; Let us thy inner presence feel; Thy grace and love in us reveal.
4. Thy Holy Spirit lead us on Until our glorious goal is won; Eternal praise, eternal fame Be offered, Savior, to thy name! Tr. Catherine Winkworth
The first I met one of my colleagues at Luther Seminary, she complained that the LBW committee, which she knew I was on, had not used the traditional hymn, “Lift up your heads ye mighty gates” but substituted the German text and tune, “Fling Wide the Door, unbar the Gates.” I had to admit that I was the one who had translated "Fling Wide the Door," and the committee had chosen it rather than Winkworth’s “Lift Up your Heads.” Thereby hangs a tale of translation. Should you translate the text into the same meter as the original so the tune can be sung with it? Or find an English form that works better and translate the content of the text more than its form? Catherine Winkworth, for some reason, chose to change the meter significantly into a very English ballad form that fit nicely with the tune Truro.
My translation kept the original form making it possible to use the tune most popular in Germany, from the Freylinghausen hymnal of 1704. What to do? I think the consensus looks like people have returned to Winkworth’s version, maybe because the tune has a more English, Handelian sound. But I do not know. Even more complicated, the tune in Denmark and Norway is from Bourgeois, which we know as the Doxology; the Swedes use an old Swedish tune from 1697.
Psalm 24 is the source of the hymn. It has been used for centuries as the Psalm for both Advent I and Palm Sunday with its vivid and joyful admonition that Jerusalem welcome its King. Winkworth chose the stanzas and themes that fit with Luther’s notion of Advent: The first stanza welcomes the Lord into Jerusalem, the second into our hearts, then as a companion, finally as the one welcoming us into heaven. Almost obligatory for German Lutherans on Advent I, the hymn now doesn’t quite fit with the new texts in the Revised Lectinary. It however is so traditional it will continue to be used.
The welcome of Jesus into Jerusalem by joyful crowds who in a few short days will be shouting "Crucify Him!" tinges the Hosannas for me with a darker tone. As Jesus is riding in, he knows this. And now we know it.
The whole story of the Crucifixion is filled with ironies that continue to confound those who contemplate it. Everything the leaders do to get rid of Jesus actually goes exactly according to God’s plan. Getting Jesus to "blaspheme" they think by telling the truth that he is God’s Son; Caiaphas noting that it is better that one should die for many, an announcement of the story of our salvation; Jesus taking the place of Barabbas, a criminal, is a picture of what he does for us all, it goes on and on. When he processes into Jerusalem on the donkey, he is doing what Solomon did—the king showing his humility by riding such a humble animal. This scene shows the fickleness of crowds, the steadfastness of our Lord to save the worst of us. It causes us to wonder: How can this be? Ride on King Jesus, into our hearts. You have a lot of cleaning up to do.
Georg Weissel, like many of the great hymnwriters from Germany, lived through much of the Thirty Years’ War. Born near Königsberg in Prussia, he attended the university there, and also Wittenberg, Jena, Strassburg, Basel and Marburg. Just after the war broke out in 1618, he returned to school in Königsberg and in 1623 began serving as pastor in Altrossgarter church which he served until his death in 1635. He may have written this text for the dedication of the church. The hymn was not published until after his death. It appeared in the Preussische Fest-Lieder, in 1642. It received the tune popular in Germany from the huge hymnal of Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen of 1704, the Geistreiches Gesang-Buch.. That was the book of Pietist hymody published in Halle.
The other tune for Winkworth’s translation called Truro is by anonymous, although some suggest Charles Burney wrote it. It has a Handelian sound so some suppose it is Handel's tune. Handel’s great chorus on the text in Part II of Messiah makes some think so. It appeared in the Thomas William’s book of tunes, Psalmodia Evangelica in 1789.
LINKS Leipzig Thomas Choir Freylinghausen tune https://youtu.be/iXpqoP4PLxg Instumental version of Freylinghausen https://youtu.be/u1NSnUifyF4
Windsbacher Knabenchor--Freylinghausen https://youtu.be/E1CJzOZ1IR4
First Plymouth Church Choir, Lincoln, Nebraska/Truro https://youtu.be/fTYDOfyW734
Norwegian choir to Bourgeois tune https://youtu.be/18igH2JnK1g
Danish Choir in Haderslev to Bourgeois tune https://youtu.be/TApFlXFy8SY
Swedish tune from Swedberg 1697 https://youtu.be/v51eZH5va0w
Graham Kendrick’s contemporary version https://youtu.be/_MN2x0-yQC0
Mormon Tabernacle Choir/Handel’s chorus "Lift Up Your Heads" https://youtu.be/h0padnBe6OU