I discovered a wonderful song reading the Divine Office in Advent 2011 (sorry it took so long to post but it also seems appropriate to the feast of Christ the King, 2012! As I recall I was struck by the Old Testament reading about Hannah at the time....) The song "Lift up your heads ye mighty gates" was written in 1642, by George Weiszel, sings the praise of Jesus, King of Kings:
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!
A Helper just He comes to thee,
His chariot is humility,
His kingly crown is holiness,
His scepter, pity in distress.
O blest the land, the city blest,
Where Christ the Ruler is confessed!
O happy hearts and happy homes
To whom this King in triumph comes!
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.
Redeemer, come with us abide;
Our hearts to Thee we open wide;
Let us Thy inner presence feel;
Thy grace an love in us reveal.
Thy Holy Spirit lead us on
Until our glorious goal is won;
Eternal praise, eternal fame
Be offered, Savior, to Thy Name!
I suppose the poet in me loves the way it all rhymes from line to line, yet the serious side sees the truth of the words. As I read and pondered for this blog, given the current state of affairs here in the U. S., I realize the deeper truth of proclaiming Christ the King lies in each of us. Will we be willing to open the portals of our heart; and make it a temple, set apart; from the earthly use for heaven's employ? Last year in advent, I pondered readings on Hannah and how she came to open her portals for the Lord.
The first line is interesting: Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates....not sure if gates have heads on them but my head (or thoughts) can sure act like a barrier to recognizing the presence of God and acting as his servant here on earth. I find that too much self centered thinking closes the gate to thoughts of God. At times it seems my mind is full of endless negative possibilities, my prayer life dries up and my whole being droops with the weight of what ifs and how comes. Next comes the tears of anger and regret. To me the story of Hannah exemplifies this fed up state. In 1 Sam 1:10-11, Hannah bitterly prayed to the Lord, weeping copiously, then she made a vow, promising: Ok, Lord of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, if you remember me and do no forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child....(I fill in the blank here with my latest petition!) Sometimes I'm at the bottom of the pit and I'm just wailing out my frustration, lack of confidence, loss of patience and hope (or whatever!) from that seemingly endless pit of worry.
Why is it that we must reach rock bottom in order to call out to God for help? I suppose there's only one way to turn in the dark and that's toward the light. Yes, contemplating the King of Kings helps me as I remember His promise to always be with us, to always love us despite our miserable condition. He is always waiting for us to just gaze in His directtion, to reach out and make that agonziing effort to turn from the darkness and realize, the Savior of the world is here!
Once my eyes focus on the Savior I begin to recognize my Helper, the one who humbly enters our world; whose gentleness and love draws me up from the deep pit of self pity and despair. His promise of presence halts my downward plunge. He is waiting for us in the tabernacle at adoration. His healing touch comes through my child's laugh or a hug from those wise, older ladies at daily mass. His presence heals us through reading scripture, praying and listening to homilies. The ulitimate touch of the Eucharist provides the sweet balm of healing and love. God loves us so much, if only we would gaze frequently on His most loving form on the cross, with his wounds of healing and sacrifice, we can be renewed.
In fact, I'd really like to know what's behind the saying, by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5), because this works. God first revealed such healing to Moses while on the desert exodus from Egypt. The people grumbled on the Exodus as their patience worn thin by lack of the basic neccessities. They didn't like the food, the water or the situation. Then the Lord sent serpents which bit the people and many died. What a forsaken position they were in, but within their horrible state they realized their sin in complaining, so they asked Moses to intercede with God. The Lord instruct Moses to fashion a serpent on a pole, then everyone who had been bitten would look upon the lifted up serpent and recover. (Number 21:8-9) Similarly in John 3:14-16, Jesus tried explaining himself to Nicodemus: And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life....So simple an act of faith can heal if we only we look to him with belief and trust!
When the bitterness of life has bitten us and we have nowhere to turn, we finally look to the Lord. Hannah, in her shameful childless state, cried with deep sorrow and misery (1 Sam 1:15-16) pouring out her heart to the Lord. Here Hannah flung open the portals of her heart, as she brought her unhappy state to the Lord for healing. Pain and suffering bring us low, to the realization we just can't do it alone; that we can do nothing without Christ. It would appear our willingness to offer these unsolvable problems to the Lord is the first step in being made anew. Old Testament writings confirm this: For God searches out the abyss and penetrates the heart; their secrets he understands (Sirach 42:18). He creates a new heart and renews our steadfast spirit. He restores the gladness of salvation and upholds our willing spirit (Psalm 51: 12, 14) A renewed Hannah, can then set her temple apart for heaven's employ, promising her child would be given to the Lord for all of his days. She leaves the temple refreshed and regenerated, and so adorned with prayer and love and joy, fulfills her promises when the Lord answered her prayer. St Paul summarizes it well in Philippians 4:6-7, Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make you requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Just Give It Up to Jesus!!!
I love the thought of being "in Christ Jesus!" This must be the abiding in Him part of the poem: 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. Certainly, the abiding in Christ is a key element in a keeping an even keel in life, and I'm just now investigating its truth. At first thought, I'd resented the fact that God had control over everything, like goodness--why does God have all the stock in that? The only thing I had was my sin and my will to choose. It appears that God offers us so much more when He is in control, when he is King of our lives. We have that share of His life and love, given through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can experience true peace, love and hope not just for ourselves but within the greater community. This must be the part of the poem where, O blest the land, the city blest, where Christ the Ruler is confessed! O happy hearts and happy homes to whom this King in triumph comes! To ponder God is like looking out at the ocean--a beautiful, deep and unending mystery, yet living His life within His domain brings benefits most people seek with great passion.
In summary, this quaint old fashioned song is the answer to story of our life! The poem reveals our Redeemer who is just waiting around for us, knocking at our gate. We need to lift up our head, shake open our mighty barriers to recognize Him. He's humble, holy and will show up in our time of need, but we have to be willing. The promise of blessing, happy hearts and homes comes to those who confess his Lordship in life. With our repentance and turn to our Lord for leadership, we can confidently open the portals of our heart, so he can remove the junk and replace it with grace and love. In turn, we adorn our temple with prayer, love and joy, setting worldly cares aside and let heaven set up residence inside. (oops I'm starting to rhyme!) The Holy Spirit leads the effort, where we journey with patient endurance doing heaven's work of love. Finally, when we (the abiding parties and I or you) get to the goal, we'll be singing eternally, praising and worshiping our Lord for eternity! Sounds like a wonderful plan to me! I think this is the whole concept of Christ the King in a nutshell (or a song!)
Many blessings for a rich Feast of Christ the King
and a wish for you to open the gates of your heart
so the love and peace of Christ may be yours forever!