Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fling Wide the Door

Here is another blog post for the wonderful season of Advent! Please read, enjoy, and share with others as you will!

Title: Fling Wide the Door


Tune: Macht Hoch Die Tur

Composer: J.A. Freylinghausen, Geistreiches Gesangbuch, 1704; Arr. Hymnal version

Author: Georg Weissel (1590-1635); tr. Gracia Grindal, (b. 1943)

                Written for the first Sunday in Advent, this hymn exclaims the excitement and the anticipation of Christ’s arrival! Appearing in the 1642 version of Erster Theil Preussiche Fest Lider, the poem was published after the author, Georg Weissel, had passed away. Over two hundred years after the text first appeared, a new translation came around by Catherine Winkworth entitled “Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates,” and was used for the fourth Sunday in Advent. The new text was published in the 1855 collection Lyra Germanica, the first series. This version of the text saved the lyrics “Fling wide,” which refers to the heart, for later in the text; whereas the text that was translated and used for the Evangelical Book of Worship (translated by Gracia Grindal) begins with “Fling wide.”
                Born at Dormnau in East Prussia, Georg Weissel was the son of Johann Weissel, a judge and a mayor. In 1608 Weissel began studying at the University of Konisgberg, where he remained until 1611. After his time in Konisgberg, Weissel spent short periods of time studying at various universities including: Wittenberg, Leipzig, Jena, Strassburg, Basel, and Marburg. For over three years, Weissel traveled between these different universities, until finally in 1614, he was offered the position of Rector of the school in Friedland near Domnau (his hometown).  Though he enjoyed the position of Rector, Weissel left the position in 1617 to resume his studies of Theology at the University of Konisgberg. Finally, in 1623, Weissel was ordained and became pastor at the newly created Altrossgartkirche in Konisgberg. Through his life, Weissel wrote over 20 different hymns, which many of the early ones were written for the Consecration of the Altrossgartkirche on the second Sunday in Advent in 1623. Perhaps the most famous of his hymns is “Macht Hoch Die Tur,” which is the text used in this hymn “Fling Wide the Door.”
                The translator, Gracia Grindal, is professor of rhetoric at Luther Seminary in St. Paul Minnesota, a short jaunt from where I grew up. Born in North Dakota as the daughter of a Norwegian American Lutheran Pastor, she moved at a very early age to Oregon. Eventually, Grindal moved back to the Midwest and began her studies at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, earning her B.A. in English and History in 1965. After her time at Augsburg, she studied in Norway for a year at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (MFA in poetry, 1969), and then finally to Luther Seminary where she earned her MA in 1983. For 16 years, Grindal taught at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, as the professor of English, and poet in residence, before she moved back to St. Paul to teach at Luther Seminary in 1984. Grindal has written many books on hymns and hymn translations, but she has also written many other books including poetry and articles on Scandinavian hymnody, as well as contributions on the sketches in the new translation of Linka Preus’s Diary. Her collection of publications includes: Sketches Against the Dark (Tucson, 1981), Lessons in Hymn Writing (Boston, 1986, 1991, 2000), We Are One in Christ (Kingston, 1997), and A Revelry of Harvest (San Jose 2002). Many of Grindal’s poems have been published in numerous journals, and her hymns and text translations have been sung throughout the church. She has been asked to be a judge for numerous hymns and other writing projects, and she also worked as a member of the editorial board and contributor to The Hymn, as well as the editor of The Rose.
                The origin of the tune “Macht Hoch Die Tur” is unknown, but the name comes from the original text that is paired with this tune that was published in the Geistreiches Gesangbuch (Halle, 1704), a collection that was prepared by Johann Anastasisu Freylinghausen. Born in Gandersheim, Germany to Dietrich Freylinghausen, who was a merchant and burgomaster, at Gandersheim, Brunswick, J.A. Freylinghausen began studying at the University of Jenna in 1689. Attracted by the preaching of August Hermann Francke, a leader of the Pietists, Freylinghausen followed Francke for most of his life. In 1695 Freylinghausen followed Francke to Glaucha near Halle (where Francke was the pastor) as an assistant without pay, a position he held for over 20 years. In 1715 Freylinghausen followed Francke again to St. Ulrich’s Church in Halle where Francke became the pastor as well. In 1715, Freylinghausen married Francke’s daugheter, who was also his God Daughter. Finally in 1727, with the death of Francke, Freylinghausen became the Pastor of St. Ulrich’s, and director with Francke’s son, of the school and orphanage that Francke had begun. Though Freylinghausen was a good teacher, he was best known for composing of fort-four hymns and composing nearly twenty-two tunes. Besides writing the hymns, he acted as the editor of the most important “hymnal” of his day, the large Geistreiches Gesanbuch¸with multiple editions published in 1704, 1714, 1741, and 1771. Eventually over 1500 hymns and nearly 600 hymn tunes were included in the hymnal.
The Text:
(1)    Fling wide the door, unbar the gate;
The King of glory comes in state;
The Lord of lords and King of kings,
The Savior of the world who brings
His great salvation to the earth.
So raise a shout of holy mirth
And praise our God and Lord,
Creator, Spirit Word.

(2) He is the rock of our belief,
The heart of mercy’s gentle self.
His kingly crown is holiness;
His scepter is his loveliness;
He brings our sorrows to an end.
Now gladly praise our king and friend,
And worship him with song,
For saving us from wrong.

(3) O, happy towns and blessed lands
That live by their true king’s commands,
And blessed be the hearts he rules,
The humble places where he dwells.
He is the rightful Son of bliss
Who fills our lives and makes us his,
Creator of the world,
Our only strength for good.

(4) Come, Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ;
Our hearts are open wide in trust.
Oh, show us now your lovely grace,
Upon our sorrows shine your face,
And let your Holy Spirit guide
Our journey in your grace so wide.
We praise your holy name,
From age to age the same.

My Take on the Hymn:
                This advent hymn reminds us that we need to be patient for the awaited arrival of Christ. The hymn gives several mentions of the things that Christ has done for us, as well as all the things that have been promised to us with the arrival of Christ. The advent season is one that is easily forgotten, with the celebration of Christmas being so enticing, many people forget about advent. Though it is only a short, four-Sunday period, advent is a wonderful time to clear our hearts and to make room for Christ. This hymn talks about the Christ saving us from the wrong that is sin, and also the cities that follow Christ being blessed towns. This hymn is not well known to me, but even the text seems to leave room for the excitement and jubilation that comes with the wait for Christ to come. In this season of advent, let us take time to be especially aware of our lives, and of what we can do as Christians to prepare the way for our Lord Jesus Christ!

The Hymn:

If you cannot read music, just play the Youtube video and follow along!

Julian, John. "Fling Wide the Door, Unbar the Gate." Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.
Westermeyer, Paul. Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2010. Print.
"Fling Wide the Door," Fling Wide the Door, Christian Lyrics, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.

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