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CNP Feedback -
Lift Up Your Heads

Q. Dear CNP:

I'm confused about the lyrics of the hymn "Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates," specifically the section in the first stanza that says "the Savior of the world is here." Wouldn't this make its use inappropriate for Advent? I was surprised to find it in the Advent suggestions. How is it that this hymn is suitable for Advent?

Skeptical Lyricist

A. Dear S.L.:

The hymn, "Lift Up Your Heads," is suggested for Advent because it's a paraphrase of Psalm 24,which is used as a Responsorial Psalm during Advent.

The second half of the psalm, in particular, calls on the gates (of the temple) to be expanded, so the great God himself may enter. The analogy with the world, with our homes, with our hearts is obvious.

The majority of the hymn's four verses deal with the theme of entrance or coming, making it appropriate for Advent. The anomaly you mentioned at the end of verse 1 ("the Savior of the world is here") should not be seen as precluding the hymn's use during Advent. Frequently we sing about the Lord's coming into the world, all the while knowing that he already came (in Bethlehem) and he is also here in the world now (in the Word, in those gathered in prayer, in the Eucharist).

It's not uncommon to read lyrics too narrowly. If a Lenten hymn should mention that Christ is our "Risen Savior," that doesn't mean we can't use it during Lent. Just like a literal interpretation of the Liturgical Year is preposterous (Jesus is born on December 25, but is baptized as an adult a mere two weeks later), we can't always neatly sequence a "time element" in our hymns.

It's true that Advent deals with themes of waiting and coming and preparation, but we also know that in reality "the Savior of the world is here."

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications
Article written 16 December 2014

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