Friday, January 29, 2010

Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty

The opening hymn this weekend is providing the inspiration for much of the service music. I was rereading the text of the hymn "Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty," confident in my memory of a simple and straightforward hymn, just a joyous gathering tune and text. And that certainly is the overall mood of the hymn.

The middle of the first verse, however, caught my attention with these words, "...where my soul in joyful duty waits for God who answers prayer." The concept of "joyful duty" doesn't pervade the zeitgeist of modern America. Our psyches and daily actions are more geared toward "the pursuit of happiness." But it has long been my belief that the Christian faith is, at its heart, about joy in all things, even foreign ideas to us like "duty."

Suddenly the hymn took on more depth as I continued my reading. The final verse begins, "Speak, O God, and I will hear thee, let thy will be done indeed." Coming together at worship on Sunday is about duty and joy, praise and service, and all those ideas should be ever-present in our prayers.

Both the meditative prelude and the postlude will be arrangements of this hymn tune, the former by Jan Bender and the latter by Paul Manz, both well-known modern organ composers. I hope the music helps you hear the tune in a new way and that you pay special attention to the text when we sing it so that the music helps guide your prayer and worship.


  1. Yes, I think the pursuit of happiness is an accurate indictment of life in the US (I don't really know about the rest of the world). However, real happiness cannot be attained by pursuing it, but rather from doing meaningful things (Frankl?)

  2. Has that hymn always started off so low or did they transpose it down for the ELW? I never remember having to sing quite so much bass for the first couple of notes.

  3. Yes, starting on that low b-flat makes it among the lowest hymns in the ELW. I'm not sure if that's a change or not. I do know that several high notes got trimmed - that's usually a more common source of complaints from congregations who don't like to belt out high notes early on Sunday morning!