Tuesday, December 3

Lift up your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates
[Georg Weissel 1642 trans. Catherine Winkworth, 1855]

Redeemer, come! I open wide
my heart to thee; here, Lord abide.
Let me thy inner presence feel;
thy grace and love in me reveal.

The liturgical emphasis of Advent focusses on an ancient Aramaic expression which is used only once in the Greek New Testament, by the apostle Paul.  As he concludes his first letter to the Corinthians he transliterates an Aramaic phrase into Greek maranatha which the NRSV translates "Our Lord, come!"  But there is an interesting aspect of this because as with all translation one is having to make choices.  Aramaic (similar to Hebrew) is written with no vowels and with no spaces between the words.  So, when translating (or even when transliterating as Paul is doing) where you decide to put the space between words has a dramatic effect on meaning.  A simple example of this would be to decide how to divide up the following letters in English:  GODISNOWHERE.  One option is "God is now here." But an equally justified arrangement would render it, "God is nowhere." So, without getting too far into the weeds of translation-theory we can see that you can either: divide the Aramaic words up as mara-tha which is an imperative for the Lord to come (something like "Come, Lord!"); or maran 'atha which is a combination of a possessive and a past-perfect tense (something like "Our Lord has come!" The season of Advent is a two-emphasis season.  It is a time of preparation for the coming of the Christ-child at Christmas, but it is also a season of remembering that there is a second-coming of the Lord for which we yearn.  Thus, both of the possible options for rendering the Aramaic are right!  "Our Lord has come" (Christmas); and "Come Lord!" (yearning for the second coming).

John Calvin’s personal motto was cor meum tibi offero domine prompte et sincere or "My heart I give to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely."  Today's verse from the hymn Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates, mirrors Calvin nicely.  "I open wide my heart to Thee; here, Lord abide."  We sing "Redeemer Come!" in connection with the ancient hope of the Lord's return, and we offer now our hearts as a place for the Lord to abide in order that God's grace and love might be revealed in us and through us to a hurting world.

Daily Collect:
Lord who is, who was, and who is to come:  You are the first and the last, the alpha and the omega.  In you our dearest memories and our most urgent hopes find meaning.  Help us, Lord, to open wide our hearts to receive you and to host your presence that we might come to know you more fully.  Guide us this day of Advent to let your grace and your love be revealed in every thought, and word, and deed.  We pray this in the name of our Lord who has come, and who is coming again!  Maranatha!

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Paul Lang