Today is the Sunday after Ascension Day, which was last Thursday. The day commemorates the day in history when Jesus Christ our Lord ascended into heaven. The day may be one of the most overlooked in the entire Church calendar. It is a day filled with splendid liturgical opportunities. I cannot awake to this day without thinking of one of my favorite anthems for any Sunday and one that is particularly fitted for this glorious day. Gerald Finzi’s (1901-1956) “God is Gone Up” offers the textual appropriateness with its clear Ascension Day message from the Anglo-American Edward Taylor (1646-1729):
God is gone up with a triumphant shout,
The Lord with sounding trumpets’ melodies:
Sing praise, sing praises out,
Unto our King sing praise seraphicwise!
Lift up your heads, ye lasting doors, they sing,
And let the King of Glory enter in!
Methinks I see heaven’s sparkling courtiers fly
In flakes of glory down Him to attend,
And hear heart-cramping notes of melody
Surround His chariot as it did ascend,
Mixing their music, making every string
More to enravish as they this tune sing.
The setting for the piece is Psalm 47:5-6 (“God is gone up with a triumphant shout and sounding trumpets; sing praise”) and Psalm 24:7 (“Lift up your heads, ye gates and ancient doors, that the king of glory may enter”). Taylor offers a mediation in verse two of the Scripture and Gerald Finza, then, repeats the first line. Note the rising angelic song as the author mediates upon the Ascension scene. This piece offers a majestic flourish and a rich, kingly festivity of music fitting for the Lord of Lords entering heaven.
Here is a beautiful performance of “God is Gone Up” by the Georgia Boys Choir. Oh that men might worship the risen and ascended King!