‘Jesus Christ Is Risen Today!’: Easter Hymn and Paschal Joy
“And on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled back from the sepulchre. And going in, they found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were astonished in their mind at this, behold, two men stood by them, in shining apparel. And as they were afraid, and bowed down their countenance towards the ground, they said unto them: Why seek you the living with the dead? He is not here, but is risen. Remember how he spoke unto you, when he was in Galilee, Saying: The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” —Luke 24:1-7
“And on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre; and she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre. She ran, therefore, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith to them: They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him…Jesus saith to [Magdalen]: Mary. She turning, saith to him: Rabboni (which is to say, Master). Jesus saith to her: Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.” —John 20:1-2, 16-17
Today is Easter Sunday or Pascha, the day on which, almost 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ the God-man rose from the dead, defeating sin and death and opening Heaven for mankind. The world turned upside down, friends and foes alike were stunned, and angels proclaimed the glad tidings. “O death, where is thy sting”—all who believe in Christ and faithfully follow His teachings till death will also rise again from the dead one day.
In honor of this greatest Christian feast day of the Resurrection, the mystery upon which, as St. Paul says (1 Cor. 15:14), every other aspect of the Christian faith depends, I would like to share one of the most beloved Easter hymns in the English-speaking world: “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.”
The hymn “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” was originally written in Latin as the 11-verse “Surrexit Christus Hodie,” reportedly by an unknown 14th century Bohemian author. John Baptist Walsh translated it into English in 1708 for his Lyra Davidica, and John Arnold revised the verses some forty years later; originally, the English version had only three verses. Methodist founder Charles Wesley added a fourth verse. The music for the English lyrics was originally “Easter Hymn,” composed in Lyra Davidica, and William Henry Monk later composed a different version.
Below is a version by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, followed by the lyrics in English, what I believe to be the original “Surrexit Christus Hodie,” and then a version of the English sung by King’s College Choir.
“Jesus Christ is ris'n today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!
Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
unto Christ, our heav'nly King, Alleluia!
who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!
But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
our salvation have procured; Alleluia!
now above the sky he's King, Alleluia!
where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!
Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
praise eternal as his love; Alleluia!
praise him, all ye heav'nly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!”
Have a blessed and happy Easter!
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