The Holy Livong column with Rev Peter Dodson
My title comes from a 17th century German Easter Hymn. The words were translated into English in the nineteenth century.
I quote a few more of the hymn’s poetic lines: “He who gave for us his life/He who bore all pain and loss/He who is exalted now to save... is King of Kings/Now he bids us tell abroad how the lost may be restored: Alleluia.”
I, who once was “lost”, joyfully witness to Christ’s restoring power,
This year, the 40 days of Easter stretches from April 21 to June 8. Christianity’s prime message is that the crucified Jesus has been raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.3-5). All Christian thought, action, worship, prayer, fellowship, witness and mission springs from that experienced fact. Christians do not worship a dead Jesus but a living Lord and God.
Yesterday, May 8, was the annual date for Christians to remember and celebrate Julian of Norwich (c1343-1417), the first women to write a book in English.
Her book, “Revelations of Divine Love”, is full of her relationship with her living, loving Lord and Saviour.
However strongly the world attempts to ignore, reject or even destroy what the living Christ represents, the words of Holy Scripture will go on being heard, subjected to scholarly study, prayerfully taken to heart, and proclaimed to the world, whatever the cost. In one way or another, that “Living One” is experienced as the loving, compassionate, patient, forgiving, peace-giving God.
He is eternally revealed to every human being and institution, whether the response is positive, negative or destructive.
That is why, especially during Holy Week and Eastertide, Christendom’s church buildings resounded to glorious religious music: e.g. Bach’s “St Matthew Passion” and “Easter Oratorio”; Handel’s popular “Messiah” (My late sister, a soprano soloist, sang Handel’s aria “I know that my redeemer liveth”); Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross; Mahler’s “Resurrection Symphony” (I once played my French horn in this massive orchestral work, in Peterborough Cathedral). The classical and modern instrumental and choral resources are numerous.
Countless numbers of the world’s two billion Christians will be hearing and/or singing the joyful news of their “Living One”.
I own a book titled “Sing God’s Glory: Hymns for Sundays and Holy Days ...” This helpfully lists about a hundred possible old and new hymns for Easter Day.
The list begins with the hymn I quoted as the title for this article: “Christ is risen – Alleluia” and includes other Easter hymns such as “The day of resurrection! Earth, tell it our abroad; ...” and “We have a gospel to proclaim ... Tell of that glorious Easter morn ...” These and other Christian hymns and worship songs, express human experience of, and profound faith in, the “Living One”. Nothing will ever stop new oratorios and hymns being written.
An Orthodox icon accompanies this article. It symbolises the radiant light of Christ and of those who are truly influenced by him.
On Easter Day, many church buildings are filled with candle-light, often lit from an outdoor “New Fire” (see online).
The chorus of a Graham Kendrick worship song, sung enthusiastically, includes: “Shine, Jesus, shine, fill this land with ... glory; blaze, Spirit, blaze, set our hearts on fire ... flood the nations with grace and mercy; send forth your Word... and let there be light.” Today’s Christians, who may have allowed their “heart-fire” to die down, need the “New Fire” of this and every Easter Season!