Hymns & Songs

An ‘uplifting’ Easter hymn

Apr 2014    

“Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (UMH 302) is a classic hymn that is sung by both the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. It is published in 982 hymnals. The original Latin version of the hymn by an anonymous poet is traced back to the early 14th century. The text was later translated to German, then to English.

The hymn highlights familiar Easter themes: Stanza 1 – all creatures rejoice in Christ’s resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10); Stanza 2 – the work of redemption is complete (Acts 2:24); Stanza 3 – death is vanquished (Hosea 13:14, 1 Cor. 15:20-23); Stanza 4 – we have new life in Christ now (Phil. 3:10-11); and Stanza 5 – we praise the victorious Christ (Phil. 2:10).

It is interesting to note that in three hymnals – The Hymnal 1982 (the Episcopal Church in the United States of America), Lutheran Book of Worship and Breaking Bread (a Catholic guide to the Order of the Mass) – “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” has four stanzas but attributes only the fourth stanza to Charles Wesley. This fourth stanza, however, is not in The United Methodist Hymnal (UMH):

Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal as his love, Alleluia!
Praise him, all ye heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Alleluia!

Charles Wesley composed 11 stanzas, six of which are in the UMH. The hymn was first published in 1739 in Hymns and Sacred Poems (a collection by John and Charles Wesley). However, since John Wesley did not include this in his 1780 Collection, the hymn was used only in 1831 in British Methodist hymnals. It was sung to a variety of tunes until 1905 when “hallelujah” was added by later editors to match the present tune. In the 1935 hymnal, “halleluiah” was changed to “alleluia.”

The alleluia is sung 24 times in melisma (singing a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession). It lifts us up from the sober, reflective and watchful season of Lent. It is a declaration of an exuberant celebration of Easter. If the ancient practice of omitting the “alleluia” and “Gloria” during Lent is observed, the dramatic movement from the quiet season of Lent to an exuberant season of Easter may be all the more pronounced.

The word “today” in the first line of the hymn connects the past to the present. As we sing this song, we join the heavens and those who witnessed this event in proclaiming “Jesus is risen!”

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens and earth reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

Judith Mosomos is Acting Director of Worship and Church Music at the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.

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