THE DAY OF RESURRECTION
John of Damascus, early 8th century
English translation by John M. Neale, 1818–1866
Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14 KJV)
This hymn from the early eighth century is one of the oldest expressions found in most hymnals. Its origin is rooted in the liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church. It was written by one of the famous monks of that church, John of Damascus, c. 676–c. 780.
The celebration of Easter has always been a spectacle of ecclesiastical pomp in the Greek Orthodox Church. Even today, as a vital part of the ceremony, the worshipers bury a cross under the high altar on Good Friday and dramatically resurrect it with shouts of “Christos egerthe” (“Christ is risen”) on Easter Sunday. With this announcement begins a time of joyous celebration. Torches are lit, bells and trumpets peel, and salvos of cannons fill the air. The following account describes such a scene:
Everywhere men clasped each other’s hands, congratulated one another, and embraced with countenances beaming with delight, as though to each one separately some wonderful happiness had been proclaimed—and so in truth it was; and all the while rising above the mingling of many sounds, each one of which was a sound of gladness, the aged priests were distinctly heard chanting forth a glorious hymn of victory in tones so loud and clear, that they seemed to have regained the youth and strength to tell the world how “Christ is risen from the dead, having trampled death beneath His feet, and henceforth they that are in the tombs have everlasting life.”
John M. Neale is generally regarded as one of the leading translators of ancient hymns. He was recognized as one of the most learned hymnologists of his day and had a knowledge of twenty languages.
The day of resurrection! Earth, tell it out abroad—the Passover of gladness, the Passover of God! From death to life eternal, from this world to the sky, our Christ hath brought us over with hymns of victory!
Our hearts be pure from evil, that we may see aright the Lord in rays eternal of resurrection light; and, list’ning to His accents, may hear, so calm and plain, His own “All hail!” and, hearing, may raise the victor strain.
Now let the heav’ns be joyful, let earth her song begin, let the round world keep triumph and all that is therein; let all things seen and unseen their notes in gladness blend, for Christ the Lord hath risen, our joy that hath no end!
For Today: Matthew 28:1–9; Acts 2:24; 13:29, 30; 1 Corinthians 15:54–58.