In this parish, we sing the same hymns every Easter Day. No, seriously, we do!
And here’s a little secret: Most parish churches are just like us, singing the very same traditional hymns each Easter Day, year in and year out. In my 30-year parish musician career, I have heard so many times, “Oh, it’s just not Easter unless we sing thus-and-so.”
Hymns are carriers of the faith. They convey the story in poetry coupled with beautiful melodies. And they elicit memories. Some love their favorite Easter hymn because of the tune, some because of the text, and some because for the cherished memories that flood forth, sometimes unexpectedly.
I believe we sing the same hymns on Easter Day over and over because the message never changes. Indeed, how can we ever get by without singing:
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!
When else do we punctuate texts with Alleluias in addition to exclamation points?
Or this, with its references to earth and time, an original text by Fortunatus (540?-600?). It is literally one of the oldest texts in the hymnal:
Earth her joy confesses, clothing her for spring,
all fresh gifts returned with her returning King:
bloom in every meadow, leaves on every bough,
speak his sorrow ended, hail his triumph now.
“Welcome, happy morning!” age to age shall say.
Months in due succession, days of lengthening light,
hours and passing moments praise thee in their flight.
Brightness of the morning, sky and fields and sea,
Vanquisher of darkness, bring their praise to thee.
The Resurrected Lord is the “Brightness” and the “Vanquisher.” Such great images.
Following our subdued Lenten discipline, exclamation points seem particularly prevalent in these Easter texts:
Jesus lives! thy terrors now can no longer, death, appall us;
Jesus lives! by this we know thou, O grave, canst not enthrall us. Alleluia!
Yes, this week, this Holy Week, we must keep the Lenten fast and remain quiet. But this weekend, for the Easter Vigil and the Easter morning liturgies, come to church with your Alleluias loaded, ready to burst forth into song…with exclamation points!