Music Notes for the Sixth Sunday of Easter — May 5, 2024

The Day of Resurrection! – Text: John of Damascus (696? – 754?) / Music: Melody Gesangbuch, Württemburg, 1784.

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This Sunday’s final hymn in church, The Day of Resurrection, is attributed to John of Damascus, who lived in the 8th century. The three stanzas constitute the first of eight odes that make up a festival canon, that is, a series of odes threaded upon an acrostic. John’s father, a Christian, was an important official at the court of the Muslim caliph in Damascus. After his father’s death, John assumed that position and lived in wealth and honour. At about the age of forty, however, he became dissatisfied with his life, gave away his possessions, freed his slaves, and entered the monastery of St. Sabas in the desert near Jerusalem. One of the last of the Greek fathers, John became a great theologian in the Eastern church.

This hymn is typically sung to the tune “Ellacombe”, which has been traced to Gesangbuch der Herzogl. Wirtembergischen katholischen Hofkapelle 1784, containing 55 texts and an appendix with fourteen tunes. In 1844 the tune appeared in Kirchenchoral- und Melodien-Buch, Cologne, in a form very much similar to what we sing today. From there, it made its way to the 1868 Appendix to Hymns Ancient & Modern, where it was named for a village in Devonshire, England.

The day of resurrection!
Earth, tell it out abroad;
the passover of gladness,
the passover of God!
From death to life eternal,
from earth unto 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, listening to his accents,
may hear so calm and plain
his own “All hail!” and, hearing,
may raise the victor strain.

Now let the heavens be joyful,
let earth her song begin,
the round world keep high triumph,
and all that is therein.
Let all things seen and unseen
their notes in gladness blend,
for Christ the Lord is risen,
our joy that hath no end.

Gerald Harder