A week on from the joyous celebration of Easter. It must be all over by now. Our Easter Eggs have been eaten – or at least gone down in quantity. School holidays are coming to an end. Back to the drudgery of normal life.
But this ‘Low’ Sunday is part of the Octave – the eight days that span the festival of Easter – and so it seems more than apt to be recalling for ourselves ‘This joyful Eastertide’. While a week on, our Sunday may not have quite the lift that we had on Easter morning, it’s right that we remember the joyfulness that comes from the narrative of Easter, shared in this hymn.
While the verses give us much to ponder in terms of our understanding of the Christian narrative, a pertinent reminder of the Easter story in the community of faith is seen in the chorus. The tense used here sets up for us the question of faith itself: if Jesus hadn’t been resurrected, then our faith would be in vain; but resurrection changes all of that. It seems quite clear, both in G.R. Woodward’s words and in the popular music setting by Charles Wood, that we are taken through a journey, not of doubt and uncertainty – even if the music suggests something along those lines – but rather of clarity and certainty. This isn’t a statement of doubt, but rather of resurrection joy and the evidence we have for our faith in a God ‘who once was slain’ and ‘burst his three-day prison.’
Musically, the 17th Century melody takes us in a slowly rising questioning of the story of Jesus until, almost dishearteningly, descending to the realisation that such questioning would show our faith was in vain. But the lift of the hymn comes in the soaring final line of the chorus where Christ’s resurrection is shown not only by the assertion of being risen, but by the gradual building of the melody (ironically by an octave) followed by the lyrical climax.
To consider this Easter carol a week after Easter, reminds us of the joyfulness of the resurrection, the importance it has in our faith, and the continued place such Easter joy has in our lives. So maybe we don’t return to drudgery and normality just yet, because ‘now is Christ arisen, arisen, arisen, arisen!’
Arisen Christ, help us to remember that your resurrection was not a one-day event but that it fills our every moment of faith. In your compassion, remind us of the power of the empty tomb: banishing sin and sorrow; waking us from our eternal sleep; giving us hope through death; and that your joyful Eastertide lives in us each day. Amen
The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett is the minister of St Andrew’s URC, Monkseaton.