The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Today Christians around the world are remembering the resurrection of our Savior. If you are celebrating Easter in an English-speaking church (which is likely if you’re reading this blog), there is a good probability that you have sung or will sing the hymn “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.”
For about 300 years now, this hymn and its variants have been sung in English churches to commemorate and celebrate that Sunday morning about 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ walked out of his tomb, demonstrating that he had forever triumphed over sin and death for both himself and all his people.
The earliest forms of the hymn can be traced back to a Latin text from the 14th century. In 1708 the four Latin stanzas were translated into English and published by J. Walsh in Lyra Davidica under the title “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today.” A few decades later, in 1739, a modified version was published by John and Charles Wesley (Charles is pictured to the right) in Hymns and Sacred Poems under the title “Hymn for Easter Day.” It is this version, later shortened and supplemented with the “Alleluia” refrain, that has become the hymn that remains so popular today.
Here are all 11 stanzas published by the Wesleys. It is worth reading through each one thoughtfully, and perhaps especially the ones that we no longer sing. They are rich with biblical allusion and the wonderful implications of Easter.
1. “Christ the Lord is ris’n to-day,”
Sons of Men and Angels say!
Raise your Joys and Triumphs high,
Sing ye Heav’ns, and Earth reply.
2. Love’s Redeeming Work is done,
Fought the Fight, the Battle won,
Lo! our Sun’s Eclipse is o’er,
Lo! He sets in Blood no more.
3. Vain the Stone, the Watch, the Seal;
Christ hath burst the Gates of Hell!
Death in vain forbids his Rise:
Christ hath open’d Paradise!
4. Lives again our glorious King,
Where, O Death, is now thy Sting?
Once He died our Souls to save,
Where thy Victory, O Grave?
5. Soar we now, where Christ has led,
Following our Exalted Head,
Made like Him, like Him we rise:
Ours the Cross; the Grave; the Skies.
6. What tho’ once we perish’d All,
Partners of our Parent’s Fall,
Second Life we All receive,
In our Heav’nly Adam live.
7. Ris’n with Him, we upward move,
Still we seek the Things above,
Still pursue, and kiss the Son,
Seated on his Father’s Throne;
8. Scarce on Earth a Thought bestow,
Dead to all we leave below,
Heav’n our Aim, and lov’d Abode,
Hid our Life with Christ in God!
9. Hid; ’till Christ our Life appear,
Glorious in his Members here:
Join’d to Him, we then shall shine
All Immortal, all Divine!
10. Hail the Lord of Earth and Heav’n!
Praise to Thee by both be giv’n:
Thee we greet Triumphant now;
Hail the Resurrection Thou!
11. King of Glory, Soul of Bliss,
Everlasting Life is This,
Thee to know, thy Pow’r to prove,
Thus to sing, and thus to love!
This hymn has not been modernized or recorded with the same frequency as many other favorites. My preferred recording is the one on Hymns Triumphant, still and always my favorite collection of hymns.
More in Hymn Stories:
- What Could Be
- Cutting It Straight
- Book Review – The Fallacy Detective
- Pious and Reclusive for Christ
More in The Character of the Christian:
- Sunday Reflection
- Outsourcing Prayer
- Book Review – A Time of Departing
- Book Review – Praying Backwards (Don’t Skip This Review)