Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
LOOK: Ovide Bighetty (Cree, 1969–2014), Hallelujah, Christ Has Risen, 2002. Acrylic on canvas. From the Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin (The Creator’s Sacrifice) cycle, commissioned by the Indian Metis Christian Fellowship.
Ovide Joseph Bighetty was a Cree (Missinippi-Ethiniwak) self-taught artist originally from Pukatawagan First Nation on the Missinippi River in northwestern Manitoba. He was influenced by the Woodland art style of Norval Morrisseau.
In 2002 the Indian Metis Christian Fellowship (now called the Indigenous Christian Fellowship, or ICF) commissioned Bighetty to create a series of paintings on Christ’s death and resurrection. According to their website, “among North American indigenous peoples, there is the story that, before Europeans arrived on Turtle Island, elders had visions about white people coming from the east with a story from the Creator.” One elder even had a vision of “the Creator’s sacrifice” that corresponds to elements of the biblical passion narratives and Easter story.
Bighetty fulfilled the commission in consultation with Pukatawagan elders, making sure he was properly honoring his people’s heritage.
Hallelujah, Christ Has Risen is the sixteenth painting in a sequence of seventeen. The ICF website offers the following description based on Matthew 28:2–4: “Early on the third day, there was a violent earthquake. A spirit sent by the Creator came down from heaven, rolled the stone away and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothes white as snow. The warriors were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men.” It looks to me like the angel is playing a flute with one hand, and with the other he gestures toward the sky, indicating Jesus’s impending ascension.
Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say,* Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Hail the Lord of earth and heav’n, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be giv’n, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!
King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy pow’r to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!
* Alternatively, “Earth and heav’n in chorus say,” as in the United Methodist Hymnal.
This is, for me and many others, the Easter hymn par excellence. (Charles Wesley was a brilliant hymn writer.) I never tire of it year after year. It’s glorious.
Happy Easter, friends. Christ is risen!
Be sure to stick around for the next fifty days as I continue to celebrate Easter here at Art & Theology.