Easter, Day 8

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

—Ephesians 3:16–19

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness . . .

“Sleeper, awake!
    Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

—Ephesians 5:8–11a, 14b

LOOK: Resurrection by Lu Lan

Lu Lan_Resurrection
Lu Lan (Chinese, 1972–), Resurrection, 1996. Tempera on cardboard, 50 × 50 cm.

LISTEN: “Easter Light” | Words by Angier Brock and music by Cecilia McDowall, 2016 | Performed by the Oxford Choir, on Oxford Choral Highlights 2017

In Easter light, the risen Christ is moving among us.
     How brightly the meadowlark sings its song of the season.
          Alleluia.
     How gently the Easter light lifts the face of the lily.
         Christ is risen.
With illumed heart and radiant faces,
     we too sing in that light.
          Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Let Christ be rising now in our lives and in our prayers,
     as we open our hands to both friend and stranger.
Let Christ be rising now in our words and in our work
     as we strive to repair the earth
     and free all its creatures from danger.

Risen Christ of limitless love,
     Risen Christ of compassion and peace,
          Risen Christ of gracious surprising—
You move among us in Easter light.
Be now in us, rising.

I so love Angier Brock’s collaborations with Cecilia McDowall. I featured another of their choral anthems, “Advent Moon,” two Advents ago.

“Easter Light” is quieter and more reflective than most other Easter anthems. It muses on how, as the natural world awakens to the fullness of spring, our hearts are beckoned to come awake also. Christ rose from his grave in first-century Palestine and he rises in his followers, moving us to love, compassion, peace, generosity, and works of repair and liberation. This anthem is a blessing and a prayer—that we would be reanimated, reastonished, by the “risen Christ of gracious surprising”; that we would be Easter people, people of life and light, practicing resurrection.

The text above is as Brock wrote it. She gave McDowall the leeway to rearrange the order of lines, to repeat and layer words, and so on. Brock told me how pleased she is by how McDowall set the alleluias. “I think of them as ‘falling alleluias’ or ‘waterfalls of alleluias,’” she said.

In addition to being a sacred lyricist, Brock is also a poet. I asked her if she approaches differently the task of writing a poem that she knows will be set to music for church contexts versus writing a poem that does not have that objective. Here’s what she said:

For me, the biggest difference between writing a hymn or anthem text, as opposed to a freestanding poem, is that with the hymn or anthem, I know I will quite literally be putting words into other peoples’ mouths. And not just any words—words about faith, about the Holy, the Divine. Theology figures in—not my personal or private theology, but something larger. That adds a layer of—I’m not sure what the word is. Complexity? Responsibility? Gravitas? Something like one of those things, or some combination thereof.

The above recording is of a performance by the collegiate Oxford Choir, but for examples of church choirs singing “Easter Light” for Easter Day worship services, see the following timestamped video links:

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This concludes my *daily* posts in this format—but there are still another forty-two days of Easter, and I hope you’re continuing to celebrate! I’ll still be sharing content throughout the remainder of the season, just at a lesser frequency. In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying the Art & Theology Eastertide Playlist, which includes today’s featured song.

If you would like to leave me a “tip” for the Lent-Easter posts or playlists, you can do so through PayPal. I appreciate your support, which gives me the freedom to step away from paid freelancing projects to devote time here, and to keep all the blog content free and available to everyone instead of moving to a Patreon model. If you don’t have a PayPal account but still wish to contribute to my work (as some of you have indicated to me), you could buy me a book from my Amazon wish list. Books feed my research and shape my spiritual development and can impact what I cover on the blog. Please note that wish list items do not equal endorsements.

I wish you all a very happy Eastertide! Thanks for journeying with me through Lent and Bright Week.

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