The high point of the church year, Easter is a fifty-day festal season, beginning today, that celebrates the Resurrection of Christ with concentrated vigor! The first eight days of Easter are called the Easter Octave. During this octave I will be publishing daily art-and-song posts, as I did for Holy Week, in the hopes that these works of beauty will help you to bask, wonder, and rejoice in the world-changing truth that Christ is risen.
LOOK: Alleluia by Helen Siegl
Jesus flipped the script on death! On the bottom of this woodcut, Jesus hangs dead on a tree. The sun and moon have gone black. In the center of the composition, a large crown of thorns encircles instruments of the passion: the titulus, the rooster, the three nails, the spear, the sponge-tipped reed, the scourge, the bread and the wine. But Jesus emerges victorious from the whole ordeal. The serpentine creature that bares its teeth could be read as the serpent from Genesis, whom God prophesied would have his head crushed by the offspring of Eve (Gen. 3:15), or as the sea monster from the book of Jonah as an allegory of the tomb in which Jesus spent three days before emerging anew (Matt. 12:38–41). Sun, stars, planets—the cosmos rejoices. Its Savior has risen.
LISTEN: “Praise the Savior, Now and Ever” | Original Latin words by Venantius Fortunatus, 569 CE; adapted into Swedish by Johan Olaf Wallin, 1819; translated into English by Augustus Nelson, 1925 | Music: American shape-note tune (HOLY MANNA), attributed to William Moore, 1829 | Performed by the musicians of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, 2007
Praise the Savior, now and ever;
Praise him, all beneath the skies!
Prostrate lying, suff’ring, dying
On the cross, a sacrifice.
Vict’ry gaining, life obtaining,
Now in glory he doth rise.
Man’s work faileth, Christ’s availeth;
He is all our righteousness.
He, our Savior, has forever
Set us free from dire distress.
Through his merit we inherit
Light and peace and happiness.
Sin’s bond severed, we’re delivered;
Christ has bruised the serpent’s head.
Death no longer is the stronger,
Hell itself is captive led.
Christ has risen from death’s prison;
O’er the tomb he light has shed.
For his favor, praise forever
Unto God the Father sing;
Praise the Savior, praise him ever,
Son of God, our Lord and King.
Praise the Spirit; through Christ’s merit
He doth us salvation bring!
This song has its roots in one of the oldest Easter hymns, “Pange, lingua, gloriosi proelium certaminis” (Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle)—from the sixth century. It’s been copiously translated and adapted over the years. This version comes from Redeemer Indy, a Presbyterian church in Indianapolis. While working as a worship director there in the 2000s, Bruce Benedict found the English text in the Trinity Hymnal and paired it with the shape-note tune HOLY MANNA to give it an “Easter jamboree vibe,” arranging it for bluegrass instruments.
The Psalter Hymnal Handbook notes, “The text sets forth the gospel of Easter: Christ who died has risen in victory (st. 1), has set us free from sin (st. 2), and has conquered death and hell itself (st. 3); to that confession we respond with our praise—a doxology to the Trinity (st. 4).”
This song is on the Art & Theology Eastertide Playlist.