Easter, Day 7: Creation Blooms Anew

LOOK: Magnolias by Stanley Spencer

Spencer, Stanley_Magnolias
Stanley Spencer (British, 1891–1959), Magnolias, 1938. Oil on canvas, 22 × 26 in. (56 × 66 cm). Private collection.

LISTEN: “Creation Blooms Anew” by Nick Chambers, 2020

Again your Spirit sweeps,
a wind over the deep;
a new creation now arrives
to rouse us from our sleep.

The breath of heaven brings
the long-awaited spring
into the fields and seas and skies
and every barren thing.

Creation blooms anew
in fresh and joyful hue.
In Christ’s arising all things rise
to draw their breath from you.

Awaken by the sound
of forging swords into plows.
Come fill the Garden with your light,
and we will till the ground.

The earth is being cleared
for heaven to come near.
From every depth an eager sigh
is all that we can hear. [Refrain]

Nick Chambers [previously] is the worship pastor at Church of the Incarnation in Atlanta and a singer-songwriter whose debut album, Great Cloud, released last year. “Creation Blooms Anew” is not part of that LP, but he shared it on YouTube in 2020. It was inspired by a hymn of Adam of St. Victor, a major Latin-language poet from twelfth-century France:

Earth blooms afresh in joyous dyes;
In Christ’s arising all things rise;
A solemn joy o’er nature lies;

Now peace the sea, the sky doth fill;
Heav’n’s breath wakes fair each vale and hill;
Spring pours through barren hearts and chill;

Life wins from death the glorious prey;
The cherub’s sword is turned away,
And Eden’s paths are free today;

Trans. A. M. E., 1884

Memories of his family’s first Easter in Atlanta in 2017 also influenced the song. “More than anything I remember the magnolia flowers,” Chambers said, “bright white and big as our baby’s head. The branches bent with the weight of them, swinging like bells welcoming us into a new home, a new season of life.”

Chambers reflects further on the image of flowering:

Norman Wirzba, in one of his many reflections on gardening, writes, “It is significant that the material context for creation and for redemption should be a garden, for it is precisely through gardening that we most experience ourselves as created beings, as beings tied to a magnificent creation and to God. . . . [The writer of Genesis 2] is clear that we become authentic and truly fulfill our vocation as we learn to care for the garden which is creation itself.” He continues, “Gardens have long been a place of spiritual nourishment, because it is here that we can sense the vivifying and gracious power of the creator at work in the creation. Without much help from us, and sometimes in spite of our worst efforts, we can plainly see that we are in the presence of a life- and death-wielding power that overcomes and envelops us all” (The Paradise of God, 117).

In the beginning, God creates humanity to till the ground in a garden. Christ suffers anguish and grief in a garden, then to be resurrected in a garden and even mistaken for its caretaker. The story comes to its endless ending in a garden—steady streams in the shade of trees thick with healing leaves. We live from this past into this future, ourselves like flowers nourished by soil and bending toward the sun. Here and now, Easter invites us into this vision, into the wild surprises of spring to be both gardeners and the garden itself.

Roundup: Steve Martin on banjo, poetry comic about the Resurrection, and more

BANJO DUET: “Foggy Morning Breaking” by Alison Brown and Steve Martin: Did you know the actor Steve Martin also has a music career? He’s been playing the banjo since he was a teenager, and he writes, records, and tours, both solo and as part of bluegrass bands. He’s even won three Grammys for his banjo music!

Fellow banjoist Alison Brown invited him to contribute to one of the tunes on her forthcoming album, On Banjo, which releases May 5. It’s called “Foggy Morning Breaking.” She wrote and plays the A section; he wrote and plays the B. The piece was released last month as a single, along with this music video.


VIDEO: “Spring” by Jamie Scott: This time-lapse short film of flowers blooming is extraordinary! It’s by visual effects artist and time-lapse photographer Jamie Scott (IG @invisiblejam). The score is by Jim Perkins. [HT: Tamara Hill Murphy]



>> April 22: “The Ekstasis Café: An Evening of Poetry, Music, Testimony, and Gallery,” Goldberry Books, Concord, North Carolina: Ekstasis is a beautiful quarterly magazine “exhibit[ing] arts and letters that reflect the depths of Christian life.” Next Saturday they are hosting their first-ever public gathering! Their hope with it is to foster meaningful connections, conversation, deep aesthetic encounters, and inspiration.

>> April 28: Artists’ Talk and Reception for The Resurrection and the Life by Fish Coin Press Exhibition, Sojourn Arts Gallery, Louisville, Kentucky: Fish Coin Press (IG @fishcoin.press) is a Richmond, Virginia–based publisher of illustrated books, comics, and trading cards rooted in the story of scripture. They work with a range of artists and are doing really imaginative work.

Procopio, Stephen_Ascension
Stephen Procopio, Ascension, 2020. A full-color version of an illustration for Come See a Man (an illustrated Gospel of John) by Fish Coin Press.

From April 9 to May 28, the gallery at Sojourn Church Midtown in Louisville is exhibiting a selection of art from Fish Coin projects (open Sundays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., or by appointment); here are a few exhibition views. And two Friday evenings from today, Fish Coin Press creative director Jared Boggess and development lead Stephen Procopio, who are illustrators themselves, will be visiting the gallery to discuss “visual theology” and its role in the local church. There will be a Q&A and a sneak preview of upcoming publications.


POEM: “Psalm” by Dorianne Laux: This poem sings the glories of “the hidden and small,” of the plants and creatures beneath our feet. Read more of Laux’s poems at https://www.doriannelaux.net/poems.


LECTURE: “Resurrection and the Renewal of Creation” by N. T. Wright: In this 2018 lecture sponsored by Lanier Theological Library and Baylor University’s Truett Seminary, ancient historian and New Testament scholar N. T. Wright discusses the meaning of Jesus’s resurrection, a topic he explores thoroughly in the influential academic tome The Resurrection of the Son of God and its more accessible corollary, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. “Easter is the start of something; it isn’t the ending,” he says. With the resurrection of Christ, the new creation has been launched and put to work in the world. It’s not about securing our souls a place in some nonspatiotemporal heaven when we die but about heaven colonizing earth here and now. We humans, he says, are meant to stand at the place where heaven and earth interlock. We who have received life are to be ourselves life-bringers, to participate in God’s massive renewal project. We are resurrection people!

Wright addresses common Christian misconceptions about death, judgment, and the fate of this world, seeking to root out the corrupting influence of Platonism and other pagan Greek philosophies on Christian eschatology. (For example, the new creation won’t be a creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing; it will be a creatio ex vetere, a creation out of the old. The implications of that are huge.) He also affirms the absolute importance of belief in Jesus’s bodily resurrection—his rising is no mere metaphor!—and calls on Christians to recover a centralizing hope in the general resurrection (what he calls “life after life after death”; fully embodied life in the new heavens and the new earth that comes after the not-yet-fully-realized life experienced in the interim between one’s death and the future cosmic coming of Christ) rather than regarding what happens immediately after one’s death as the ultimate beatitude.

Wright always makes me excited about what God’s doing and excited to be a disciple of Jesus. What more could a preacher ask for?

The final half hour of the video is Q&A.


DIGITAL COMIC: 30 Days of Comics (2022) by Madeleine Jubilee Saito: Madeleine Jubilee Saito [previously] is a Seattle-based cartoonist who is interested, as she says on her website, in “friendship, formal experimentation, medieval sacred comics, the built environment, solidarity, climate justice, the psalms, the material world, and the sacred.” Last year she was one of five artists in the inaugural cohort of On Being Project’s Artist Residency; during that time she created “For living, in climate crisis.” Her work is poetic, spiritual, and earthy, and I love it.  

Saito, Madeleine Jubilee_Made New
Comic by Madeleine Jubilee Saito, 2022, the ninth of thirty from “30 Days of Comics.”

In November 2022 Saito made a one-page, four-panel comic (almost) every day for the duration of the month. The series is resurrection-themed and, she told me, inspired by one of my blog posts: the one about Fra Angelico’s Noli me tangere at San Marco, a painting in which Christ the Gardener sows his stigmata across the lawn, as art historian Georges Didi-Huberman so beautifully interprets in his monograph on the artist. Click on the image and scroll down (then, at the bottom, click “←older”) to view all twenty-seven comics from the series. Each can stand alone, but they also have a cumulative effect. It’s stunning! You can follow Saito on Instagram @madeleine_jubilee_saito.

Easter, Day 6: Hope

LOOK: Hope by Ulrich Barnickel

Barnickel, Ulrich_Hope
Ulrich Barnickel (German, 1955–), Hoffnung (Hope), fourteenth station from the cycle Weg der Hoffnung (Path of Hope), 2009–10. Iron sculpture, Geisa, Germany.

This is the last of fourteen monumental sculptures situated along the former inner German border that separated Soviet-occupied East Germany and Allied-occupied West Germany from 1952 to 1990. Stretching from Hesse to Thuringia, this highly militarized frontier consisted of high metal fences, barbed wire, alarms, watchtowers, and minefields, a literal iron curtain that divided families, friends, and neighbors.

In 2009, the Point Alpha Foundation, founded to preserve the historic site as a memorial, commissioned German metal sculptor Ulrich Barnickel to create an artwork as part of the memorial. He decided to draw on the traditional fourteen Stations of the Cross, connecting the suffering of Jesus to that of the people on the inner German border under Communism. Collectively titled Path of Hope, his fourteen iron sculptures cover 1,400 meters of ground (scaling down the 1,400 kilometers of the former border). All but the last are figurative, representing Jesus falling, meeting his mother, being nailed to the cross, and so on. They contain artifacts from or references to German Cold War era history, such as a vintage steel helmet hanging on Pilate’s chair, or the grenade and the trench that Jesus stumbles over.

The final station, titled Hope, is a threefold open doorway. After all the heaviness of the previous thirteen stations, we get this breather. Here’s what the doors say to me: Invitation. Possibility. The fourteenth station of the cross is traditionally where Christ is buried in his tomb. But instead of a dead body on a slab or a sealed-up cave, Barnickel gives us an open frame, a door ajar, a view of sky. It alludes to resurrection. Jesus walked through death and came out the other side. And so can we.

While the Path of Hope is a vehicle for remembering, lamenting, and healing from the collective traumas of war and political violence and oppression, it can also speak to personal losses, to any individual’s journey of grief. It’s an invitation to acknowledge the pain we carry but also to see beyond it to the Better Day that is coming, as well as to embrace the life before us here and now. The doors ask us to unburden ourselves of whatever weight is crushing us and to be renewed. (Notice the crown of thorns, an emblem of suffering, left hanging on the corner of the final threshold.) To follow the Man of Sorrows, who walks beside us in our own sorrow, from death into life.

For those accompanying a loved one to the door of death, or who have had a loved one suddenly snatched through, may Barnickel’s Hope meet you in your grieving, filling you with soft consolations of a Love stronger than death, a Love who, once buried, became on the third day the firstfruits of the resurrection harvest.

Barnickel, Ulrich_Hope

LISTEN: “Alleluia, Christ Is Risen Once Again” by Tara Ward, written 2007, performed 2020

Waking up to tragic dawn
Not comprehending what is going on
Alleluia, Christ is risen once again

And it frames a hollow place
Lost dreams and accolades
Alleluia, Christ is risen once again

Alleluia, Christ is risen
Though the walls of castles fall
Alleluia, he is risen for us all

From these sights the shadows light
In an overwhelming night
Alleluia, Christ is risen once again

Hopes fly from us every day
Fear reigns far and so does hate
Alleluia, Christ is risen once again

Alleluia, Christ is risen
Though the gates of all this war
Alleluia, Christ is risen evermore

Alleluia, God is able
To complete the life you led
Alleluia, Christ is risen from the dead

Alleluia, he is risen once again

From the sorrow you have fled
You have joy around your head
Alleluia, Christ is risen once again

And as from earthly trials you fly
You leave sadness when you die
Alleluia, Christ is risen once again

Alleluia, Christ is risen
And the life you’re living now
Alleluia, all’s forgiven somehow

Alleluia, there is beauty
When I think of you, joy I feel
Alleluia, in my sadness, faith is real

Alleluia, Christ is risen once again
Alleluia for you, my friend

Tara Ward [previously] wrote this song during the 2007 Easter season when two tragedies struck within a week of each other. On April 16, a mass shooter opened fire at Virginia Tech, killing thirty-two people, and on April 21, Ward’s friend Liz Duncan was fatally struck by a car while jogging. In the second half of the song, Ward addresses Duncan in the second person, rejoicing through tears that she has entered a state of joy and rest and will one day be raised, body and soul.

Ward returned to the song for Easter 2020 following the death that March of another friend and the initial outbreak of COVID-19. “I was trying to think of what I would sing if I was still working at a church, looking for honest songs to sing on Easter, and this one came up,” she writes on the YouTube video description.

The Nashville community, and America at large, is still reeling from the March 27 shooting at Covenant School that left seven dead, the 131st mass shooting in the US this year. I can only imagine the absolute devastation and rage a parent would feel upon learning that the child they dropped off at school that morning would not be coming home because they were gunned down with an assault rifle.

As I listen to this song, I think, too, of Leslie Bustard, a writer and book publisher, a luminary in the art and faith sphere, who, less than two months after hosting an amazing Square Halo conference on the theme of “ordinary saints,” is now in hospice with late-stage cancer.

Sometimes all the exuberance of Easter can seem disjunctive with the bleak state of the world or our own present circumstances. Christ is risen, but death is still a reality, and it’s still painful. Quiet and aching, this song gives space to grief while also confessing this central Christian doctrine: that Jesus rose from the dead, giving life to all who will receive it. Of course, that doesn’t mean Christians are exempt from experiencing physical death—we will all one day go to the grave—nor from the grief that follows in the wake of a loved one’s passing.

But what Ward’s song helps us do is sing “alleluia” in our sadness, because Christ’s resurrection life is at work in those who have passed on in him, and it’s at work in those of us who walk through the valley of death’s shadow here on earth. The “once again” language—“Christ is risen once again”—indicates that Jesus’s historical rising has ongoing implications, its efficacy extending to every new place of death.

Easter, Day 5: Vidi aquam

LOOK: Paschal Candlestand by Thomas Mpira

Mpira, Thomas_Paschal Candlestand
Thomas Mpira, Paschal Candlestand, 1990. Tangatanga wood, height 104 cm. Mua Parish Church, Mua, Malawi.

This large Paschal candlestand was made by Thomas Mpira, a master carver at the Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art in Mua, Malawi. Founded in 1976 by Father Claude Boucher Chisale, this center employed over 120 carvers at its height and is remarkable for how it synthesizes Christian faith and African culture. It is still active, with many locally produced artworks put on display at the center’s Chamare Museum. Others, like this one, are used in the liturgies at the Mua parish church in the diocese of Dedza, whose services are in Chichewa.

Traditionally, the Paschal candle is lit during the Easter Vigil on the night of Holy Saturday, representing the light of Christ’s resurrection expelling the darkness. It is raised and leads a procession, with the lighting blessing referencing

Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all humanity,
[God’s] Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

The candle is then placed on the stand and remains lit at all worship services throughout the Easter season, and during baptisms and funerals at any time of the year.

The central figure of Mpira’s carving is the risen Christ, his body constituted of people who’ve been incorporated by his death and resurrection into the “celestial village” he holds aloft, the kingdom of God. From his Sacred Heart gushes a river of life that waters a Chewa village, where a newborn is being passed over a fire to welcome him into the community. (Some Chewa Christians have adapted this ritual such that the child is passed over a lit candle at baptism.) Powerful and regenerating, Christ’s Spirit pours out over the villagers and their daily lives.

The arched forms that support the top of the stand are stylized rainbows, symbolic of God’s promise.

LISTEN: “Vidi aquam” (Wolof: “Gis Na Deh”) by the Monks of Keur Moussa Abbey, from Keur Moussa: Sacred Chant and African Rhythms from Senegal (1997)

English translation:

I saw water flowing out of the temple, from its right side, alleluia:
And all to whom this water came were saved,
And they exclaim, “Alleluia, alleluia!”

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit:
As it was in the beginning, now and forever.

I saw water flowing out of the temple, from its right side, alleluia:
And all to whom this water came were saved,
And they exclaim, “Alleluia, alleluia!”

“Vidi aquam” (“I saw the water”) is a joyful Easter chant for the asperges ritual at the beginning of Mass, in which the altar, the clergy, and the congregation are sprinkled with holy water. The Latin word “asperges” is taken from Psalm 51:3, “Asperges me hyssopo” (Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop), which is intoned during the rite for most of the year—except during Eastertide, when this text is replaced with one based on Ezekiel 47, in which the prophet sees a sanctifying flood issuing forth from the temple in Jerusalem:

Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there water was flowing from below the entryway of the temple toward the east. . . . Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live . . . (vv. 1, 9)

(Related posts: “‘River’ by Eugene McDaniels”; “Music making at Keur Moussa Abbey, Senegal”)

This sensory ritual celebrates the cleansing power of Christ, from whose speared side, on the cross, gushed water and blood, a fount of life.

The monks of Keur Moussa Abbey in Senegal use a Wolof translation of the Vidi aquam, which they’ve set to music inspired by a diola melody from Casamance, southern Senegal. In this recording, they sing accompanied by two tom-toms.

This song is on the Art & Theology Eastertide Playlist.

Easter, Day 4: Kriste aghdga

LOOK: Anastasis, Georgian Orthodox church fresco

Harrowing of Hell (Georgia)
Anastasis (Harrowing of Hell), ca. 1207. Fresco, St. Nicholas Church, Kintsvisi Monastery, Shida Kartli region, Georgia.

In this (partially damaged) icon of the Resurrection from the main church at Kintsvisi Monastery in the country of Georgia, Christ stands over the pit of hell, atop its broken gates. He has come to take back his own from this place of death. He heaves Adam up first, and Eve next. On the right stand Kings Solomon and David and John the Forerunner (aka John the Baptist). The deliverance they’ve been awaiting has come.

Fresh from the tomb, Christ holds aloft his cross as a victory staff. As is common in Orthodox icons, it has three horizontal beams: a short one on top, representing the titulus that read, “King of the Jews”; the main one, onto which Jesus’s hands were nailed; and a footrest at the bottom.

(Related post: “‘Done Is a Battle’ by William Dunbar”)

LISTEN: “Kriste aghdga” (Christ Is Risen), the Paschal troparion in a traditional Georgian setting from the Svaneti region | Performed by the Sheehan Family, 2020

Krist’e aghdga mk’vdretit
sik’vdilita sik’vdilisa
dam trgun velida saplavebis shinata
tskhovrebis mimnich’ebeli.

English translation:

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

Frederica Mathewes-Green, an Eastern Orthodox author and speaker from Johnson City, Tennessee, wrote the following on her Facebook page last year:

The troparion [short hymn] for Pascha is this brief and punchy one, written by St. John of Damascus (d. 749):

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

We sing it many, many times—surely hundreds of times—before Pascha concludes on the day of Pentecost. It is always sung a capella, without accompaniment (apart from the vigorous ringing of bells, in some congregations). It is set to many, many different melodies. Each ethnicity has a half-dozen favorite melodies, so the options are very broad. . . .

But when Orthodox of other nations hear it sung in a Georgian tone, they stop and listen.

Georgian church music is unique. It is always sung in three parts, honoring the Trinity; but what’s striking is the sound of it, unlike anything we have in the West. Someone who is trained in Georgian chant might be able to explain it, but I can’t. 

Let’s hear from Dr. John A. Graham, an American musicologist specializing in the history of Georgian liturgical music and who runs the website www.georgianchant.org:

“Kriste aghdga” (Christ is Risen) is an important Easter hymn in the Georgian Orthodox tradition. It is sung when the priest knocks on the doors of the church, symbolizing entrance to the tomb of Christ, just before entering the sanctuary space to commence the all-night liturgy service [on the Saturday before Easter].

Then it is repeated in groups of three throughout the All-Night vigil service (4-7 hours). It is also sung in every service after Easter until Pentecost.

The chant survives in many musical variants, as chanters in each village and region perfected their individual style.

The most popular variant, the one you heard above, is from Svaneti, a highland region in northwest Georgia. The style is influenced by Svan folk music. This variant begins with a solo sung by the middle voice. You can purchase the vocal score here, as sung by the Sheehan family, or see the free transcription that Graham provides.

Here’s the Orthodox Virtual Quarantine Choir, directed by Steve Jacobs, singing the chant in English, interspersed with a Paschal reading taken from Psalm 68:1–3 (“Let God rise up . . .”) and Psalm 118:24 (“This is the day . . .”):

In his article, Graham lists seven characteristics of traditional Georgian chant, among which are its three-part voicing, its close harmonies (“The dissonances are integral to the desired sound. The tension-release in the music is symbolic of our prayers and supplications to God.”), and an ending in unison. He posts videos of several other regional musical variants of the troparion in Georgian.

This song, as performed by the Capitol Hill Chorale, is on the Art & Theology Eastertide Playlist.

Easter, Day 3: Lord of Light and Life

. . . the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings . . .

—Malachi 4:2

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.

—Isaiah 9:2

LOOK: The Sun by Edvard Munch

Munch, Edvard_Sun
Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863–1944), The Sun, 1911. Oil on canvas, 455 × 780 cm (14.9 × 25.5 ft.). The Aula, University of Oslo, Norway.

Over twenty-five feet across, Edvard Munch’s The Sun is the centerpiece of an eleven-piece cycle of oil paintings on the theme of enlightenment commissioned for, and still located in, the Aula (assembly hall) at the University of Oslo. It shows a blazing sunrise over the coastline of Kragerø in Norway, its multicolored rays extending to adjacent canvases, which portray men and women reaching up toward the light.

Though he didn’t have an explicitly Christological meaning in mind, Munch did see the sun as the source of all life, as he wrote about in his notebooks, and in his work it is often read as a symbol of the eternal.

LISTEN: “Again the Lord” | Words by Anna L. Barbauld, 1772 | Music by Ben Thomas, 2015 | Performed by Ben Thomas on Bring Forth, 2015

Again the Lord of light and life
Awakes the kindling ray
Unseals the eyelids of the morn
And pours increasing day

O what a night was that which wrapped
The sleeping world in gloom
O what a Sun which rose this day
Triumphant from the tomb

This day be grateful homage paid
And loud hosannas sung
Let gladness dwell in every heart
And praise on every tongue

Ten thousand different lips shall join
To hail this welcome morn
Which scatters blessing from its wings
To nations yet unborn

This song is on the Art & Theology Eastertide Playlist.

Easter, Day 2: When the Sabbath was past . . .

LOOK: The Three Marys by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Tanner, Henry Ossawa_The Three Marys
Henry Ossawa Tanner (American, 1859–1937), The Three Marys, 1910. Oil on canvas, 42 × 50 in. Fisk University Art Galleries, Nashville, Tennessee.

Based on Mark 16:1–4, this painting shows Mary Magdalene (leading the way), Mary the mother of James, and Salome approaching the tomb of their rabbi, Jesus, the Sunday after his crucifixion. They came bearing spices to anoint his body. They expected it to be a mournful day.

Imagine their response when they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty! That’s the moment the artist Henry Ossawa Tanner shows us here. Not the Resurrection itself, but the emotional reaction to it, or rather to the evidence of it.

What do you read on the faces of these women? Surprise? Confusion? Fear? Curiosity? Caution? Wonder? Love? Some mix thereof?

They are illumined by the light of an angel who is out of frame and who will speak the news to them presently. Mary Magdalene lifts her hand to her face in a gesture of self-reassurance, while her companion raises her tensed arms at the elbow in a defensive posture, as I read it. Compelled but still somewhat guarded, they progress toward the mystery.

Born and raised the son of a minister in the AME Church in Pennsylvania, Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859–1937) was an African American expat to Paris whose biblical paintings, inspired in part by his two trips to the Holy Land, garnered him international acclaim. In Beholding Christ and Christianity in African American Art, art historian James Romaine identifies Tanner as “the most artistically gifted and theologically astute American painter of biblical subjects.” A master of conveying nuanced mystery, “Tanner paints personal experiences rather than public spectacles,” Romaine writes, communicating more through suggestion than depiction and urging the viewer to undergo, like the figures in his paintings, their own experience of spiritual sight.

LISTEN: “Dum transisset Sabbatum” (When the Sabbath was past) | Text: Mark 16:1–2 | Music by John Taverner, 1520s | Performed by Alamire, 2010

Dum transisset Sabbatum, Maria Magdalene et Maria Jacobi et Salome emerunt aromata ut venientes ungerent Jesum. Alleluia.

Et valde mane una sabbatorum veniunt ad monumentum orto iam sole.

Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.

English translation:

And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. Alleluia.

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

The third responsory at Matins on Easter Sunday, this text has been set to music by many composers. The motet by English Renaissance composer John Taverner is the most famous. The video above is just an excerpt. The full piece lasts about eight minutes and alternates between plainchant and polyphony.

This song is on the Art & Theology Eastertide Playlist.

Easter, Day 1: “Now in glory he doth rise!”

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

Siegl, Helen_Resurrection
Helen Siegl (Austrian/American, 1924–2009), Alleluia, 1975. Color woodcut, 20.5 × 12 cm.

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.

Holy Saturday: Buried Seed

“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit.”

—John 12:24

LOOK: Untitled by Kwon Young-Woo

Kwon Young-Woo_Untitled (2002)
Kwon Young-Woo (Korean, 1926–2013), Untitled, 2002. Korean paper on canvas, 51 3/16 × 51 3/16 in. Photo: Chunho Ahn, courtesy the artist’s estate and Kukje Gallery.

LISTEN: “Before the Fruit Is Ripened by the Sun” | Words by Thomas H. Troeger, 1985 | Music by Carol Doran, 1985 | Performed by Sasha Massey, 2020

Before the fruit is ripened by the sun,
Before the petals or the leaves uncoil,
Before the first fine silken root is spun,
A seed is dropped and buried in the soil.

Before the Easter alleluias ring,
Before the massive rock is rolled aside,
Before the fear of death has lost its sting,
A just and loving man is crucified.

Before we gain the grace that comes through loss,
Before we live by more than bread and breath,
Before we lift in joy an empty cross,
We face with Christ the seed’s renewing death.

Text and tune © 1986 Oxford University Press

Good Friday: Indodana

LOOK: Olivewood crucifix, South Africa

Olivewood Crucifix (South Africa)
Olivewood crucifix, South Africa, 1978. Source: Christliche Kunst in Afrika, p. 263

LISTEN: “Indodana” (Son), traditional isiXhosa song from South Africa | Arr. Michael Barrett and Ralf Schmitt, adapt. André van der Merwe, 2014 | Performed by the Stellenbosch University Choir, 2014

Ngob’umthatile eh umtwana wakho 
Uhlale nathi, eh hololo helele

Indodana ka Nkulunkulu 
Bayi’bethelela, hololo helele 

Oh Baba! Baba, Baba Yehova! 
Baba, hololo helele
You took your own son
Who lived among us [wailing]

The Son of God
Was crucified [wailing]

Oh Father! Father, Father Jehovah!
Father! [wailing] 


This song so well captures the mood of mourning that characterizes Good Friday, when the Son of God was slain. “Hololo” and “helele” are wordless expressions of grief. So is the “Zjem zjem zja” sung by the basses, like heaving sobs, on the title word in verse 2. One soprano who performed this piece said that singing the “Oh’s” above the melody felt like singing tears.

“Indodana” is on the Art & Theology Holy Week Playlist.