Easter at Gloucester Cathedral

Our joy that hath no end

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If you’re like me, there’s one hymn you have to sing in order for it to feel like Easter. For me, my must-sing-on-Easter hymn is “The Day of Resurrection,” translated by John Mason Neale from the ancient Byzantine hymn by John of Damascus.

When I was a parish priest, we always sang this at the end of the Great Vigil of Easter. After a glorious liturgy filled with imagery of the passing over from death to life, this hymn makes the perfect summation and expression of praise and joy.

1. The day of resurrection! 
Earth, tell it out abroad;
the Passover of gladness, 
the Passover of God.
From death to life eternal, 
from earth unto the sky,
our Christ hath brought us over, 
with hymns of victory.

2. Our hearts be pure from evil, 
that we may see aright
the Lord in rays eternal 
of resurrection light;
and, listening to his accents, 
may hear so calm and plain 
his own “All hail!” and, hearing, 
may raise the victor strain.

3. Now let the heavens be joyful,
let earth her song begin,
the round world keep high triumph, 
and all that is therein;
let all things seen and unseen 
their notes in gladness blend,
for Christ the Lord hath risen, 
our joy that hath no end.
   John of Damascus (c. 675-749)
   Translated by John Mason Neale (1818-1866)

This is one of the oldest hymns we sing, written in the sixth century or so. I love how the three verses take us from the stunning triumph of Easter itself, on to the meaning of Easter in our own lives, and then the dazzling victory of Easter that shines forth throughout the whole universe.

Let all things seen and unseen sing the praise of Christ’s triumph on Easter, for everything is changed. God’s mighty love has brought death to life, defeat to victory. As they say on Twitter, “big if true.” Truly, our joy will have no end.

Image from Gloucester Cathedral.

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