St Thomas Church New York City

The royal feast of feasts

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  1. Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
    of triumphant gladness!
    God hath brought his Israel
    into joy from sadness:
    loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke
    Jacob’s sons and daughters,
    led them with unmoistened foot
    through the Red Sea waters.
  2. ‘Tis the spring of souls today:
    Christ hath burst his prison,
    and from three days’ sleep in death
    as a sun hath risen;
    all the winter of our sins,
    long and dark, is flying
    from his light, to whom we give
    laud and praise undying.
  3. Now the queen of seasons, bright
    with the day of splendor,
    with the royal feast of feasts,
    comes its joy to render;
    comes to glad Jerusalem,
    who with true affection
    welcomes in unwearied strains
    Jesus’ resurrection.
  4. Neither might the gates of death,
    nor the tomb’s dark portal,
    nor the watchers, nor the seal
    hold thee as a mortal:
    but today amidst thine own
    thou didst stand, bestowing
    that thy peace which evermore
    passeth human knowing.
    John of Damascus (c. 675-749)
    Trans. John Mason Neale (1818-1866)

This is one of the magnificent hymns of the Easter season. Like several other hymns, this one harkens back to the Passover, making it especially appropriate at the Great Vigil of Easter. I love the third verse, which moves beyond celebration of the events of our salvation history and the original Easter and on to our celebration of the Easter season. “Now the queen of seasons, bright / with the day of splendor, / with the royal feast of feasts, / comes its joy to render.”

It’s a wonderful reminder that the whole season of Easter is a gift to us, a fitting way for us to render our thanks and praise for all that God has done for us. In other words, we’re not doing all this to be liturgically correct but rather because God the Son was raised from the dead, opening the gates of paradise.

We’re also celebrating all the times God has worked in history to save us (“unmoistened foot,” anyone?). I hope we also see that the retelling of God’s past deeds is a way of reiterating the promise that God will continue to care for us in the years and centuries and millennia to come.

We’re a little over a third of the way through our fifty-day Easter extravaganza. It’s a good time to take stock. What do you love about Easter? How can you use the rest of the season to render your thanks and praise?

Photo of St. Thomas Church, New York City by Flickr user Miguel Mendez.

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