May 2, 2022
On Earth Has Dawned
(The Hymnal, 201)
On earth has dawned this day of days,
whereon the faithful give God praise!
For Christ is risen from the tomb,
and light and joy have conquered doom. Alleluia!
At early morn, with spices rare,
the women three assembled there,
all to anoint fair Mary’s Son,
who over death had victory won. Alleluia!
“Whom seek ye here?” the angel said;
“The Lord is risen from the dead;
see where he lay; let joy begin,
the tomb is empty: enter in!” Alleluia!
So let our songs to heaven wing,
the vault with alleluias ring,
in praise of Christ, our risen Lord;
new life to all he doth afford. Alleluia!
Honestly, I don’t remember ever singing this hymn in church. As I was making the Hymnal 1982-Easter playlist, I found the version in the YouTube link above. I listened to it, and my heart did a little jig to the music. The music made the words come alive. I love how the words are mostly joy and praise, with a bit of the story where the women go to the empty tomb. It is a simple and lovely little hymn.
When I went and got my recorder and (badly) played the tune in the hymnal, I was disappointed. It wasn’t the same. It is more solemn, more somber. The tune in the hymnal is beautiful, but it does not make my heart dance. (Here it is beautifully played on flute and recorder.)
The women three, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, were not dancing a jig in their hearts that day. Their beloved friend had died. They were going to perform the solemn, somber duty of anointing his dead body. They were worried that the stone would be too heavy for them to move. Their encounter with the angel at the tomb was of alarm, terror, and amazement. Later, Mary Magdalene encounters Jesus himself. She tells the disciples about it, but they are so full of grief that they do not believe her. For those who lived it, the first Easter was not bunnies, eggs, baskets, and Alleluias. Their whole world was upside down and sideways.
When the men folk finally saw Jesus themselves and he told them off for their unbelief and stubbornness, they were also confused and amazed. It took time to process this great good news. One might even argue that they didn’t really “get it” until the Holy Spirit took hold of them on Pentecost.
We have not seen, yet we believe. But we have benefited from a couple thousand years of preachers, and scholars, and artists, and musicians, and poets, and mothers, and fathers, and Sunday School teachers, and song and hymn writers who were able to give us hearts and imaginations to “see” the Lord. We can do as the angel says, “see where he lay; let joy begin, the tomb is empty: enter in!” because the women went to the tomb before us. They believed, and they told us.
So, sing this hymn! Sing it and dance around your living room. Sing it solemnly, letting the amazement and joy sink deep in your heart. Sing it and let your song to heaven wing. Sing it, the vault with alleluias ring. Sing it in praise of Christ, our risen Lord! Tell everyone, “New life to all he doth afford!”