Jesus Christ is Risen Today
Our opening hymn for Easter Sunday is one of the best-known hymns associated with Easter. It has been published in 421 hymnals since it first appeared in 1708 in Lyra Davidica, or a Collection of Divine Songs and Hymns, partly new composed, partly translated from the High German and Latin Hymns; and set to easy and pleasant tunes.
The original text of Jesus Christ Is Risen Today is an anonymous translation of the Latin hymn Surrexit Christus hodie. An altered version appeared in 1749 in Arnold’s Compleat Psalmodist. It is this version that provides verses two and three that we sing today. The final verse is a doxology or hymn to the Trinity by Charles Wesley that first appeared in print in his Hymns & Sacred Poems in 1740.
Typically with a text that has been around for a long time, many melodies have also been used. The tunes we know for many of our Christmas carols were completely unknown to the authors of the texts. For example, The First Nowell, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, and Away in a Manger all have had multiple tunes. While other tunes have been used for Jesus Christ Is Risen Today, amazingly, the most popular tune is still the very first one! Some simplification occurred when it was printed in 1749, but otherwise today’s melody has been associated with this text for over 300 years!
Easter is not just a day, but an entire season of rejoicing. Just as this hymn has lasted throughout the years, may the alleluias we sing today, keep you singing for many more celebrations to come!