Psalms from the Daily Office
Jean l’Héritier, Surrexit pastor bonus
Jean Richafort, Christus resurgens
Francisco Guerrero, Maria Magdalena et altera Maria
Peter Philips, Christus resurgens
J. S. Bach, Christ lag in Todesbanden, “Christ lay in death’s bonds”
J. S. Bach, Easter Oratorio
Resurrexi. Psalm 139
I am risen, and am still with thee, alleluia: thou hast laid thine hand upon me, alleluia; thy knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me, alleluia, alleluia. O Lord, thou hast searched me out and known me: thou knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen. I am risen . . .
Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: we humbly beseech thee, that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
[Psalm 118] This is the day which the Lord hath made: we will be joyful and glad in it. O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious: and his mercy endureth for ever.
Alleluia, alleluia. [I Corinthians 5] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.
Christians, to the Paschal Victim offer your thankful praises!
A lamb the sheep redeemeth: Christ, who only is sinless, reconcileth sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous: the Prince of Life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring, what thou sawest, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living, the glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
Bright angels attesting, the shroud and napkin resting.
Yea, Christ my hope is arisen: to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning! Amen. Alleluia.
St. John 20:1–10
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.
[Psalm 76] The earth trembled and was still, when God arose to judgement, alleluia.
[I Corinthians 5] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, alleluia: therefore let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Below are plainsong renditions of the Psalms as published in the Saint Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter.
Surrexit pastor bonus (“The good shepherd has arisen”) is one of the responsories traditionally sung at Easter. The early 16-century composer Jean l’Hértier left us a quietly engaging setting of the text, which you may hear on this page.
First published in 1520, Jean Richafort’s Christus resurgens is an exuberant celebration of the reality of the Resurrection. The text is taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, and begins: “Christ, rising again from the dead, dieth now no more.” You may hear a recording of this stirring motet on this page.
This motet by Guerrero (1528–1599) describes the visit to the tomb on Easter morning by the women who were the first people to learn about the Resurrection. The text and a recording are here.
Born in 1561, Peter Philips was a boy chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. His setting of Christus resurgens is one our choir has enjoyed singing. You may hear another choir sing the work here.
One of Martin Luther’s earliest hymns was a loose German paraphrase of an 11th-century Latin hymn, one which we sing every Easter (in English): “Christians, to the Paschal victim” (#97). Luther’s seven-stanza hymn, Christ lag in Todesbanden, “Christ lay in death’s bonds,” was sung to a tune that Luther modified from the ancient plainchant associated with the medieval hymn. It soon became a staple in Lutheran worship beginning in the 16th century. In the early 18th century, Johann Sebastian Bach composed a cantata for use on Easter Sunday based on Luther’s text and tune. This page has more about this compelling cantata, including a performance by the Monteverdi Choir.
This under-appreciated work by Bach captures the joy unleashed by the Resurrection. Listen to it here.