Posted by: rcottrill | June 5, 2013

The Strife Is O’er

Words: Origin uncertain; translation by Francis Pott (b. Dec. 29, 1832; d. Oct. 26, 1909)
Music: Victory, by William Henry Monk (b. Mar. 16, 1823; d. Mar. 1, 1889)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Francis Pott)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Translator John Mason Neale (1818-1866) believed this hymn came from the twelfth century, but the earliest printed version of the Latin hymn we have is from a Jesuit book published in 1695. Francis Pott published his own translation of it in 1861–a version that has been altered here and there, over the years.

William Monk’s tune was adapted from a work by Giovanni Palestrina (c. 1525-1594), the great Italian composer of choral works.

Even a quick glance will show that this hymn is different from many others in our hymn books. Five three-line stanzas, followed by a three-word refrain, a repeated “Alleluia!” (In some books, the refrain is simply used as a kind of opening fanfare, at the beginning of the song.)

“Alleluia” is the Greek version of the Hebrew word “hallelujah.” It’s found in the book of Revelation. For example:

“I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honour and power belong to the Lord our God!’” (Rev. 19:1).

The original Hebrew word is a compound of two others. Halal means to praise, to glory in, or boast of. And Jah is a shortened form of Jehovah (or Yahweh). A simple translation of the word is therefore, “Praise the Lord!”

And what is it for which this joyous and repeated praise is sounded? It is the resurrection of Christ. In His death, the Lord Jesus paid the debt of sin. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3; cf. Eph. 1:7; I Pet. 2:24; 3:18; Rev. 5:9). But the story could not end there. A dead “saviour” is no saviour at all. If His purpose was to deliver us from the power of death and eternal condemnation, He needed to show His power over it Himself–and He did.

“Now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [in death]….Each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (I Cor. 15:20, 23).

CH-1) The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!

The second stanza refers to “legions” being dispersed. (Potts’ original word was “foes.”) It’s speaking of Satan and his hosts, who would have done anything they could to keep Christ in the tomb. But in His death and resurrection Christ triumphed over them.

CH- 2) The powers of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions hath dispersed;
Let shouts of holy joy outburst: Alleluia!

Ephesians speaks of the power of God that delivered our Saviour from the grave, reminding us that the same power is at work on behalf of His saints.

“[That we may know] what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:19-21; cf. 3:20-21).

When a bee stings, it leaves its stinger embedded in the person, and the insect dies. In a way, death embedded its stinger in Christ on the cross, and death died. He has taken the sting for us, and fully recovered. It is by the sufferings of Christ that we are delivered from the sting of death.

“‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:55-57).

It’s Isaiah who speaks of the healing wounds of Christ (Isa. 53:5), imagery that refers to the spiritual restoration that is ours through the work of redemption (cf. I Pet. 2:24-25). And God’s purpose in the death and resurrection of Christ isn’t simply to provide an escape hatch from hell. It’s so that, in the words of the hymn, “we may live, and sing to Thee.” Or, in the words of Scripture, “That we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:12).

CH-5) Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,
From death’s dread sting Thy servants free,
That we may live, and sing to Thee: Alleluia!

Questions:
1) In addition to saying “Praise the Lord!” how can we best celebrate the resurrection?

2) What are your favourite hymns of Easter (Resurrection Sunday)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Francis Pott)
The Cyber Hymnal


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