Posted by: rcottrill | November 7, 2014

Welcome, Happy Morning

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Words: Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus (b. circa 530; d. circa 609); English paraphrase of the Latin by John Ellerton (b. Dec. 16, 1826; d. June 15, 1893)
Music: Hermas, by Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)

Wordwise Hymns (John Ellerton)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The Latin original of this resurrection hymn was written around AD 590, making it more than fourteen centuries old. John Ellerton’s fine paraphrase was produced in 1868. The tune I’m most familiar with is Hermas (named after an acquaintance of Paul’s, Rom. 16:14). Miss Havergal wrote Hermas for her hymn Golden Harps Are Sounding, but it has also been linked to the present hymn text for over a hundred years. (Notice that Hermas requires a slightly longer refrain than the tune Fortunatus, used in the Cyber Hymnal.)

The original hymn includes two stanzas (CH-2 and 3) specifically about the coming of spring–which coincides with the Easter season. The thought is that in spring’s renewal, all of nature celebrates Christ’s victory over death. Just as we welcome the signs of new life in the earth, so we rejoice in Christ’s resurrection and the new spiritual life that comes through faith in Him. Hymnals often omit one or both of these stanzas.

CH-2) Earth her joy confesses, clothing her for spring,
All fresh gifts returned with her returning King:
Bloom in every meadow, leaves on every bough,
Speak His sorrow ended, hail His triumph now.

There is always, for me, something encouraging–and yes, even thrilling–about reading or using a hymn whose origin takes us back so many centuries. To think of Christians in other lands, and other far-off times, celebrating the resurrection of Christ–it gives me a sense, both of the unity of the body of Christ and of its immensity. These early believers are all gone now, but still we are connected with them. The Bible speaks of Christ, “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:15).

CH-1) “Welcome, happy morning!” age to age shall say:
“Hell today is vanquished, heav’n is won today!”
Lo! the dead is living, God forevermore!
Him, their true Creator, all His works adore!

“Welcome, happy morning!”
Age to age shall say.
“Hell today is vanquished,
Heav’n is won today!”

When the United States entered the Second World War, many (including Churchill) exulted that the victorious outcome of the war for the Allies was certain. They remembered what had happened when the Americans joined the conflict in World War One. What Roosevelt called the “righteous might” of his nation would win the day. This hymn treats the resurrection of Christ similarly. Though the final chapter has yet to be written, the ending is not in any doubt: Hell is vanquished, heaven is won, through Christ.

In CH-4 Venantius Fortunatus states the identity of his Subject in an unmistakable way. He is both Maker and Redeemer (Col. 1:16; Job 19:25), and a member of the Trinity (Jn. 5:23; Heb. 1:8) who became incarnate Man to deliver us (Heb. 2:14-15). CH-5 proclaims Him the Author of life (Jn. 11:25; 14:6), and the True and Faithful One (Rev. 19:11).

CH-4) Maker and Redeemer, life and health of all,
Thou from heaven beholding human nature’s fall,
Of the Father’s Godhead true and only Son,
Mankind to deliver, manhood didst put on.

CH-5) Thou, of life the Author, death didst undergo,
Tread the path of darkness, saving strength to show;
Come, then True and Faithful, now fulfil Thy Word;
’Tis Thine own third morning; rise, O buried Lord!

Jerome of Prague, one of the early reformers, was an admirer of Wyclif and Hus. But when imprisoned and pressured, weak and sickly, he recanted, going so far as to say that he approved of Hus having been burned at the stake. Later, greatly troubled over what he had done, he recanted. At his trial, he eloquently defended himself against the charge of his own heresy. Nevertheless, he was condemned to be burned at the stake as Hus had been. On May 30, 1416, he died and, as the fire began to blaze around him, he sang this hymn.

1) What does it mean that hell was vanquished and heaven won at Christ’s resurrection?

2) Why is Christ’s resurrection an absolutely essential element of the gospel?

Wordwise Hymns (John Ellerton)
The Cyber Hymnal


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