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And all at once, Easter is upon us— He is risen indeed!


Finally, the church can fill with the full sound of the organ and the choir’s joyful “Alleluia’s!”


There is yet an undertone of sobriety in the midst of this season’s unrestrained joy. Although Christ’s sacrificial passion is complete, and darkness is cast away, the weight of His sacrifice remains a solemn fact. It happened in a moment in time, but we as humans continue to draw from his suffering and passion continually into the future.


Musically, there is no culture that realizes and celebrates this solemn aspect of Easter more than the Eastern Orthodox Church. Even after the moment of the resurrection in their liturgy; solemn, darkly toned music continues. This style of liturgy seems to acknowledge the human aspect of Christ in that, after his sacrifice, he must have felt tired and weary. Just as a runner who has just run a marathon, although he feels elated and fulfilled, continues to feel the toll of the strain on his muscles and limbs as he is recovering.


We can see this exemplified in the text and musical cadence of our Communion Anthem for the Easter Vigil: John Tavener’s As One Who Has Slept, originally written for the Orthodox liturgy:


As one who has slept the Lord has risen.

And rising He has saved us.

Alleluia.


The text is clearly an exclamation of joy, and yet— the fact of Christ’s resurrection is juxtaposed against the fact of his death and descent into Hell. The risen Christ brings a happy image into our minds; the Christ risen from the depths — like one who has just woken from a deep sleep— renders the image ten times more potent.


The piece rises through several keys, with hints of a sunnier major tone, but ultimately settles in the original minor, dying softly away at the close of the piece, highlighting the gravity.


Let us continue to draw solemn appreciation for Christ’s passion this Easter, even as we sing with joy.


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