How do we worship during this time of passion and pain, rebirth and resurrection? There are many ways to remember these events, events that so solidly form our foundation of faith. This is one way I imagine, a way that brings together all the roots of my own faith experience.
Darkness falls upon the place of worship. It is now but a few moments until midnight. All the lights are out. The cross is draped in black. We have walked with Jesus to his death. And now we sing the Passion Chorale, expressing all the suffering, all the anguish, all the shame.
O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, thine only crown:
how pale thou art with anguish,
with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
which once was bright as morn!
What thou, my Lord, has suffered
was all for sinners’ gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
‘Tis I deserve thy place;
look on me with thy favor,
vouchsafe to me thy grace.
What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow,
thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever;
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love for thee.
Grief holds sway, while we remember these words.
The angel spoke to the women. “Do not be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.”
Then midnight passes, ending the darkness. The minister lights one candle, shares the flame with another worshipper who then shares it with another. The darkness is vanquished by the light of dozens of flames.
He is not here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.
He is not here! He is risen from the dead!
In this, the glorious day of resurrection, voices arise in celebration, singing the ancient hymn . . .
Χριστός ανέστη εκ νεκρών, θανάτω θάνατον πατήσας, και τοις εν τοις μνήμασι ζωήν χαρισάμενος.
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs, granting life.
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! Christ is risen from the dead! Alleluia!
“O Sacred Head Now Wounded”
Text: Anonymous; trans. by Paul Gerhardt and James W. Alexander
Music: Hans L. Hassler, 1564-1612; harm. by J.S. Bach, 1685-1750
Tune: PASSION CHORALE