Hymn #245: The Day of Resurrection

            John of Damascus (c. 696 – c. 754), an eighth-century monk and poet, wrote the “Golden Canon for Easter,” from which this hymn is derived.  John Mason Neale translated the entire canon, but the present hymn is only a portion of it, from Ode I.  In Greek churches, the hymn traditionally is sung at a midnight service on Easter Eve as worshipers light candles.

           The Greek “Canon” consisted on nine “odes” based on the Canticles from Scripture, which were sung at the daily office.  Each ode was made up of three or more stanzas.  These odes were sung to a corresponding number of modal melodies, or “echoi,” known as Byzantine chant.

           Henry Thomas Smart (1813-1879) composed the tune LANCASHIRE for a text by Reginald Heber in 1836.  It is named for the English county in which Smart served as organist.  The tune was popular in Nonconformist (Congregational) churches but was not used widely until published in an 1867 Presbyterian hymnal.

            Henry T. Smart followed in the footsteps of his father and his grandfather to become a noted church musician.  He was one of England’s most eminent organists in the nineteenth century and continued to play, compose, and even design organs late in life, despite being blind for his last fifteen years.