Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia! He has risen as He said, Alleluia!
The whole of creation joins the entire Church as we rejoice in the Resurrection of Our Lord from the dead. These beautiful days of the Triduum have been filled with Gregorian chants which have enriched the Church for centuries, in some cases for more than a thousand years. The poetry of chants like Nos Autem (based on a verse from Galatians as well as Psalm 67), Vexilla Regis (569), and Victimae Paschali (1039) move our hearts and minds to contemplate God’s immense love for us, made visible in the passion, death and resurrection of His Only Son.
But surely the culmination of all this sung praise is found in the Exsultet, solemnly chanted by the deacon at the Easter Vigil, a hymn of praise to Christ, the Light of the World, symbolized by the Paschal Candle.
“This triumphant hymn and wonderful sacramental is the prelude to the Easter solemnities. It is a majestic proclamation of the Resurrection of Christ, a dramatic invitation to heaven and earth to join with the Church in joy and jubilation. It is the rite of sanctification of light and night, of place and time, of priest and faithful for the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord. In itself, it is a symbolic representation of the Resurrection of Christ, a sacramental, preparing for and anticipating the reenactment of the Resurrection in the eucharistic Sacrifice. This Easter-sacramental is a jewel of the liturgy, brilliant in content and composition, in its symbolism and efficacy. The hymn is filled with profound theology, radiant with youthful enthusiasm, flowing in the most solemn rhythms of the psalms, resounding in the most jubilant cadences of Gregorian chant…” (Read more of Dom Jerome Gassner’s fascinating exploration of the history and significance of the Exsultet here. If you read the rest of his analysis, note the connection to Phos Hilaron in the Byzantine Vespers, which we recently wrote about.)
Though we have to wait until next Easter to hear the Exsultet sung in our own churches, we can still pray along with the beautiful ancient words and chant thanks to the internet. Here is the Exsultet chanted at St. Peter’s Basilica last night during the Easter Vigil.
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lighting of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.
Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you, the mercy of God almighty,
that he who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises.
V/: The Lord be with you.
R/: And with your spirit.
V/: Lift up your hearts.
R/: We lift them up to the Lord.
V/: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R/: It is right and just.
It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart,
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.
Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,
and pouring out his own dear Blood
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.
These then are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.
This is the night, when once you led our forebears,
Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.
This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin.
This is the night that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin,
lending them to grace, and joining them to his holy ones.
This is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death,
and rose victorious from the underworld.
Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night, worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!
This is the night of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night dispels all wickedness,
washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.
O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.
Therefore, O Lord, we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honour of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
You are Morning Star that never sets
find this flame still burning:
replace Christ, you Morning Star,
who came back from the hell,
and shed his new light on all mankind,
your star, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen