What We Sang Before Jesus Christ Is Ris’n Today

Ever wonder what Roman Catholics sang on Easter mornings during the centuries before Charles Wesley appeared on the scene? Here is my translation of Aurora lucis rutilat, a 5th century Lauds hymn for Eastertide from the Liturgy of the Hours. Like many Office hymns, this text is written in Ambrosian, or Long Meter (iambic).

Office hymns are not shy about using words like “triumph” and “victory.” They often begin by setting a scene of cosmic dimensions, an exultation of praise that involves not only earth, but includes the natural world and the citizens of heaven.

Ultimately, there will be a victory, a direct result of Christ’s victory on that Easter morning.

The light of dawn is reddening,
The heaven’s morning praises spring,
The earth exults: “The morning! Hail!”
While hell’s sad dwellers groan and wail.
Our King, the victor in the strife,
When death was smashed apart by life,
Has trampled hell triumphantly
And captive led captivity.
The Lord, whose barricade of stone
The soldiers kept sharp eyes upon
In vict’ry conquers through that gate
And rises forth in pomp and state.
 “The Lord is risen from the dead!”
The splendid angel loudly said.
And hell is evermore left free
To grumble in its misery.
Be this our thought through all life’s days,
Our Easter joy, our Paschal praise:
The grace in which we are reborn
Was won in triumph on that morn.
Jesus, to You let glory rise,
Who vanquished death and won the prize;
With Father and the Spirit blest,
Be endless ages’ praise addressed.