Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, meaning “lengthen” and refers to the lengthening days of spring. The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.
Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by new converts and then became a time of penance by all Christians. Today, Christians focus on relationship with God, growing as disciples and extending ourselves, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of ourselves for others.
Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter.” This is why you will see the designation “Sunday in Lent” rather than “Sunday of Lent” in the naming of these Sundays. On each Lord’s Day in Lent, while Lenten fasts continue, the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.
Easter for Christians is not just one day, but rather a 50-day period. The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (see Acts 2).
Easter is also more than just an extended celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. In the early church, Lent was a season for new converts to learn about the faith and prepare for baptism on Easter Sunday. The initial purpose of the 50-day Easter season was to continue the faith formation of new Christians.
Today, this extended season gives us time to rejoice and experience what it means when we say Christ is risen. It’s the season when we remember our baptisms and how through this sacrament we are, according to the liturgy, “incorporated into Christ’s mighty acts of salvation.” As “Easter people,” we also celebrate and ponder the birth of the Church and gifts of the Spirit (Pentecost), and how we are to live as faithful disciples of Christ.
In addition to being a time to remember the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus, the early church used Lent to prepare converts for baptism, and to offer opportunities for those who had been separated from the church to be reconciled.
Today Lent remains an ideal time to remember our baptism and to reconcile relationships with those we may have harmed. All of this signifies to us our sinfulness and the sacrifice of Jesus which makes our forgiveness possible.
Global virtual choir sings Easter hymn More than 400 United Methodists from around the world have joined in singing the favorite Easter hymn “Thine Be the Glory.” Even in the midst of the pandemic, church members can celebrate Christ’s resurrection together.
This was an amazing experience bringing together over 400 singers from different countries, congregations, and communities – proving that even in the midst of a pandemic we are still united.
This project would not have been possible without the help of some amazing folks lending a hand:
The arrangement used of “Thine Be the Glory” was written and performed by Rev. Jared Wilson, Senior Associate Pastor and Director of The Music & Arts Academy at Madison Street UMC in Clarksville, Tennessee.
The Worship Team at Discipleship Ministries for coordinating the project and providing the vision for the Easter choir.
And of course, all 400 singers who submitted wonderful videos for us to use.
Thank you all and Happy Easter!
“Thine Be the Glory” is #308 in The United Methodist Hymnal.
Thine be the glory,
Risen, conquering Son;
Endless is the victory
Thou o’er death hast won.
Angels in bright raiment
Rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave clothes
Where the body lay.
Edmond L. Budry (1854-1932) wrote this hymn, originally in French as “A Toi la gloire, ô Ressuscité.” He was the pastor of the Free Evangelical Church of the Canton of Vevey, Switzerland, having studied theology at Lausanne.
The hymn was written in 1884 and appeared first in Chants Evangeliques (1885). A translation by Richard Birch Hoyle (1875-1939) gave the hymn increased visibility, especially when it appeared in the first edition of the hymnal for the World Student Christian Federation, Cantate Domino (1924). The Methodist Hymn Book (1933) was the first European hymnal to include the hymn.
Methodist hymnologist Fred Gaely notes that, “Budry was often asked to make translations of favorite German or English hymns, but he preferred to rewrite the texts, often improving on the original, and often freely adapting old Latin hymns.”
The inspiration for this hymn, according to Budry’s friend Paul Laufer, came from the words of Friedrich-Heinrich Ranke (1798-1876), published to the tune, MACCABAEUS, by George Fredrick Handel (1685-1759). The tune was adapted from a processional song in Handel’s oratorio Joshua (1747), as well as later versions of the more famous oratorio Judas Maccabaeus (1746).
Budry freely adapted Ranke’s Advent text and transformed it as an Easter hymn. As Gaely recognized, the Easter text “emphasized still more the triumphal nature of Handel’s music.” John Wesley, a contemporary of Handel, enjoyed this tune very much and cites it as one of his favorites in journal entries for March 29, 1774, and March 30, 1787.
According to English hymnologist J. Richard Watson, the hymn “is based on the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection (with a brief allusion to St. Thomas and doubt in verse 3), together with St. Paul’s commentary on it in I Corinthians 15.” This is especially evident in the use of the word “victory” in the refrain, reminiscent of I Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Stanza two almost quotes directly I Corinthians 15:55. The Scripture says, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Hoyle’s translation of the second stanza concludes, “death hath lost its sting.”
This hymn took on new life for me in August 2008 when I joined a group of United Methodist musicians in a teaching mission to Côte d’Ivoire, the newest (admitted formally to the denomination at the 2008 General Conference) and largest (nearly 700,000 members) of the denomination’s conference regions. Sponsored by the Global Praise Project of the General Board of Global Ministries, our group was charged to train a new generation of church musicians in Côte d’Ivoire.
As we concluded our time in this West African country, we realized that we were taught as much—if not more—by the African Christian musicians than we were teaching. One of the hymns that these United Methodists sang with great vigor was “A Toi la gloire, ô Ressuscité.” We heard it in two versions: the first was the classic Western hymn style; the second was a West African version complete with drums, electronic keyboards and guitars. Both were delightful.
It was a joy to see how this hymn has transcended not only time and cultures, but also continents to resonate with a vibrant Easter joy.
Dr. Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU.
Experts from the age of five to ten, as well as The Rev. MaryJane Pierce Norton from the General Board of Discipleship, talk about the traditions of the Easter egg — from hunting eggs, to coloring them, to the egg as a symbol of new life. The egg became associated with Easter somewhere near the 400s and was often a food that was given up at Lent.
According to Rev. Norton, “In some of the early church traditions, people brought their eggs to the church to be blessed before they ate them, as the first joyful food of Easter.”