Saturday, April 11, 2009

An Easter Anthem

When I was a tiny child (yes, probably wearing a sailor suit), we would of course go to church on Easter morning, and every year the choir of our little Presbyterian church, accompanied by our vertiginously elderly organist Miss Reed, a birdlike lady whose blue-rinsed head barely showed over the vast console, would sing this wonderful old chestnut, the very definition of middle-high late Victorian church music, "The Holy City."

Why not listen to Miss Jessye Norman sing it for us today? The text takes the rather terrifying poetry of Revelation (chapter 21) and turns it into a personal vision, and a surprisingly moving one.

I may no longer be spending Easter Sunday - or any other, really - at church, and much of what felt so true back then has faded away, but that doesn't mean that the exhortation to "Sing for the night is o'er!" can't send a chill up my spine. If only today we really could find a Holy City, any one, let alone one anywhere in the vicinity of poor Jerusalem, "where all who would might enter, and no one was denied."

Last night I lay asleeping, there came a dream so fair,
I stood in old Jerusalem beside the temple there.
I heard the children singing, and ever as they sang,
methought the voice of Angels from Heav'n in answer rang:

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to your King!

And then methought my dream was chang'd, the streets no longer rang
Hush'd were the glad Hosannas the little children sang.
The sun grew dark with mystery, the morn was cold and chill,
as the shadow of a cross arose upon a lonely hill.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Hark! How the Angels sing,
Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna to your King.

And once again the scene was chang'd, new earth there seem'd to be,
I saw the Holy City beside the tideless sea;
the light of God was on its streets, the gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter, and no one was denied,
no need of moon or stars by night, or sun to shine by day,
it was the new Jerusalem that would not pass away,

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Sing for the night is o'er!
Hosanna in the highest, hosanna for evermore!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for bringing a lovely little piece of Easter to a lapsed Catholic and former believer. Lovely sentiment.

    Happy Easter on your keesters! to Muscato and all the cafe regulars.