We don’t know who wrote this hymn, but we know that it is very old — at least as early as the tenth century, and probably much older. When this hymn was first sung, few people could read. They learned these words and sang them from memory — or heard a choir sing them. As long ago as the Dark Ages, this hymn was bringing light into the lives of Christians.
The hymn speaks of “forty days.” The forty days of which it speaks were the forty days of Christ’s temptation. Those were days of hunger and thirst, because Jesus fasted for those forty days. They were days spent in the loneliness of the desert. We wouldn’t want to experience what Jesus experienced during those forty days, because they were hard days, but this hymn speaks of “the glory of these forty days,” and it says, “we celebrate with songs of praise.”
Those words might seem odd, given Jesus’ suffering during those forty days — but it isn’t his suffering that we celebrate — it is his triumph over evil — and his promise to help us triumph over evil as well. As we remember Jesus’ temptation, let us not forget that we are tempted too — often — every day. Let us remember to pray for Christ’s help each day — that Christ will keep us on the right path — that God will help us to accomplish something worthy — and that Christ will protect us from the evil one.
Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan