“The Day of Resurrection” is one of the oldest hymns in our hymnal. The words were written by St. John of Damascus of the Greek Orthodox Church. John was born in Damascus in the 8th century, and was engaged in secular work for many years. He became an Orthodox priest late in life, and spent the rest of his life at St. Sabas convent near Jerusalem. He was a gifted poet —the greatest poet of the Greek Church.
The story is told of John writing a hymn for the funeral of a fellow monk—a monk not yet dead but at death’s doorstep. After writing the hymn John started practicing it loudly. The next thing he knew, the dying monk came shuffling into the room to protest the unseemly noise.
This hymn, “The Day of Resurrection,” was part of a much longer poem. John Mason Neale translated it into English in the 19th century—a thousand years after it was first written.
The first verse calls us to celebrate the resurrection—to proclaim it abroad. The second verse calls us to live lives pure from evil — to live, as it were, resurrection lives. The third verse calls all the heavens and earth to be joyful—to sing—to proclaim a joy that has no end. (NOTE: Check your hymnal. Verses might vary.)
— Copyright 2007, Richard Niell Donovan