A few years ago, a parishioner of mine was baptized on the eve of Palm Sunday, the Saturday before Holy Week. Though I am a Lutheran pastor, I was raised Greek Orthodox, and so I continue to think of the eve of Palm Sunday as the “Saturday of Lazarus.” This fits with the record of St. John’s Gospel, which places the resurrection of Lazarus immediately before the triumphal entry. Indeed, according to St. John, the reason for the adulating crowds was the great miracle just performed in Bethany.
Our hymnals, however, lack any appropriate hymns for the resurrection of Lazarus. I therefore took the opportunity to write a hymn for the occasion. I drew the themes and most of the actual language from the Greek Orthodox Apolytikion and Kontakion for the Saturday of Lazarus, reproduced here courtesy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website:
By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your Passion, You confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with palms of victory, We cry out to You, O Vanquisher of Death; Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!
Christ—the Joy, the Truth, and the Light of All, the Life of the World and the Resurrection—has appeared in his goodness to those on earth. He has become the Image of our resurrection, granting divine forgiveness to all.
My hymn is composed of three stanzas, the first and third based on the Apolytikion, the second on the Kontakion. It is rendered in the style of the Lutheran chorale, however, following the very common Reformation-era meter 8.7. 8.7. 8.8.7. The tune that I chose is “Es ist gewisslich,” which we associate most closely with the hymn of the Final Judgment, “The Day Is Surely Drawing Near,” itself based on the medieval hymn “Dies Irae.” Though it did not enter explicitly into my thinking, I suspect the connection of Lazarus’s resurrection to the general resurrection on the Last Day played at least subconsciously into my choice of tune.
Since this is a new composition and not a part of the genuine corpus of Lutheran chorales, I will not include it in the main website. It has been requested of me, however, that I make the hymn generally available, so I offer it here as a blog post. May the Lord Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life, be glorified thereby.
Tune: Es ist gewisslich
By raising Laz’rus from the dead
Ere Thou began Thy Passion,
Thou didst, O Lord, remove our dread
Of death in glorious fashion,
For in his life a glimpse we see
Of wonders in eternity:
All likewise shall awaken.
Thou art, O Christ, the Life of all,
Thou art the Resurrection.
The blessèd dead shall heed Thy call
And rise unto perfection.
Thou who called Laz’rus from the grave
Thyself didst rise, the world to save,
Granting divine forgiveness.
And so we raise victorious palms
With praise none shall extinguish,
And cry to Thee with hymns and psalms,
Who death for us didst vanquish:
“Hosanna in the highest heav’n!
All blessing now to Him be giv’n
Who in the Lord’s name cometh!”
Christopher J. Neuendorf, 2013