Browsing Easter music on iTunes the other day, I came across an excellent Orthodox Easter recording Great and Holy Pascha by the Byzantine Choir of St. George Orthodox Cathedral (in Pittsburgh, PA). Here’s their website.
Odes 1 and 3 of the Paschal Canon of St. John of Damascus are available in a YouTube video, which I really enjoyed. I found the description accompanying the video particularly helpful – the words are powerful and rich, and they make a great devotional reflection.
I’ve posted that description below the YouTube video. Note that the words don’t correspond exactly to the chant.
Verse and Hymn from the Orthodox Resurrection service – 1st and 3rd Ode chanted in the 1st Tone.
Easter is the greatest festival of the Christian year in the Orthodox Church and the Easter services abound with joyful celebration. Thus it is no surprise that the overarching theme of the Canon is the resurrection and the renewal of creation through the power of Christ who has taken upon our humanity and restored it. Also, the idea of the soul being released from the bondage of sin and the corporeal body through the Resurrection of Christ is emphasized. The second Ode is omitted due to its sombre ethos which does not fit in with the joyful mood of Pascha.
The first ode sets the scene by exclaiming that it is the ‘Day of Resurrection!’ and thus a time for rejoicing and celebrating what the Lord has done. It is the Lord’s Pascha which has ‘brought us from death to life’ and thus has brought us from earth to heaven. This is also reminiscent of Moses leading the children of Israel through the Red Sea to the Promised Land which is now our heaven. The only response that is expected from us, and not only us, but all creation, including angels (cf. Ode 5), is to sing with joyful cries the “triumphant hymns!” and to enjoy the feast; for “Christ our eternal joy has risen!”
The third Ode which is based on the barrenness of Hannah from the Old Testament, which is now renewed, and the barren rock that Moses smote and brought forth water for the “thirsty congregation and their beasts” is now done for us. Christ is the fountain of immortality who offers a drink of “a new beverage”. There are also overtones of baptism in this Ode; “fountain of Incorruption springing from the tomb of Christ” and that “I was buried with Thee, and today I arise with thy arising. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee” which are real acts enacted physically and spiritually during Baptism where a person dies with Christ in order to arise with Him after immersion.
Eirmos: It is the Day of Resurrection! Let us be radiant, O people! Pascha! The Lord’s Pascha! For Christ our God has brought us from death to life, and from earth unto heaven, as we sing triumphant hymns!
Refrain: Christ is risen from the dead. (before each troparion).
Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ, radiant with inaccessible light of the Resurrection, and shall hear Him saying clearly, “Rejoice!” As we sing the triumphant hymns!
Let heavens rejoice in a worthy manner, the earth be glad, and the whole world, visible and the invisible, keep the Feast. For Christ our eternal joy has risen!
katavasia: It is the Day of Resurrection!…
Eirmos: Come, let us drink a new beverage, not miraculously drawn from a barren rock, but the fountain of Incorruption springing from the tomb of Christ in Whom we are established.
Refrain: Christ is risen from the dead.
Now all things are filled with light: heaven and earth, and the nethermost regions. So let all creation celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, whereby it is established.
Yesterday, O Christ, I was buried with Thee, and today I arise with thy arising. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee. Glorify me, O Savior, with Thee in Thy Kingdom.
katavasia: Come, let us drink…
Hypakoe: When at dawn, the women with Mary came and found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher, they heard from the angel: Why seek among the dead (as if He were a mortal man) Him Who lives in everlasting light? Behold the grave-clothes. Run and tell the world that the Lord is risen, and has slain death. For He is the Son of God Who saves mankind.