Luther wrote many wonderful Christmas, Easter and Pentecost songs, but not a single passion song, although the cross and the theology of the cross are undoubtedly his focus.
The solution to the mystery of the lack of a passion song lies largely in the song “Christ lay in death bonds”. Here death and resurrection, Passion and Easter are “intertwined” with one another. Stanza 4: “It was a strange war, where death and lives came; Life retained the victory, it swallowed up death..." The Risen One is the Paschal Lamb, i.e. at the same time the “Lamb of God, innocently slaughtered on the trunk of the cross” or, as the song in the old text form says in a gruesome and magnificent way, “roasted with hot love high on the trunk of the cross”. The hymn book today says smoothly: “Given to the trunk of the cross with ardent love.”
“Christ is Risen” is the best-known Easter hymn in the Protestant and Catholic churches. Luther used this song as a template for his own song “Christ lay in Death Bands” (to this day the number one hit among Easter songs) in order to deepen and expand the message of God's grace. Although the first five notes of both melodies are identical, Luther added new elements while retaining parts of the original text and melody (the original title is: “Christ is risen improved”). He was also inspired by an even older Easter song from the 11th century, which is still sung in Catholic liturgy today.
This special Easter song will provide a liturgical and musical accompaniment to the service on Ash Wednesday, the subsequent organ services in Passion Season 2024 and the organ mass on Easter Monday.
The song anniversary offers an opportunity to experience the deep message of death and resurrection, Passion and Easter together in words and music.