HYMN FOR EASTER EVENING. Stay with Us, for it is Evening
Text: Luke 24:13-35 Tune: Egil Hovland (1924-2013)
Stay with us, Lord Jesus.
It soon is evening and night is falling.
(For reasons of copyright, this cannot be fully printed here.)
Tr. Gracia Grindal 1997
Christ is ris’n! He is ris’n indeed. We cry this out to each other on Easter morning and rejoice in the good news. And we remember at least some of the times we have said it and heard it and its response over the years. There is a blessing in that. I can hear my father’s thrilling cry awakening us for Easter breakfast. Christ is Risen! It can sometimes be rote, and then again, it is all we have, a great and shining hope gleaming against the darkness of our times.
The psalmist knew that well.
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.”
Memories can be evangelical, calling us back to what is important. As we do something by rote and feel hopeless, pouring out our soul with its agony and fears, we may remember another time and suddenly light breaks over us. The text for Easter Sunday evening is the wonderful Luke text telling the story of the encounter with Jesus at Emmaus. When Jesus joins the couple on their way home, he reprimands them for not believing the words of the prophets, really, forgetting them. So he reminds them of how all of Scripture, from Moses, lead up to this day. They entreat him to stay with them. Stay with us, for it is evening. The darkness is ready to overcome them. And then, as the evening darkness falls, he breaks the bread, and light breaks over them, their darkness has fled. As they run back to tell the disciples that Christ is risen indeed, they remember again, Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us and opened Scriptures. Suddenly all these words light up and shine with the truth.
The words of Scripture and the words we speak about our life and faith can seem perfunctory as we hear them again and again. And then, suddenly, they come alive and seem like balm for our sorrows and wounds. Listening to Bach’s two great passions, the St. Matthew and St. John Passions this Holy Week has blown me away. As I age and those around me are aging, suffering terrible diseases, dementia, and death, what matters becomes more and more clear.
In all the suffering that disease and dying bring to us, we go to the source of life, to what is true. The piffle of easy words is like cotton candy. Nothing. On the other hand, the words of the St. Matthew Passion seemed like water in a desert to me this week. As Jesus is being laid to rest in the grave, the soloist sings, "Mache dich, mein Herze, rein,"which asks Jesus to be buried in my heart now too. Rest there. For Christ to be buried in our hearts may seem wrong. Burial? But it is what is happening in the narrative they are relating to us.
The image and the glorious music began working on me. At the very end of the music, the chorus sings, to Christ, "your grave will be a pillow that gives me peace and comfort." Then you hear a few notes that say this isn’t the end. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! We believe Christ lives in us, is even part of our flesh and blood. Because he rose from the dead, all the depths of grief and sorrow I have felt and feel in watching this on Good Friday, the most awful day in history, are utterly changed because what was dead is now risen. So stay with us Lord Jesus and make our hearts your home. Raise us from the dead, as you were raised. His resurrection helps us, finally, laugh in the face of sin and death. He is risen indeed!
While this is not a hymn, it is a favorite anthem by Egil Hovland, the Norwegian composer of so many hymns and anthems. This piece has become a favorite at the ending of the St. Olaf Christmas Concert. Hovland used it in his opera on the life of Hans Nielsen Hauge, Fange og Fri/Captive and Free. His friends come to see Hauge, but do not know if he can hear them, or whether he is even alive. When he hears their song, he slowly brings a candle to the window and shines the light out to them. The Emmaus encounter again, which brought light into the darkness. We remember it and it makes everything light.
National Lutheran Choir
Messiah College Choir
You can hear the anthem from the opera with The Norwegian Opera Choir and National
Radio Orchestra. It continues through the entire scene. If time is hanging heavy on your
hands, you can listen to the entire opera here—I have the libretto in English should
anyone want it via email.