As we enter the fifty days of Easter, we will be learning, proclaiming, and singing that "Christ is living!" Augsburg Fortress has recently published a supplement to our ELW hymnal. All Creation Sings is a new resource complimenting and expanding upon our hymnal, giving congregations even more ways to musically theologize about the care of creation, the human family, about both grief and hope. As we rise up into our redeemed and resurrected life in Jesus, a hymn from this new resource will accompany us in this Easter season. Christ Is Living, ACS # 934 sings boldly and defiantly: Christ is living, gone with sorrow! Tears and terror, be no more! / Death and grave, you now are nothing; Christ is free of every power. / Why then seek the living Savior in the haunts of death and fear? / Christ is risen! Shout the good news so that all the world may hear.
This hymn comes to us from Argentina, and the original Spanish text is from the pen of Nicolás Martínez (1917-1972), a native of Buenos Aires who experienced his conversion to Christianity at the age of 18, later trained for the ministry, and served as a Disciples of Christ pastor in Argentina and Paraguay. He was active in ecumenical work, and served on an editing committee for a new hymnal. During a this work he composed this text and gave it to a young musician. Pablo Sosa (1933-2020) was a musician who grew up and was educated in Argentina, and also studied in the U.S, and Germany. Sosa recalls the origins of the hymn: “I was at that time searching for ‘my own voice’ as a Latin American Christian composer, a process which temporarily inhibited my creativity. Writing that tune meant an important step forward in that process, especially since it was warmly welcomed by the committee… Nicolás Martínez had approached me with an enticing smile and a small handwritten sheet of paper in his hand, showing a poem, evidently the fruit of a night’s work...Such was the invitation to write a tune for ‘Cristo vive.’”
In later years, Sosa himself pastored a large Methodist congregation in Buenos Aires, while composing songs, leading choirs, and teaching at a seminary. But during his country's “dirty war,” (the name used by the military dictatorship for the period of U.S.-backed state terrorism in Argentina,) two young women from his church disappeared, possibly for working among the poor. As Catholic and Protestant churches hesitated whether to speak out, remain silent, or support the government, many people lost faith. Economic meltdown after the war plunged many middle-class Argentinians into poverty. Sosa’s growing social awareness widened his vision for “lifting up hope with a song.” He described worship as “the fiesta of the faithful,” where all are welcome and all music is seen as “part of the ‘song of the earth,’ which answers the psalmist’s call ‘Sing joyfully to God, all the earth!”
According to many, Pablo Sosa did more than perhaps any other person to foster the composition of Spanish-language hymnody, and his creative output of songs like "Christ Is Living," remind us of the biblical connection between justice and worship.
For if Christ is raised, and we are raised with him, we are to live out that risen life not some vague time after our own death, but starting today - to live that life of the new heavens and the new earth, where righteousness is at home... living this eternal life both "then," and "now," the risen life of joy and justice, and to bring hope and mercy to all around us, fruitful produce of Christ the Root, Seed, and Vine: Death is swallowed up in victory; sin has lost its poison sting. / Life will blossom from the grain sown, Christ the first fruits of the spring. / For the sureness of salvation let us sing, "Thanks be to God!" / Christ is risen! We are living! Spread the word of grace abroad.
Amen. Alleluia! -- Bjorn Gustafson