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Hymn of the Week: “Now the Green Blade Rises”

J-P Mauro - published on 04/01/18

An Easter hymn full of metaphors
Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

Happy Easter! This week, our hymn pick is “Now the Green Blade Rises,” an Easter hymn full of beautiful imagery and metaphors for Christ. The hymn first appeared in hymnals in 1928, written by John M.C. Crum, an English Anglican priest from the early 20th century. He wrote the text specifically to be paired with this tune, “NOËL NOUVELET,” which is sometimes called “FRENCH CAROL.” (You may recognize it from its use in the Christmas carol, “Sing We Now of Christmas.”) While the composer is unknown, the tune is known to have come from France in the mid-15th century.

While serving the church, Crum wrote works on a wide range of topics, including biblical theology, architecture, a study of historical works, and even children’s books. His work on hymns ranged from the translation of Latin hymns by the 4th-century poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius to easy-to-remember children’s hymns.

Discipleship Ministries points out that the mention of a “green blade rising” is a symbol for Christ, referring to the Gospel of John:

The vivid imagery of the hymn is biblically based: John 12:23-24: “And Jesus answered them, saying, the hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (KJV) In addition, 1 Corinthians 15:37-38 connects the image with the resurrection: “And that which sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” (KJV)

The word quick in the line “Quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen” does not mean speedily, as we would assume today. Instead, it’s an old-fashioned way of saying “alive” or “living.” In older versions of the Creed in English, people prayed “he will come to judge the quick and the dead.”

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