Chanting in Honor of Christ

SINGING has always been a vital part of Christian worship. In about the year 112, Roman governor Pliny noted that Christians “met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately among themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god.” Though it is sometimes difficult to distinguish early Christian poetry from hymns, here are three brief selections that were likely sung by early Christians.

There is only one physician, 
Of flesh, yet spiritual, 
Born yet unbegotten, God incarnate, 
Genuine life in the midst of death, 
Sprung from Mary as well as God, 
First subject to suffering, then beyond it, 
Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

Christ is risen: the world below is in ruins. 
Christ is risen: the spirits of evil are fallen. 
Christ is risen: the angels of God are rejoicing. 
Christ is risen: the tombs are void of their dead. 
Christ has indeed arisen from the dead, the first of the sleepers. 
Glory and power are his for ever and ever. Amen. 

May none of God’s wonderful works keep silence, night and morning. 
Bright stars, high mountains, the depths of the seas, sources of rushing rivers: 
May all these break into song as we sing to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
May all the angels in the heavens reply: Amen! Amen! Amen! 
Power, praise, honor, eternal glory to God, the only giver of grace. 
Amen! Amen! Amen! 

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #37 in 1993]

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