The Hope of Easter
In Times of Darkness
A Special Easter Message
from Bishop Daniel Findikyan
The true joy of Easter and of the resurrection of Jesus Christ lies in the assurance that God—almighty and invincible—is alive and with us now and always. Those that open their hearts wide to him need not fear anyone or anything. That hope is magnificently expressed in a hymn that is sung during the Armenian Church’s “Peace Hour Service” [խաղաղական Ժամ / Khaghaghagan Zham].
The “Song of Isaiah,” as it is known, was originally conducted in monasteries every night, just before the monks retired to bed. Today we are most likely to hear it during Great Lent. The hymn is based on verses from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapters 8 and 9. The stanzas are punctuated with the repeated refrain, “For God is with us” [Զի Աստուած ընդ մեզ է / Zee Asdvadz unt mez eh]. The ancient hymn was already being sung at the turn of the eighth century, when the Armenian Bishop Stepanos Siunetsi described it in his famous Commentary on the Daily Prayer-Hours. The song is also known in other ancient eastern churches.
Late at night, darkness blinds our eyes, but also our hearts and minds. The fear and gloom that are afflicting us today in the wake of the COVID pandemic are not very different from the demonic anxiety that invades our imagination at night. The Song of Isaiah, with its mantra-like confession of faith, valiantly defies those visible and invisible antagonists. It plants and fortifies in us the conviction that God’s loving care for us is ever-present and unfailing. In this way, the hymn can serve as a kind of spiritual therapy to lift us up and to strengthen our faith in the living God, omnipresent and all-powerful.
Blessed is the resurrection of Christ. Now God is with us!
God the Lord is with us. Know it, all you nations, and be vanquished! For God is with us.
Hear this from one end of the earth to the other. For God is with us.
All of you that grew powerful, be vanquished! For God is with us.
And should you regain your power, again you will be vanquished. For God is with us.
The Lord will thwart the intrigues you are contemplating. For God is with us.
And the word you are speaking. For God is with us.
We will neither tremble nor worry; we will not fear you. For God is with us.
We will glorify the Lord our God. For God is with us.
He will be with us when we are frightened. For God is with us.
Our hope will be in him, and he will be our holiness. For God is with us.
Our hope will be in him. For God is with us.
And he will be our salvation. For God is with us.
Here we are—I and my family that God gave me. For God is with us.
The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light. For God is with us.
And you, who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death, light will shine on you. For God is with us.
For a child was born, a son has been given to us. For God is with us.
His dominion is on his shoulders. For God is with us.
And his name shall be called “Angel of the Great Mystery.” For God is with us.
And “Excellent Counselor.” For God is with us.
And “God the Powerful Prince.” For God is with us.
And “Prince of Peace, Father of the Eternal Age to Come.” For God is with us.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Now and always and unto the ages of ages.