Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Pascha nostrum: Singing with St. Paul of Christ's Rising

Christ our Passover Pascha nostrum

1 Corinthians 5:7‑8; Romans 6:9‑11; 1 Corinthians 15:20‑22
Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; *
  therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, *
  but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; *
  death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; *
  but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin, *
  and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

Christ has been raised from the dead, *
  the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death, *
  by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, *
  so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.

During Easter at Morning Prayer, the BCP recommends substituting the Pascha nostrum for the usual Invitatory Psalm (either Psalm 95 or 100). At St. Timothy’s, we take this a step further and sing a lively Anglican chant setting of this text at the Eucharist from 3 Easter on. It is one of the seasonal joys of the liturgy as offered here, punctuated as it is with its glad 'Alleluias.'

The Pascha nostrum is technically called a cento, a literary work made by sewing together a collection of quotations—a series of verses from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians and his Letter to the Romans. It has been a part of the Anglican liturgy for Easter since the Reformation of the sixteenth century.

By using it at Morning Prayer, we are emphasizing the unity of the 50 days of Easter—the longest (and oldest) true season of the Liturgical Year. As we progress through the events of Easter Day, through Thomas Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday, Rogationtide, Ascension, and right into Pentecost, we are not hopping from one “topic” to another, but are entering into a loving and thoughtful contemplation of the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection in its many lights and meanings.

Some people, when using the Pascha nostrum at Morning Prayer, will say it for Easter Week, others for the whole 50 days. Some use it on Sundays only, or just until Ascension Day, moving back to the Venite (Psalm 95) with its appropriate antiphon and marking the transition of character in late Eastertide. There is no “one way” to use it, though the rubrics do give us some direction. The point to be remembered is that the Pascha nostrum underscores the power of Christ’s rising as a complete break with the old life…something that each Christian must not only celebrate at Eastertide, but learn to live in the daily life of discipleship.

Praying these words will, at times, cast the light of the Resurrection on those corners of our life we are still trying to live the old way, with “the leaven of malice and evil.” For that knowledge we need to give thanks: it is the active work of the Spirit in our life as Christians this Eastertide and always.


  1. We use the Pascha Nostrum at daily Morning Prayer throughout the Easter Season. I have been struck this year by how it sets a different context for hearing the collects and readings. Today in HWHM was Genocide Remembrance. The collect for the day with the Pascha Nostrum was very powerful, haunting, and reassuring.

    Christ is risen!

  2. The Pascha nostrum really does encompass a vast array of experiences and responses, Fr. Mike. That is one reason I am glad we use it in place of the Gloria so much of the season at the Eucharist. Like all that is truly essential in the Faith, it encounters the fullness of our experience with the totality of God's redemptive power.

    You bring up one of the blessings of the holy liturgy in your note: the effect of resonance. By the full and skillful use of the tradition, there is opportunity throughout the year for such resonances to open doors impossible to imagine otherwise.

    It is a blessing to visit your blog. May your journey into hesychia continue! BLF+