Christ Arose Or Low in The Grave He Lay Hymn
Christ arose is a hymn that really reminds brethren that Jesus who was crucified for the sin of the world Arose. The “Low in the Grave He Lay,” that opened the first line of the hymn depicts his death.
Similarly, “He arose” that dominated the refrain part of the hymn exhibits his resurrection. Moreover, every line of each stanza says one or two things about his death.
Obviously, the “Christ Arose” hymn is all about the death and resurrection of Christ from the grave. And also one of the hymns that are usually sung in a particular season of the year.
Mostly, on Easter Sunday and also on Easter cantata to celebrate the festive period of Easter. Also, to celebrate the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave.
And to remember his victory over death for the sin of the world. The hymn “Christ Arose” or “Low in The Grave He Lay”, as found in some Hymnbooks, is all about the death and resurrection of Christ.
The Hymn Writer
The text of this great Easter hymn “Christ Arose” (or “Low in The Grave He Lay”) was written by Reverend Robert Lowry. He was known as a gospel preacher and composer of a gospel hymn.
Reverend Robert Lowry was an American Baptist minister born in Philadelphia on the 12th of March 1826. He was the son of Crozier Lowry and Elizabeth Bannatyne Lowry. His father was an American early part of the 19th century immigrant from Northern Ireland and a member of the Presbyterian Church.
Robert Lowry clearly manifests his love for music at a tender age. Typically, he enjoyed pleasantly occupying himself with any musical instrument he came across.
When Robert was 17years old, he left Presbyterian Church and joined the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia. There, he became an enthusiastic church worker through Sunday school and the church choir as a teacher and chorister respectively.
Afterward, his pastor, Reverend George Barton Ide encouraged him to join the work of Christian ministry. As a result, he started learning at the University of Lewisburg known as Bucknell University, Pennsylvania now.
Robert Lowry distinctly exhibited his musical talent at the university by establishing the college choir. Also, he was fond of teaching music to his fellow students in the college.
Generally, he has a reputation as a hymn writer and also a preacher. Eventually, in 1854, he graduated and has the highest honour in his class at age 28. In 1854, he was installed as a priest into Baptist Mission after he had graduated from college.
Robert Lowry started his ministry the same year of his graduation and also married Anna Rhees Loxley. The first place of his priesthood was First Baptist Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania from 1854 to 1858.
Thereafter, he left for ministry work at the Bloomingdale Baptist church, in New York where he remained for two years from 1859 to 1861. He then continued his priesthood work at Hanson Place Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York, and served from 1861 to 1869.
After 8 years at Hanson Place, he returned to serve as a pastor of the new First Baptist Church, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania 1869 to 1875.
At the same time, he was a professor of Rhetoric at the University of Lewisburg as well. During his time at Lewisburg, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) in 1875.
Reverend Dr. Robert Lowry was a rare man with excellent and conscientious administrative ability. As well as an excellent and eloquent preacher, and a thorough Bible student.
He ensured the completion of the new First Baptist Church, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and the church was dedicated in June 1870.
With his oratory skill, he persuaded the congregation, certainly not a financially buoyant group, to be in agreement with $10,000 towards meeting the debt of the church.
In 1875, he waived his professorship at Lewisburg and continued his priesthood at Park Avenue Baptist Church, Plainfield, New Jersey. To the glory of God, Reverend Dr. Robert Lowry’s stories were a success at every place he took up the pastorate.
In 1868, he took the place of William Bradbury as editor of Sunday School song collections at Biglow & Main publishers, New York City. He worked there for almost 30 years in collaboration with other hymn writers like William H. Doane and Ira D. Sankey.
In particular, Reverend Dr. Robert Lowry supervised the publishing of more than 20 hymnals during his time at the company.
Lowry composed about 500 Gospel tunes, and is popularly known to have fully composed his hymn with the text and the tune. Also, in some cases, he would add a chorus or refrain while setting the text of others into music.
Due to his health condition, he visited Europe on break in 1880. He also resigned from the ministry in 1885 for a longer rest and later resumed his ministry work with improved health.
He lost his wife Anna in 1890 and married Mary Jane Runyon two years later. Robert Lowry keeps up his pastorate work at Park Avenue Baptist Church, Plainfield until he was called home on the 25th of November 1899. He died and continues to live because his sermons in gospel songs are still alive.
Story Behind the Christ Arose hymn
Besides ministry work as a priest to preach the gospel, Reverend Robert Lowry never stops to compose music and write hymns.
For instance, he composed one of his best hymns “Shall We Gather at the River” while at Hanson Place in 1864. And also composed the tune to the text of the hymn “Marching to Zion” written by Isaac Watts in 1867.
And sometime in 1874, he wrote both words and music for this Easter hymn “Christ Arose!” (“Low In The Grave He Lay”).
The inspiration for this hymn came while he was having his devotions on one evening. He was still the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
Robert Lowry as the hymn writer was absorbed with the event that surrounded the resurrection of Christ with the word recorded in Luke 24:6-8. Especially the word written in verse 6 that says “He is not here, but is risen”.
And as recorded by Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck in the quote “Lowry found himself seated at the little pump organ in the parlor of his home, and, in a very spontaneous fashion, there came forth the music and the words, giving expression to the thoughts that had been uppermost in his mind.”
The text of the hymn is typically for the resurrection of Christ because every stanza tells the Easter story. In detail, stanza one tells about how Christ was buried and laid low in the grave.
Again, stanza two expresses how his body was concealed and sealed in the tomb. And lastly, the third stanza declares his resurrection and how he defeated death.
Above all, the refrain elaborates on his resurrection and victory over death.
Tune For The Hymn Christ Arose
The tune for this great Easter hymn was written also by Reverend Dr. Robert Lowry. The name of the tune is Christ Arose and it was composed along with the words of the hymn. Robert Lowry often writes most of his hymns in this manner.
The mood of the tune completely established Easter’s story from sorrow to victory. And lowness from Good Friday night to joyful Easter Sunday morning.
The mood for the stanzas is cool and dull while the refrain is bright, cheerful, and celebratory. Specifically, the music begins with a slow tempo and dirge-like tone; and later switches to the high tempo and joyful mood of Easter.
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