185

The Strife Is O'er, the Battle Done

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

This Easter hymn pictures Christ's death as the final battle with the powers of evil, but Christ is the victor; his resurrection marks the decisive outcome of that battle. Each stanza begins with some aspect of Christ's resurrection and moves to our response of praise. A poetic commentary on and summary of Paul's resurrection discourse in 1 Corinthians 15, the entire text is framed with "alleluias" (like some of the psalms). 
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Easter hymns accomplish three functions: they recount the Easter narrative, proclaim our Easter hope, and celebrate our joy at Christ’s resurrection. This hymn is built on the professions of Easter truths that are expressed primarily in Heidelberg Catechism. Note especially the following:
  • Lord’s Day 17, Question and Answer 45 declares that Christ’s resurrection makes us share in Christ’s righteousness, raises us to a new life by his power, and is a sure pledge to us of our resurrection.
  • Lord’s Day 22, Question and Answer 57 comforts us to know that not only our soul but “also my very flesh will be raised by the power of God, reunited with my soul, and made like Christ’s glorious body.”
  • Lord’s Day 22, Question and Answer 58 says that it may be a comfort to know that while experiencing the beginning of eternal joy now, “after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever.”
In addition, Our Song of Hope, stanza 5 professes: “On the day of the resurrection, the tomb was empty; His disciples saw Him; death was defeated; new life had come. God’s purpose for the world was sealed.”
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The Strife Is O'er, the Battle Done

Call to Worship

God of life,
we praise you for the miracle of Easter.
We pray for great joy for ourselves and for all who come
to worship today to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
We pray especially for those who will join us for worship
and whose lives are filled with pain, loss, or deep sadness.
May they sense how the resurrection is a source of great hope. Amen.
[Reformed Worship 47:39]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!
—Revelation 5:12, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Christ is risen from the dead. Alleluia!
We know that since Christ was raised from the dead,
he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.
The death he died, he died to sin once for all;
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
—based on Romans 6:9-10, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

The Lord who calls us to worship today is the same Jesus
who refused the temptation to worship the evil one.
Rather than receive the glorious kingdoms of this world,
he endured the shame of the cross,
and today is Lord of lords and King of kings.
Now are gathered in him
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,
glory and power.
With the saints of all ages we say,
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom
and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
—based on Colossians 2:3; Revelation 5:12, NIV
[Reformed Worship 27:40]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Words of Praise

In life and in death we belong to God.
Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit,
we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel,
whom alone we worship and serve.
We trust in Jesus Christ,
fully human, fully God.
Jesus proclaimed the reign of God:
preaching good news to the poor
and release to the captives,
forgiving sinners,
and calling all to repent and believe the gospel.
Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition,
Jesus was crucified,
suffering the depths of human pain
and giving his life for the sins of the world.
God raised Jesus from the dead,
vindicating his sinless life,
breaking the power of sin and evil,
delivering us from death to life eternal.
With believers in every time and place,
we rejoice that nothing in life or in death
can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.
—from A Brief Statement of Faith
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Assurance

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
—1 Corinthians 15:54-57, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have died.
For since death came through a human being,
the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;
for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.
—1 Corinthians 15:20-22, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
—1 Corinthians 8:6, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Christ has died!
Christ has risen!
Christ will come again!
[ancient source, PD]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

By his resurrection he has overcome death,
so that he might make us share in the righteousness
he obtained for us by his death.
By his power we too are already raised to a new life.
Christ’s resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.
—from Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 45
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Jesus Christ is the hope of God’s world.
In his death,
the justice of God is established;
forgiveness of sin is proclaimed.
On the day of his resurrection,
the tomb was empty; his disciples saw him;
death was defeated; new life had come.
God’s purpose for the world was sealed.
—from Our Song of Hope, st. 4
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

This office the Lord Jesus most willingly undertook,
and in order to discharge its obligations
he was born under the law and perfectly fulfilled it.
He endured most grievous torments in his soul
and most painful sufferings in his body;
he was crucified, died, and was buried;
he remained under the power of death,
yet his body did not undergo decay;
and he arose from the dead on the third day
with the same body in which he had suffered.
In this body he ascended into heaven,
where he sits at the right hand of his Father, making intercession,
and he shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the age.
The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself—
which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up to God—
has fully satisfied the justice of his Father.
He purchased not only reconciliation
but also an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven
for all whom the Father has given to him.
—from Westminster Confession (MESV), Chap. VIII, Sec. 4-5
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Blessing/Benediction

If Christ is not risen, nothing matters.
Our preaching is then useless
and our faith too.
We are false witnesses about God,
for we have testified that God raised Christ from the dead.
We are still in our sins.
Those who have died are as dead as ever.
We who have pinned our hopes on Jesus
are then the most pitiable of all human beings.
But if Christ is risen, nothing else matters.
Though in Adam all may have died,
in Christ all will then be made alive.
He will destroy every dominion, power, and authority
and put every enemy under his feet.
Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of Christ—
trouble, hardship, persecution, famine,
nakedness, peril, sword,
angels, demons,
the present, the future, nor any powers.
Nothing whatsoever, in fact,
nothing in all creation,
neither height nor depth,
nothing either in life
or in death.
Christ, our Lord, is risen indeed!
Therefore, sisters and brothers, stand firm, let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves wholly to the Lord’s work. Amen!
—based on 1 Corinthians 15; Romans 8
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Now to the King eternal,
immortal, invisible, the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
—1 Timothy 1:17, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two
185

The Strife Is O'er, the Battle Done

Tune Information

Name
VICTORY
Key
D Major
Meter
4.4.4.8.8.8.4

Recordings

185

The Strife Is O'er, the Battle Done

Hymn Story/Background

This Easter hymn pictures Christ's death as the final battle with the powers of evil, but Christ is the victor; his resurrection marks the decisive outcome of that battle. Each stanza begins with some aspect of Christ's resurrection and moves to our response of praise. A poetic commentary on and summary of Paul's resurrection discourse in 1 Corinthians 15, the entire text is framed with "alleluias" (like some of the psalms).
 
Although John M. Neale believed this text came from the twelfth century, no medieval manuscript containing the text has been found. Based on a Latin hymn ("Finita iam sunt proelia"), “The Strife Is O' er” first appeared in the Jesuit collection Symphonia Sirenum Selectarum in 1695.
 
Francis Pott translated the text around 1859. The text was published in five stanzas in two 1861 hymnals: Pott's Hymns Fitted to the Order of Common Prayer and Hymns Ancient and Modern (with a few changes
The origin of this tune lies in a choral mass by the great Italian Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. One of the most gifted composers of his age, Palestrina influenced church music for many centuries. He began his musical training at the age of nine when he went to Rome to become a chorister in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiori. By 1544 he was a singing teacher and organist at the cathedral in his hometown of Palestrina and had begun composing. In 1551 the bishop of Palestrina became Pope Julius III, and he took the musician with him to Rome.
 
William H. Monk adapted the first phrases of the Gloria Patri in Palestrina's Magnificat Tertii Toni (1591) to create the tune, VICTORY. Monk added his own "alleluia" at the close of the text. His arrangement was published in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861).
 
Also known as PALESTRINA, the tune is rather sober but surrounded by festive "alleluias." The first three "alleluias" should be sung once at the beginning and once at the conclusion of the hymn; each stanza ends with its own "alleluia." Have everyone sing the "alleluias" in unison, but assign stanzas to antiphonal groups. Organists need to observe the rest in the final line of the stanza (just before the single closing "alleluia") with much care. This hymn is a good candidate for a brass ensemble, especially on the "alleluias."
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Francis Pott (b. Southwark, Surrey, England, 1832; d. Speldhurst, Kent, England, 1909) translated the text around 1859. The text was published in five stanzas in two 1861 hymnals: Pott's Hymns Fitted to the Order of Common Prayer and Hymns Ancient and Modern (with a few changes). Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, England, Pott was ordained in the Church of England in 1856. However, his severe hearing loss caused his retirement from a pastorate at Norhill in Ely (1866-1891). A member of the committee that produced Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861), Pott also published original hymns, translations from Latin, and Syriac hymns in Hymns Fitted to the Order of Common Prayer (1861). During his retirement he devoted himself to improvements in worship and singing, and he edited The Free Rhythm Psalter (1898).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (b. Palestrina, Italy, c. 1525; d. Rome, Italy, 1594) lived in Rome until his death. As his fame as choirmaster and composer grew, he held a series of increasingly prestigious positions–teacher at the Jesuit seminary from 1565 to 1571 and choirmaster at the Capella Giulia at St. Peter's from 1571 to 1594. His first decade in Rome was difficult: during that time he lost two sons and two brothers to epidemics, and in 1580 his wife died. Although Palestrina had begun preparation to enter the priesthood in 1581, he instead married the rich widow of a fur and leather merchant and then helped to conduct her business. A prolific composer, mainly of church music, he wrote one hundred masses and four hundred motets. For many years after the Council of Trent, Palestrina was considered the model composer for Roman Catholic liturgical music.
 
William H. Monk (b. Brompton, London, England, 1823; d. London, 1889) is best known for his music editing of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861, 1868, 1875, and 1889 editions). He also adapted music from plainsong and added accompaniments for Introits for Use Throughout the Year, a book issued with that famous hymnal. Beginning in his teenage years, Monk held a number of musical positions. He became choirmaster at King's College in London in 1847 and was organist and choirmaster at St. Matthias, Stoke Newington, from 1852 to 1889, where he was influenced by the Oxford Movement. At St. Matthias, Monk also began daily choral services with the choir leading the congregation in music chosen according to the church year, including psalms chanted to plainsong. He composed over fifty hymn tunes and edited The Scottish Hymnal (1872 edition) and Wordsworth's Hymns for the Holy Year (1862) as well as the periodical Parish Choir (1840-1851).
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

Hymnologist Austin Lovelace describes this as “a poor hymn which has ridden to success on the coattails of a fine tune” (The Anatomy of Hymnody, 52). To be sure, the melody and harmonization are beautiful, but there is also something very profound and triumphant about the text. There is, in this text, a sense of finality, “It is finished.” Albert Bailey writes, “The words present the theological statement that the Crucifixion was a contest between Christ and the devil’s legions, in which Christ won. This is proved by the fact that Christ did not stay dead” (The Gospel in Hymns, 278). Christ rose and brought new life, and in so doing, through his declaration, “It is finished,” was also saying, “It has all just begun!” The finality of this text is the finality of newness. It is the realization that we are continually being made new, that creation in continually being restored, and that every day we are called to life anew with Christ. Alleluia. What a song of victory that is!
— Laura de Jong
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