Thursday, October 19, 2017

Moravian Moment #194 — Singing the Hosanna Anthem


December 05, 2010

 

One of the traditions of the Moravian Church is the singing of the Hosanna Anthem. Time was when persons from all walks of life would appear in the Moravian Church, to participate in the singing of this wonderful Anthem. Without the singing of this Anthem for some persons, there is no Advent, nor Palm Sunday.

 

The Hosanna Anthem can be sung at anytime during the year, however, it is on Advent Sunday or the season of Advent and Palm Sunday, that its real meaning and significance is borne out. Both seasons speak to the coming of Jesus. Advent speaks of Him being born into the world to save us from our sins and Palm Sunday speaks of Him as the Messiah who comes to liberate or deliver Israel. Matthew 21: 8-9, gives the setting of this text, "A very large crowd spread cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowd that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!".

 

The word Hosanna means, "SAVE", but when it is sung in the context as is recorded in the Bible, the participants are looking forward to a deliverer who would not only save them, but who would "save them now". There is therefore an urgency in the coming of the Messiah to rescue and to save.

 

The Hosanna Anthem is based on the phrase Hosanna and is a traditional Moravian Anthem written by Christian Gregor, a Moravian Bishop in 1765. It is sung Antiphonally or Alternately, and is, "a call and response song". Traditionally, it was sung between boys and girls, or the entire congregation between men and women, where the men would call and the women would respond. For example, the men would call: 'Hosanna, blessed is He that comes'. The women would respond 'Hosanna, blessed is He that comes'.

 

One is not too certain if Harry Belafonte was aware of the significance of the word Hosanna, when in 1956 he entitled a song on his popular calypso album, "Hosanna". In the movie, Jesus Christ Superstar, by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, Hosanna is the name of one of the featured songs. The song occurred in the scene in which Jesus rides on a donkey into Jerusalem. Jesus is mocked by the High Priest Caiaphas, while His followers praised and acclaimed Him as the Messiah.

 

In the Moravian Church, the Hosanna Anthem is kept at the forefront of everything, for we always look to Jesus as our Saviour and King. It speaks to the fact that there is no other one who can save us, but Jesus Christ. John 3:17, declares," God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved".

Every Moravian Pastor and Congregation should endeavour to use the Advent Litanies and the Hosanna Anthem, especially since the window of opportunity to use them is so small. In addition, every Moravian must come to understand the religious festivals of the year and their significance to our "Faith" as the people of God. As the book of Ecclesiastes declares, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven".(Ecclesiastes. 3:1).

As the Hosanna Anthem is sung during this season,, let us remember the words of the hymn writer, Charles Wesley, when he wrote in 1744:

Come thou long expected Jesus, Born to set thy people free,

From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in thee.

Israel's strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth thou art;

Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart. (Hymn: 53).