There are very few things that we do the same way our ancestors did them. Think about it…do you travel, eat, dress or work even remotely the same as was done even 100 years ago? One of the few things that hasn’t changed over the past three centuries is the orchestra. In fact, much of the music performed today by 21st century orchestras was composed 200 or even 300 years ago. There is something about playing an old violin or cello that really connects us over generations to our ancestors.
So when the Lyceum Philharmonic at American Heritage School, a youth orchestra in Utah, was preparing music for their album “Turning Hearts” they did the research to discover just what was the oldest known hymn in Christianity. What they discovered may just be your new favorite hymn even though it dates back to 200 AD! At that time in Jerusalem, a lamp was kept perpetually burning in the empty tomb of Christ, its glow a symbol of the living light of the Resurrected Lord. At dusk, this hymn was sung as a new candle was lit from the old. The hymn became part of vespers in the Byzantine Rite, and also included in some modern Anglican and Lutheran liturgies but is almost entirely unknown in our faith.
You have likely never heard this ancient song that predates nearly every religion we talk about in today’s Christianity. In fact, 200 AD predates musical notation or any of the instruments we play. The words, originally in ancient Greek (Phos Hilaron) would have been passed down along with the ancient melody by rote. Fathers passed the song down to their sons as it was sung each night at the lighting of a new candle in the tomb. Can you imagine, keeping vigil at the empty tomb of Christ only two or three generations after his resurrection?
In the video, you get a sense of that sacred setting. It was filmed in a replica of Christ’s empty tomb and highlights the metaphor of adding your light to the light of Christ as part of the Church’s #LIGHTtheWORLD campaign. GENTRI gives a contemporary interpretation on the ancient melody in a way that is meant to connect with the high school students of the youth orchestra accompanying them. It’s part of a larger project of Turning the Hearts of the Children to their fathers.
“And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.” – D&C 2:2
This prophecy and promise is the foundation of temple work and may be the only scripture specifically included in all five of the Standard Works: Old Testament (Mal 4:6), New Testament (Luke 1:17), Book of Mormon (3 Ne 25:6), Doctrine and Covenants 2:2, and Pearl of Great Price (Joseph Smith History 1:39).
The musicians featured in the video are ages 14 to 18. They face unprecedented challenges on a journey to find or build faith while reconciling the expectations and promises of their fathers with 21st Century realities. These youth come from schools across the state of Utah to American Heritage School in American Fork to dedicate their time, talents, and testimony to making music that will impact the world for good.