“The Cross that Crowns its Summit”
Sunday marks the 108th anniversary of the Sunrise Easter Services held at the top Mount Rubidoux, where each year hundreds have gather to hear the story of the resurrection of Jesus. This service continues to hold the record for oldest non-denominational Easter Sunrise Services in the Nation.
The beginning of this tradition started as a pilgrimage on April 11th 1909. A group of 204 gathered around the cross. Described as “Simple, but Impressive”. Just as the sun started to rise, they sang two hymns, “The Morning Light is Breaking” and “In the Cross of Christ I Glory”. The song “The Holy City was played on the cornet, violin and a portable organ that had been brought for this occasion. The service ended with “The Lords Prayer”.
Jacob A. Riis, an American journalist, originally suggested the idea of this pilgrimage during a speech he made at the Mission Inn a week prior.
“…I see, in the days that are to come, an annual ceremonial— festival, pilgrimage, call it what you will — winding its way up the steps of Mount Rubidoux, carrying torches, climbing higher and higher, toward the cross that crowns its summit, where the old bell peals out its message of ‘Peace and Good Will Toward Men, and gathering there to sing the songs that go straight to the hearts of men and women…”
A few days after that first “Sunrise Service” one of attendees (Elizabeth Anderson Freedman) wrote a lengthy poem to commemorate the first pilgrimage. Here is an excerpt of that poem:
“When all nature seemed so calm, so still,
To the top of far-famed Rubidoux Hill,
On Easter morn, at break of day,
A goodly company wended its way.
Onward and upward, they climbed the steeps,
To where the cross its lone vigils keeps.
As the star, to “Wise Men,” served as guide.
So the cross, to pilgrims, at Easter-tide”.