Archive for the ‘Chant and/or Music’ Category

Ode 6-9 of the Supplicatory Canon to St. Xenia of St. Petersburg are sung in these two videos. I listen to them all the time, and thought you might enjoy praying to St. Xenia as well.

(Source) The life of this famous fool-for-Christ:

Saint Xenia lived during the eighteenth century, but little is known of her life or of her family. She passed most of her life in Petersburg during the reigns of the empresses Elizabeth and Catherine II.

Xenia Grigorievna Petrova was the wife of an army officer, Major Andrew Petrov. After the wedding, the couple lived in St Petersburg. St Xenia became a widow at the age of twenty-six when her husband suddenly died at a party. She grieved for the loss of her husband, and especially because he died without Confession or Holy Communion.

Once her earthly happiness ended, she did not look for it again. From that time forward, Xenia lost interest in the things of this world, and followed the difficult path of foolishness for the sake of Christ. The basis for this strange way of life is to be found in the first Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:18-24, 1 Cor. 2:14, 1 Cor. 3:18-19). The Lord strengthened her and helped her to bear sorrow and misfortune patiently for the next forty-five years.

She started wearing her husband’s clothing, and insisted that she be addressed as “Andrew Feodorovich.” She told people that it was she, and not her husband, who had died. In a certain sense, this was perfectly true. She abandoned her former way of life and experienced a spiritual rebirth. When she gave away her house and possessions to the poor, her relatives complained to the authorities. After speaking to Xenia, the officials were conviced that she was in her right mind and was entitled to dispose of her property as she saw fit. Soon she had nothing left for herself, so she wandered through the poor section of Petersburg with no place to lay her head. She refused all assistance from her relatives, happy to be free of worldly attachments.

When her late husband’s red and green uniform wore out, she clothed herself in rags of those colors. After a while, Xenia left Petersburg for eight years. It is believed that she visited holy Elders and ascetics throughout Russia seeking instruction in the spiritual life. She may have visited St Theodore of Sanaxar (February 19), who had been a military man himself. His life changed dramatically when a young officer died at a drinking party. Perhaps this officer was St Xenia’s husband. In any case, she knew St Theodore and profited from his instructions.

St Xenia eventually returned to the poor section of Petersburg, where she was mocked and insulted because of her strange behavior. When she did accept money from people it was only small amounts, which she used to help the poor. She spent her nights praying without sleep in a field outside the city. Prayer strengthened her, and in her heart’s conversation with the Lord she found the support she needed on her difficult path.

When a new church was being built in the Smolensk cemetery, St Xenia brought bricks to the site. She did this in secret, during the night, so that no one would know.

Soon her great virtue and spiritual gifts began to be noticed. She prophesied future events affecting the citizens of Petersburg, and even the royal family. Against her will, she became known as someone pleasing to God, and nearly everyone loved her.They said, “Xenia does not belong to this world, she belongs to God.” People regarded her visits to their homes or shops as a great blessing. St Xenia loved children, and mothers rejoiced when the childless widow would stand and pray over a baby’s crib, or kiss a child. They believed that the blessed one’s kiss would bring that child good fortune.

St Xenia lived about forty-five years after the death of her husband, and departed to the Lord at the age of seventy-one. The exact date and circumstances of her death are not known, but it probably took place at the end of the eighteenth century. She was buried in the Smolensk cemetery.

By the 1820s, people flocked to her grave to pray for her soul, and to ask her to intercede with God for them. So many visitors took earth from her grave that it had to be replaced every year. Later, a chapel was built over her grave.

Those who turn to St Xenia in prayer receive healing from illness, and deliverance from their afflictions. She is also known for helping people who seek jobs.


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This is Psalm 50, chanted in Romanian. The best part about this video – even better than the beautiful photos – is the fact that the voices reach deep into the listener’s chest and stir even hardened hearts, inspiring in them divine longing. Truly prayer transcends the intellect and Pentecost happens each and every time a person listens to a foreign language and is affected in the same manner one who understands is.

Also, Good Strength to everyone on the New Calendar who is about to start the two-week fast!

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This video is of one of my all time favourite psalms, chanted at one of my all time favourite churches, and by one of my all time favourite chanters!

Hope everyone is managing this Great Lent, and I hope everyone is remembering that: “The mercy of the Lord is unto eternity, even unto eternity, upon those that fear Him”. And by “fear” it is to say “upon those that reverence, love, respect Him”. Whether you’re going through Lent like a spiritual triathlon runner, or barely making it to the finish line on account of your spiritual slothfullness like me, I think we can all take comfort in knowing that God’s mercy is unto eternity!

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Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again (John 4:13)

An excerpt from The Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Women’s Monastery, published by Conciliar Press, a translation I did of the Greek folk song, Η ΕυχήThe Prayer (pp. 170-1). To hear a Greek version of this song see the video embedded below.

From Pharaoh of Egypt, slavery departing,

With my guide Moses, to Sinai arriving.


Mount Sinai to ascend! Oh how much I desire,

To the holy summit’s peak and the Prayer to acquire.


May God give me patience on the harsh ascent,

Fortitude, endurance, for the Prayer’s acquirement.


Primarily obedience, the Scriptures and watchfulness

Combined with holy silence enhance true prayerfulness.


In order for you the Prayer to properly say,

From your mind worldly things throw completely away.


In the beginning be sure to say the Prayer orally,

And in due time you will find you say it noetically.


On the words of the Prayer hold full attention,

For if you imagine you’re in danger of delusion.


seraphimakiThe Prayer exasperates the one who is tempting,

Wherefore don’t be disconcerted by his relentless attacking.


From the tree of prayer the sweetest fruits you receive,

Oh! What honey gushes forth you’re unable to conceive.


How the Prayer works, to tell you don’t ask me,

I’m unable to explain, for it’s a divine mystery.


When the Prayer energizes within, continually,

Then guard it well, carefully, with much humility.


My venerable elder, my noetic Moses, guiding,

To acquire the Prayer bestow upon me your blessing.


The Prayer she gives; Christians she blesses,

The Mother of God, the Most Holy Abbess.


Mount Sinai to ascend! Oh how much I desire,

To the holy summit’s peak and the Prayer to acquire.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce, on the feast of St. Anthony the Great, during the years St. Gregory Palamas lived in Thessaloniki, he decided not to attend the “panigiri” (feast) at the church of St. Anthony on account of the crowds. Instead he stayed in his cell and prayed alone. (If you’ve ever been to a panigiri in Greece you know how crazy the crowds can be). While he was praying St. Anthony the Great appeared to him and admonished him for not attending his church in Thessaloniki. So St. Gregory got up and went.

Today, located in the same place the church of St. Anthony was in St. Gregory’s time, the newer (18th century) church of St. Anthony was jam packed with people there to honour, remember, and receive the blessing of St. Anthony, the father of monasticism. I took the above photo from the narthex (gives you an idea of the crowd). The video below is from the vespers service last night.

(To read more about St. Anthony and see his life in icons, go here.)

O Father Anthony, you imitated the zealous Elijah.

You followed the straight paths of the Baptist

and became a desert dweller.

By prayer you confirmed the universe.

Wherefore, intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.

saint's kolyva

The saint’s kolyva

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“The Huron Carol” (or “Twas in the Moon of Wintertime”) is Canada’s oldest Christmas song, written in 1643 by the Roman Catholic missionary Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit. He went to Lake Huron, a place located on the north shore of Lake Ontario where the Huron natives lived. He wrote the lyrics of the carol in the native language of the Huron people; the song’s original Huron title is “Jesous Ahatonhia” (“Jesus, he is born”).  The well-known English lyrics were written in 1926 by Jessie Edgar Middleton.

Laying aside the fact that St. John Chrysostom discourages the telling of God’s great economy in allegorical forms, I find this carol endearing. The best version is done by Canadian band, Crash Test Dummies on their 2002 Christmas album, however I cannot find it anywhere on the internet to share with you. The version embedded below is sung in native Huron language, French, and English. The English lyrics are as follows:

‘Twas in the moon of winter time when all the birds had fled,

that Mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead.

Before their light the stars grew dim,

And wand’ring hunters heard the hymn:

“Jesus, your King, is born; Jesus is born; In Excelsis Gloria!”


Within a lodge of broken bark the tender Babe was found.

A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped His beauty’round.

And as the hunter braves drew nigh,

the angel song rang loud and high:

“Jesus, your King, is born; Jesus is born; In Excelsis Gloria!”


The earliest moon of winter time is not so round and fair

as was the ring of glory on the helpless Infant there.

While Chiefs from far before Him knelt,

with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.

“Jesus, your King, is born; Jesus is born; In Excelsis Gloria!”


O children of the forest free, O sons of Manitou,

The Holy Child of earth and heav’n is born today for you.

Come, kneel before the radiant Boy

who brings you beauty, peace and joy.

“Jesus, your King, is born; Jesus is born; In Excelsis Gloria!”

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Every year children come around singing ‘kalanda,’ carols here in Greece. They do this on two days: Christmas Eve day and New Year’s Eve day for St. Basil’s feast day (January 1). What would I say is the biggest difference between our average Christmas carols and Greek Byzantine carols? Theology!

The theology in some of their carols is simply breathtaking! You would think great theologians wrote these carols. Come to think of it, back in the 13th century we still had plenty of faithful who lived Christ-centered lives enough write hymns like these.

Below is my favourite Byzantine Christmas carol. I have never heard carollers sing this one at my door, though. I first learned of it when my husband, brother, sister-in-law, and I visited friends in Athens a few years ago at Christmas time. Together with their three daughters we all sung Greek carols. I was especially impressed by this one, and I think you will be too. Here are a portion of the lyrics, below is a video in which you can hear the carol.

The God who is without beginning has descended and dwelt in the Virgin
Eroorem-eroorem-eroorerooh-eroorem, Rejoice O Sovereign Lady.

Thou art the King of all and the Lord, Thou came to refashion Adam
Eroorem-eroorem-eroorerooh-eroorem, Rejoice O spotless one.

Ye mortals rejoice and be glad, ye angelic hosts jubilate
Eroorem-eroorem-eroorerooh-eroorem, Rejoice O Sovereign Lady.

Come hither to see in the cave, laying in the manger, the Lord
Eroorem-eroorem-erooreroorem, Rejoice O spotless one.

Magi from the East are coming, bearing noble gifts
Eroorem-eroorem-erooreroorem, Rejoice O Sovereign Lady.

Herod heard the news and trembled with fury, the godless one
Teriririrem-teriririrem-tem and ananes, Rejoice O spotless one.

Following an unexpected course, the Magi from Persia came
Teriririrem-teriririrem-tem and ananes, Rejoice O Sovereign Lady.

Out of wickedness, the tyrant ordered the slaughter of all Rachel’s children
Teriririrem-teriririrem-tem and ananes, Rejoice O spotless one.

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This morning I listened to Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green’s interview with a monk from Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Bombala, New South Wales, Australia. Hieromonk Makary, a native to Australia, has been a monk since the 80s, having become a novice at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York while doing a degree in theology.

I enjoyed the interview. Fr. Makary explained a bit about his background and the history of the monastery. It sounds like a beautiful place.

After the interview I googled the monastery and found their website. It turns that one of their handicrafts is making ceramics. I am very impressed by their work. Since I was young I’ve loved pottery (in fact I’m drinking a cold coffee out a pottery mug my dad bought me two summers ago when we went to Prince Edward Island). I took some pottery classes when I was a child and then did some sculpting later as a teenager. Up until I moved away from Canada I would go down to the ocean, dig up some clay and sculpt away on my own. It strikes me as an ideal handicraft for monastics. This is what the monastery’s website has to say about how they got started:

“When [Fr. Sergei, the potter] finished high school, he felt he was in a vacuum of self-doubt and unbelief in many things around him. Then one day his spiritual father said to him “Learn to use your hands to make beautiful things…” and from that day in 1993 till today, Fr Sergei not only felt reborn once again by working the earth into vessels of beauty through the skill of his hands but aided him into entering the monastic path. For a person’s spiritual life is like a lump of clay that is squeezed, pressed and forced against its own nature in becoming a vessel of beauty at the end of the process.”

The monastery’s website also has a very helpful page which offers downloadable chanting tracks of the 8 Tones according to the Russian system so that those so inclined can learn a bit about chanting in that style. The tracks are very beautiful and soothing. You all should definitely take a listen.

If any of you Australian readers have visited this monastery I’d love to hear about your experiences. If you haven’t but plan to do so in the future please pray for us there and ask the fathers to do likewise.

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St. David of Thessaloniki

The following is attributed to an unnamed hermit living on Mount Athos and is taken from Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos’ book A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain, pp. 97-98). Although the hermit directs his speech to how one should and should not treat one’s elder (or geronda), I think it is clear that we should apply the same mindset to our own spiritual fathers in the world, and to our Orthodox priests in general.

The athlete of prayer must also see his Geronda “in the type of Christ,” as a Moses. And through the Geronda’s prayer power and prayers he is freed from slavery of Egypt and is delivered from the tyranny of Pharoh (passions).* The athlete of prayer must not see the weaknesses of his Geronda, which the devil exaggerates, but he must see his love towards God and his good properties. And if by chance he realizes that his Geronda has many sins and passions, even then he must avoid judging him, he must consider them as his own sins and shed abundant tears for them. St. Symeon the New Theologian describes this attitude very vividly, “If you live in a monastery you must never will to be against your spiritual father… even if you see him fornicating or getting drunk and you that the matters of the monastery are conducted badly; even if you are beaten and disgraced by him and you undergo many other afflictions. Do not sit with those who have in mind bad things against him. Endure him to the end without scrutinizing any of his misdoings. But put into your heart the many good things you see him doing and force yourself to remember only those; put the blame on yourself for all the improper or wrong things you see him doing or saying and consider them your own sins and repent for them with tears, taking him as a holy man and asking his blessing.” The athlete of prayer should do this to avoid judging his Geronda, in which case obedience and humility (the latter of which is the base and end result of obedience) are lost and so salvation itself is forfeited.

*There is a Greek song entitled “The Prayer” about one’s elder being a “noetic Moses,” and escaping slavery to “Pharoh.” In my upcoming book The Scent of Holiness I offer an English translation of the song, which you can hear here in Greek.

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Bells at St. Theodora’s Monastery, Thessaloniki

When the sisterhood has a great amount of work to be done they are given a blessing from the Abbess to continue working while a select few read the Hours, Vespers, Akathist, Paraclesis and Compline services in the church each evening. The monastery has a broadcasting system set up so that while the chanters do the services the other sisters can hear them via radio. (Since the monastery is so far into the mountains their own station is the only one they can access).  And so, wherever one is working all she needs to do is turn on the radio to hear the services.

During the two-week fasting period before the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God the sisters are required to finish their work before Vespers so that they can attend the services. After Vespers the sisterhood chants the Paraclesis service to the Mother of God. Throughout the whole Paraclesis the sisters do continual prostrations, and oddly they don’t mind because they are pleased to have the opportunity to “have to” attend the services.

However, most of the year they don’t have the opportunity to attend the evening services on account of all the work. Many times while visiting I have continued working with them, choosing to listen to Vespers on the radio. The last time I visited I was thinking about what a great idea it is for us in the world to also “attend” services even when we are not able to on account of work, children, illness or what have you. There are so many resources in our times. If we miss the Akathist hymn during Great Lent, we can listen to it on CD when we have the time. If we miss Vespers or Matins, there are CDs available for us to listen to. If we don’t own liturgical CDs, there is so much on Youtube we can listen to. We can also remedy not having services to listen to by recording ourselves reading various services in our free time. Then, when we don’t have time to attend weekday services, or whenever we want to listen to a service, we are able to. (Recording oneself and listening to it continuously is also a helpful tactic in memorizing services – like the Akathist hymn to Panagia).

This “tip” came to mind these last few days as I reflected on the custom of praying the Paraclesis to the Mother of God every night for the two-week fasting period. To hear this service chanted you can do so HERE. It is a three part video in English. I highly recommend it.

Having said all that, if we have the time and means, it is always better for us to attend church services in a church. But the next best thing is “attending” services whenever and wherever we may be. We control “where” we are by our will and our nous (mind).

My professor told me an elder once asked his friend after a service at the monastery: “Where were you during the service?”

The man replied he was in church. The elder told him he wasn’t. My professor testified in his defense: “I was standing beside him. We were both there.”

“No, he was elsewhere, surveying the land he is thinking about buying. Isn’t that right? You weren’t in church, but out looking at the land you might buy,” the elder responded.

The man was left dumbfounded. But he understood that although his body was in church his mind was wandering around, and that is the same as not coming to the service at all.

We must struggle to keep our attention on worship and prayer. If it strays we shouldn’t become distraught, we should simply call our mind back. Even if it happens a thousand times, the point is to struggle. Our thoughts have such strength that they can carry us away from church, and so conversely, our thoughts and will can take us to church even when our bodies are elsewhere.

This is why it is said that at the Second Coming of Christ, when the dead will arise, some who lived, died and were buried in the world will arise on Mt. Athos, while some monks who lived, died and were buried on Athos will arise in the world – indicating where each noetically passed his time during life.

And so, if you want to attend services, attend services whether or not you are able to go to church.

“Where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34).

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