Archive for the ‘Hymns and Prayers’ Category
I hope everyone had a very blessed and spiritually profitable two-week fast for the feast of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Mother of our God. I hope you celebrate her Dormition with great joy – for despite physical death she lives: “And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads” (Rev. 22: 4).
Τhird Stasis (Tone 3)
1. Ev’ry generation / to thy grave comes bringing / its dirge of praises, O Virgin.
2. All of creation / to the grave comes bringing / a farewell hymn to our Lady.
3. Christ’s holy Disciples / tend to the body / of Mary, Mother of my God.
4. Orders of Angels / and Archangels / invisibly hymn her presence.
5. Pious Women / with the Apostles / now cry out their lamentations.
6. She who was at Cana / at the marriage / hath been called with the Apostles.
7. The Master descendeth / to Gethsemane / with countless hosts of heaven.
8. The choir of the Disicples / seeing the Lord descend / in glory greatly rejoiceth.
9. Let the earth leap for joy / as it beholdeth / our God from heaven descending.
10. Let us go out quickly / meeting the Lord Jesus / Who cometh once more among us.
12. Let us be attentive / God now speaketh / with His most pure Mother.
13. Most sweet Mother / come and rejoice with / thine own most sweet Child, Jesus.
14. Behold now thy Son / cometh to bring thee / into His home in the heavens.
15. Come, My most lovely one / and enjoy the beauty / of thine own Son thy Maker.
16. Come indeed, My Mother / come into divine joy / and enter into the kingdom.
17. What will I bring Thee / O my Son, the God – Man / the Maiden cried to the Master.
18. What will I bring Thee / O my God in heaven / except my soul and body.
19. The Father I glorify / to the Son I sing a hymn / the Holy Spirit I worship.
20. Adam and Eve came out / to behold the glory / of their own Virgin offspring.
21. Blessed be the parents / Joachim and Anna / who for the world bore a daughter.
22. Grant to thy Church peace/ to thy flock salvation / through thy most holy Dormition.
During his time as a political prisoner, William Paris, Chaucer’s contemporary, wrote what has been called “The Legend of Christina” (1397 or so). Originally written in Middle English, below are excerpts from a Modern English translation from Chaste Passion: Medieval English Virgin Martyr Legends, edited and translated by Karen A. Winstead pp. 63-69. I would have preferred to post the original in Middle English, but alas I could only find a very small excerpt on the internet.
Holy Saint Christina, pray to God for us! (And happy name’s day to my mum!)
That maiden had gods of shiny gold and silver in the tower with her, which she was supposed to worship and honor day and night. But suddenly almighty God sent help: he made her yearn to bring her soul to heaven’s light. The holy ghost within Christine taught her to forsake every one of her false gods, which are only pallid sticks and stones. She resolved to fear nothing but think only of heaven. See how God can turn non-Christians into his holy martyrs! Some – like good Saint John the Baptist – had grace before they were born; some – like fair Christine – acquired it in their youth; and some – as we can see in Paul’s life – got it after youth was gone…
She had incense, but she hid it in a window, and she did so in good conscience, for she intended never to sacrifice to the false gods of heathendom, no matter who told her to. She asked Christ that she might be martyred before that happened!
One day Urban wanted to see his daughter. Christine’s attendants all said, “Lord Urban, we tell you that your daughter and our noble lady scorns our goes and everything has to do with them. In fact, she says she’ll be a Christian if she can!”
“Fetch her,” said Urban. “I want her brought before the bar and I’ll try to make her change her wicked ideas. She said she wasn’t my daughter… She broke my richly crafted gods. No wonder I’m furious!
Then the lovely maiden Christine said to her father, who sat so high, “What an honor you’re doing me by no calling me the devil’s daughter! The child of a devil is a devil himself, and you father, are the direct descendant off that cursed fiend satan!”
Urban then commanded that her clear white flesh be scraped from her bones with sharp hooked nails… By Saint John, it was a shame to see what was done to that maiden!
When day had gone and night had come, they tied an exceedingly heavy stone around her neck, then they threw her into the sea. But once that evil deed had been done, lovely angels came from heaven and, through God’s grace and great power, held her up. Then Christ himself through God’s grace and great power, held her up. Then came down and baptized Christine in the sea. It w is written that he said these very words: “In my father and in myself Jesus Christ, God’s heavenly son, and in the holy ghost, us three, I baptize you with the water.”
Saint Christine said, with heart and soul, “Thank you, God in majesty for all you’ve done to show your might through me. In all my ordeals you’ve protected me, letting neither fire nor water harm me. Now I think it’s time for me to be brought to the fair bliss of heaven.”
[Julian] beside himself with fury, he shot her with three arrows. Two landed in her heart, the third in her side. When Christine was struck, her soul want to radiant heaven, where she would feel no more pain.
Her body lies in a strong castle – the book calls it Bolsena – where many sick people have recovered their health, and many blind people have recovered their sight. I truly believe that if anyone prays earnestly to that damsel, she will help him with all her might – if what they want is good and right.
Jesus Christ, God’s mighty son, who came down to amend our ills and settled in a pure virgin, Mary, now your mother, grant that all who have heard this will see you in heaven. Let them see you sitting there in bliss with Christine, your radiant maiden! Amen.
Translated by Sebastian P. Brock
O discerning listeners, come and listen to the dispute between Marina and Satan, and sing praise to the Lord of all.
St Marina and Satan: A Syriac dialogue poem
The Evil One said to Marina, the dearly beloved virgin,
‘Desert and Sown , in their envy, have spoken falsehood against you’.
‘Every word Desert and Sown have spoken against me is in falsehood:
in the name of the Lord do I put my hope to escape victorious from them’.
‘In the name of the Lord you shall escape if you pay attention and listen to me, my daughter:
reveal your identity, that you are a woman, and you will escape from all guile’.
‘Those men and women who have emerged victorious first entered into trials and were rescued
by the hope they held in the name of the Lord – and like them I too have hope’.
‘ I have revealed and shown you the right path by which you shall be victorious, but you won’t listen;
I am greatly upset in my concern for you, and my pain won’t go away since you won’t listen to me’.
‘My skin cleaves to my bones [Lam.4:8]: I have greatly toiled in my labours so as to be numbered among males in order to steal
righteousness from them’.
‘If you wish to be numbered among males, listen to what I have to say to you:
go and reveal your identity, how you are a woman, and then go and live in the world along with men’.
‘What you have to say is miles away from what I have in mind:
my desire is to die in the wild and I shall not do what you have said’.
‘This wild place shall be your tomb and you will not get away from trials,
for if you don’t listen to my words, you will die and perish, with your hope cut off’.
‘Great woe is reserved for you and for whoever listens to any of your words.
There is hope in God, and those who hope in him are not ashamed’. [Ps 25:3]
‘It is a double woe that you will have if you fail to listen to any of my words:
you will die in the wilderness and wild beasts and birds of prey will devour you’.
‘I will sing praise while I live, [Ps 146:2] while I have a place where to sing;
and whether I live or whether I die, it is to the Lord I belong all the time’.
‘Sing on then, and don’t stop for in a little while your song will come to an end;
you will go down to Sheol without hope and your lot will be a double woe’. [cp Ps 31:18, 55:16]
‘The Lord is living and holy is his name, and whoever hopes in him will not be ashamed: [Ps 25:3]
from this monastery I will not depart. and will not go away from its gate’.
‘Savage animals are roaring, eager to rip you apart, and vultures too;
if you don’t carry out my advice they will tear you apart and drink up your blood’.
‘A great blessing will be mine if they tear my body apart and drink up my blood,
for my Lord is the Lord of all: he will not do what you have said’.
‘So torture you consider a blessing? What then do you think of eternal woe?
Flee from the error in your mind; follow my advice and live’.
‘Let the sea and land testify concerning me, the heavens too, and all that is in them, [cp Deut 4:26, 31:28]
that I renounce you and your words: cursed is your counsel, and accursed your name’.
‘I know that women don’t have much intelligence or brain, for they don’t know what they are saying,
and they do what is harmful to themselves’.
‘All the advice that you give is bad; your words are bad too because you are bad:
as our Lord said in his Gospel, “a tree that is bad bears bad fruit”’. [Matt7:17]
‘Check your words, stupid woman, and shut up: you don’t realize it is your duty to save yourself,
as far as you are able, and live a normal life, and not perish’.
‘Accursed are your words, Satan, and accursed is the instruction which you teach.
for your mouth is full of cursing and wickedness, and on your tongue are fraud and deceit’.
‘You haven’t read or learnt the Scripture; you are ignorant and you don’t listen.
My words and utterance are full of truth, and deceit is far from my heart’.
‘If I listen to you I will indeed perish, for you have set a trap that leads to perdition,
and I won’t be able to save myself if I listen to you and your counsel’.
‘My advice is crystal clear, its light is illumined by the sun, but because the light of your mind is darkened
you don’t see the light even when it shines out’.
‘Take a rest from laying your traps, for I shall break them all up:
I place my hope in Jesus’ name and no harm will come to me’.
‘You should give a rest to your words: that I should rest is not my wish.
It is a great sin that you commit if you remain in this wild place.
‘You will do yourself harm at the hands of marauding robbers:
if they realize you are a woman I don’t know what they will do to you!’.
‘The hope that I’ve placed in God will rescue me and I will not be harmed;
he is the hope of the poor and the orphans, and to all who hope on him’.
‘Escape from all sorts of harm while you still have a chance to escape:
don’t put the Lord, your Lord, to the test, hoping he will perform a miracle with you’.
‘It is from you that I will make my escape and I won’t touch your words of advice;
if I escape from you and your words, then will I be accounted blessed!’.
Satan replied and said ‘If you reveal that you are a woman all the abuse you are getting
will go away and then you can sing praise and rejoice’.
‘I will not give you any answer for all your talk is importunate:
all that you say is false. You give a lot of advice, but you are the one who needs it’.
‘Cruel crosses are set up in readiness for you on every side:
summer is preparing burning heat for you, and winter, snow and ice’.
‘Our Saviour endured the Cross because of our human race, and if he holds me
worthy to endure it, then this will be a great blessing for me’.
‘Get up and prepare yourself to receive crosses, sufferings and torments which evil people,
and the monks, will bring upon you – just as you are wanting!’.
‘I have already received these from you, and I will do so in future for I am ready for suffering:
whether from you, O Evil One, or from human beings, from wild animals, or from reptiles’.
‘It is pride that women love, and boasting is in their heart, but in a little while they grow weak and are defeated:
then tears start coming, flowing from their eyes!’.
‘Yes, women love pride – as you have said in your pride; but they are humble before their Lord, while it is you and your pride they will trample down’.
Give peace to your Church and her children with that peace that pacifies all; rebuke the Evil One and his band: let them be scattered like smoke! [cp Ps 37:20]
Let peace reign in the midst of your Church; let fights and schisms be brought to an end:may they be brought under your yoke and do service before you.
May your handmaid enter her monastery and in the Holy of Holies offer up to you a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving – and may both Desert and Sown be joined in peace.
May my supplication enter and be accepted in the presence of your divine tribunal; may the Evil One and his band feel shame, and may the Church be radiant in giving praise!
The virgin Fevronia, confesses Christ;
Before judgment standing, bloody and pale.
As a palm branch, the young Fevronia;
From beautiful fruit, a branch became heavy.
And to Selinus she speaks: “A Bridegroom, have I,
And no type of honour, from you do I accept.
Christ is my glory, Christ is my pride;
O yes, the beautiful countenance of my Bridegroom!
Cut off, cut off my feet – paths they have travelled!
Cut off, cut off my hands – work they have completed!
Cut out, cut out my tongue – with my heart I will pray!
Smash, smash my mouth – with my heart, I will speak!
Whip, crush the body – why do I need the body?
A more beautiful garment, the Bridegroom has prepared;
Among many holy ones, in the heavens above;
Among the angels, in sweet Paradise.
Do not think Selinus, that when I depart,
That the fury of your life will die.
But hear me and remember: behold the same day
Before the Living God, together we will go:
You as a torturer and I, tortured by you,
Each, his deeds, will bring with him.
Christ is Risen!
(An excerpt from Abbess Thaisia’s book Letters to a Beginner: On Giving One’s Life to God, pp. 90-91)
The event which I want to tell you about took place on one of the Saturdays of Great Lent. After dinner both novices went away somewhere, and the nun, taking advantage of the solitude, wanted to pray. Here is what she told me about this occurrence: “I remember only that I began to recite the Akathist to the Sweetest Jesus, Whose presence I still felt in my heart, for that day I had received the Holy Mysteries. I read an ikos, I read another, and I felt that my soul became ever more and more moved and warmed by the love towards the Lord. I remember that I gradually began to wholly tremble both in soul and body, pouring out tears. My physical powers failed me, and in order not to fall I knelt and prostrated before the holy icons, continuing to read the Akathist mentally. It seems that I read it to the middle, but after that I don’t remember anything. Everything around me in the cell, the very floor on which I lay prostrate, everything as it were vanished somewhere, and it seemed to me all different, as though afar off was the Throne of God with Jesus Himself seated on it. Around the Throne was a very great number of those who stood – I don’t know whether they were people or angels – but they all sang wonderfully, wonderfully well. I stood there behind everyone and rejoiced. Anything more I don’t remember and cannot say. Whether this vision lasted long I also don’t know; only afterwards my cell attendants told me that when they came into the cell and saw me cast down before the icons, they thought at first that I was praying, but then seeing that I didn’t arise for a long time, they took me for being asleep and began to call me by name, but without success – and left me in peace. When I came to myself from the wonderful rapture and vision, there was again no one in the cell, for which I was very glad. The floor, on the place where my head had lain, was copiously wet with tears, as though water had been spilled on it. That meant that my bodily members were not devoid of life at that time – my eyes shed streams of tears, but I didn’t feel it and didn’t know. Or to speak more correctly, I didn’t know at all what was happening with me; but the sweetness which filled my heart in those most holy moments long remained in it, as a pledge of the heavenly visit.”
You see Sister, examples of lofty, contemplative prayer of nuns contemporary to us. Who hinders you and us from attaining this height? In the books of the Holy Fathers there are very many similar kinds of examples, but I purposely brought you ones from lives of our own times, because we, reading and listening to narratives about the great exploit of the saints often say in our justification: “Then there were saints!… That was in those former times! But now people are weak and our time is not then!” So, behold, understand from experience that even now there are true strugglers. Neither the time nor the place makes a man holy, but his good free volition and firm will. Pray unremittingly, and the Lord will not deprive you of His blessing.
CHRIST IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤH! HRISTOS INVIAT!
Having struggled through the Fast now we celebrate in the Feast:
Yesterday I was buried with Thee and today I arise in Thine arising. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee glorify Thou me Thyself with Thee O Saviour in Thy Kingdom.
Into incorruptible life have I entered today through the goodness of Him Who was born of thee, O pure one.
And Who maketh all the ends of the earth radiant with light.
Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A Crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of Angels. He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds. He received buffetings Who freed Adam in Jordan. He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. Show also unto us thy glorious Resurrection.
I wish you all a very glorious Pascha – may you be filled with the Light which is Christ as we celebrate His victory over death for our sake! We’ll talk next week, God willing.
Pray for us! Fr. John has been doing all the services, and although he’s still going strong I can see his energy is slowly decreasing (as a priest in Nova Scotia was quoted as saying: “Christ is risen! The priest is dead!”)
(Repost from last year)
St. Cassiane (commemorated on September 7) is one of few female hymnographers in the Church. She was born into an aristocratic family some time before 805 and lived during the height of the iconoclastic period. From an early age she desired to become a nun and by the grace of God managed to pursue the monastic life. She was tonsured around 820 and founded a monastery on one of the seven hills in Constantinople. Despite her responsibilities as abbess, she wrote countless hymns and poems, many of which were sung by her nuns, and eventually incorporated into the Church’s liturgical books.
Many of St. Cassaine’s hymns are famous; one of her most famous hymns is sung during the Matins service of Holy Saturday. It foreshadows Christ’s glorious victory over death: “Weep not for me, O Mother, as you now see me buried whom you conceived within your belly seedlessly, your Son, for I shall rise from the dead and shall be glorified and as God shall in glory unceasingly exult those who longingly praise you in faith…” But the most famous of all her hymns is sung on Holy Tuesday evening. This hymn tells the story of “the sinful woman” from the Gospel of St. Luke and often leaves its many listeners in tears.
And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she found out that He was reclining at table in the house of a Pharisee, brought an alabaster of perfumed ointment, and she stood beside His feet behind Him, weeping; and she began to wet His feet with her tears, and was wiping them off again with the hairs of her head, and she was kissing His feet ardently and anointing them with the perfumed ointment (Luke 7: 37-38).
The above woman’s identity is disputed. Some think she is St. Mary of Bethany, the sister of Sts. Martha and Lazarus, others think she is St. Mary Magdalene, still others think she is someone else. We know she cannot be St. Mary of Bethany, however, for her story of anointing Christ’s feet is told in the Gospel of St. Matthew (26:6-7). It is unlikely that she is St. Mary Magdalene, for it would have been unnecessary to keep her name hidden when she is later revealed to be one of Christ’s disciples. No, this sinful woman is unknown, and yet one of the most well remembered penitents in all of history. Her story, as told poetically by the nun and hymnographer Cassiane, paints a story of sin and salvation:
Lord, O Lord, when the woman, who had fallen into many sins, perceived Your divinity she assumed the role of a myrhh-bearing woman, and lamenting brought ointment to anoint You before Your burial. “Woe is me,” she said “for night is forming a frenzy without restraint.” Very dark and moonless, a passionate love affair with sin. “Accept the fountain of my tears, You who draw out from the clouds the water of the sea, take pity on me and incline to the sighing of my heart, You who bowed the heavens by Your ineffable self-emptying. I shall cover your unstained feet with kisses and wipe them dry again with the locks of my hair. Those feet whose sound at twilight in Paradise of old echoed in Eve’s ears whereupon she hid herself in fear. The countless number of my sins and the depth of Your Judgment, who can fathom? O my life-saving Saviour. Do not despise me Your servant since without measure is your mercy!” (To hear this hymn in its original language, go here. Or listen to the English version below.)
What can I say about such spiritual poetry? St. Cassiane saw the sinful woman’s repentance with clear sight. When she read the words in the Gospel she understood their spiritual potency and conveyed it in her hymn. And her poem reveals her own repentant heart. For how can one express the piercing, redemptive pain of repentance without having been wounded by it themselves?
The imagery she uses surpasses any praise I could offer. How profound to equate sin with night, “very dark and moonless” indeed! Not even the moon is able to suffer shedding light upon our sins. And what is the moon? What is its source of light? – the sun. The light of the moon is merely a reflection of the light of the sun, the source of light. Like our Panagia (the All-holy Mother of God), reflecting the light of her Son and our God, how often does she hide her face from us when we sin? Where is the light of God to be found illuminating those dark moments?
Our first mother Eve is woven into the story. She, being naked – no longer wearing the garment of illumination – hid herself in fear. She hid herself because she was guilty of sin. In contrast, the sinful woman reveals her nakedness. She reveals it to Christ, and not just Him alone, but also to the Pharisse (in whose house Christ was staying) and all those present. Why does the one woman hide her nakedness and the other reveal it?
Eve was guilty of sin, and thus, out of shame (not humility) she hid her nakedness, her sin. The sinful woman, burning with repentance and love for our life-saving Saviour hastened to reveal her nakedness so that Christ would be pleased to look upon her sincerity and forgive her sins.
I admire the sinful woman’s bold repentance, to purchase costly ointment, to enter the house of a pharisee with no regard to what others would think of her, and “ardently kiss” the Lord’s feet! What humility, what repentance, what love! I hope that through the prayers of the sinful woman, and those of St. Cassiane the Hymnographer, we might inherit the same humble-mindedness, and celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection with contrite hearts.
May God make us worthy!