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Archive for the ‘Orthodoxy in Different Lands’ Category

Looking through old files of photos and videos I found this video of the holy icon of Axion Esti (It is Truly Meet) arriving at the port of Thessaloniki from Mount Athos for the feast of St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and the 100th anniversary of the city’s liberation from Ottoman rule (October, 2012). We were blessed to be there and to record the procession which began at the port and led to the Church of St. Demetrios.

Below is the history of the icon, from the Pemptousia’s website here:

The icon or “Axion Esti”, which is said to be miraculous, is kept in the sanctuary. This is the most saintly icon of the whole monastic state. Placed on a throne behind the altar, it is about 3′ l’ by 2′ 2″ in size. The center of the icon is domi­nated by the Virgin holding the Child Jesus, while its oblong perimeter is occupied by twenty small medallions, each picturing the patron saints of the monasteries of Mt Athos. The following story is told about this icon. North-east of Karyes, in the direction of Pantokratoros monastery and at a place called Sakkos, there were a few kellia, one of them dedicated to the Assumption of the Bles­sed Virgin. One Saturday afternoon the Elder of this Kelli before starting for Karyes, where he intended to attend the vigils at the church of the Protaton, instructed his hypotaklikos to read the vespers himself. That evening a young monk who was a complete stranger appeared at the kelli and begged leave to stay for the night, which was granted. During matins next morning, the hypotaktikos was preparing to chant Kosmas’s hymn to the Virgin Mother before her icon. This begins with “Την τιμιωτέραν των χερουβείμ” (“More honourable than the Cherubim”) but he was in­terrupted by the visitor who started chanting the then unknown hymn “‘Αξιον εστίν ως αληθώς μακαρίζειν σε την Θεοτόκον, την αειμακάριστον και παναμώμητον και Μητέρα του Θεού ημών” (“It is truly meet to call thee blessed, the Theotokos and ever-virgin, all-immaculate and Mother of our God”).

Having finished this he continued with that of “Την τιμιωτέραν των χερουβείμ.” Greatly moved, the hypotaktikos begged the guest to write down the hymn for him. Finding no paper or ink he produced a marble slab on which the stranger carved the hymn with his bare finger. He ordered the monk that the hymn should thereafter be sung in praise of the Virgin. He then vanished. When the elder returned and was told what had passed between the hypotaktikos and the stranger, he at once notified the Assembly of the Elders at Karyes. Those had both the icon of the Virgin before which the angel-carved hymn was first sung, as well as the marble slab brought to the Protaton. The icon was placed on a throne in the sanctuary, with a hanging lamp burning before it day and night while the marble slab was sent to Constantinople and both the Emperor and the Patriarch were accordingly informed. Furthermore they communicated the event to al1 the fathers on the Holy Mountain, whom they instructed that the hymn should be sung henceforth. The kelli in question was named “Axion Estin” and its locality is still called “the Pit of Singing”.

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Unfortunately the English subtitles stop far too soon.

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leaf_flag_1200x600_wm-1024x512Today is Canada Day, so I feel a little Canadian Orthodox celebration is called for. The following article is from Orthodox Canada: A Journal of Orthodox Christianity (Vol. 2, No. 1 – Pascha 2007)

(Source)

The tiny community of L’Anse aux Meadows at the far northern tip of Newfoundland is distinguished among Canadian heritage sites as the oldest European settlement in Canada. Scarcely a dozen buildings remain of this Viking settlement, constructed over one thousand years ago by a group of Scandinavian settlers who appeared ready to make a new home in the frigid northlands of what would later become Canada.

It is almost certain that the tiny group was led by a Viking named Karlsefni, an associate of Leif Erikson (called Leif the Lucky, for his many extraordinary successes), one of the first Norsemen to accept baptism within a largely pagan culture. By the time these settlers arrived in Canada, Christianity and paganism were living side by side in northern Europe, and had not yet had the opportunity to discover the differences which would inevitably lead to conflict. The Norse were a pragmatic lot, whose religious zeal was usually focused on doing whatever it took to survive and to win. And the Christian God was the ultimate Victor.

A delightful story is told of the curious Viking habit of seeking repeat baptisms; it seems the Norsemen were drawn to baptism, every year, at the hands of Saint Ansgar and others, enjoying the fresh white shirt and ten silver talents they customarily received at the hands of the priest, if only they would allow themselves to be submerged beneath the sacred waters (Joseph Lynch, Christianizing Kinship, p. 73). For the average pragmatic Viking, multiple baptisms simply made sense: it conferred spiritual as well as material benefits desperately needed in a seagoing culture, where life was hard, brutish, and short.

It is understandable that Orthodox clergy in the Norse lands immediately curtailed the Viking zeal for multiple baptisms, just as soon as it came to their attention. (The throngs of Norsemen must have been a bit of a blur to the average missionary priest. One can only imagine the encounters and conversations between the eager Vikings and the bewildered clerics). But just as with mission work today, only God can plumb the depths of the heart of a Christian man, and perhaps the Vikings did have their fair share of zealous converts, offering silver crosses as illustrations to the Odin worshipers of the God Who destroyed Death Itself. For a Norseman, just as for us today, one cannot do better than that.

L’anse aux meadows

We know that the Norse seafaring parties who traveled to North America contained mixed crews of Thor-worshipers and Christians (Erikson himself started out as the former, and ended up, rather early in life, as the latter). We also know that one of the parties of settlers his adventures produced the first Canadian-born child of European extraction, a boy named Snorri, whose grandchildren included three bishops right around the time of the Great Schism (news of which traveled very slowly to Viking lands, in any case).

Perhaps here we have a glimpse of the first Christian community in Canada: a tiny one, to be sure, and not organized as far as the Church is concerned. Their firstborn child was almost certainly baptized, although probably back in the old country, once his parents joined their companions and fled from the North American natives who never seemed to take a liking to the Norse tendency to attack on sight. Outnumbered, far from home, and cold (yes, even Vikings get cold), it was perhaps inevitable that the first Orthodox settlement in Canada was not to last. It would seem the unfortunate trend of Orthodox Canadians looking back to the old country and not putting down roots in the west was established early on.

It is almost certain that no Orthodox priest was present at the first settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows. Yet archaeological digs further northwest on Baffin Island present an interesting possibility. A thirteenth-century Thule native site produced an intriguing relic: a tiny carved figure dressed in European clothing, with evidence of a cape over the shoulders, and a long cloth draped around the neck, hanging down to the feet – and marked with a cross. Robert McGhee, who specializes in Arctic archaeology at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, suggests this figure shows a crusader who served as a retainer for a viking captain. This is based on the theory that Christian clergy in northern Europe did not wear pectoral crosses until a much later period.

Yet we know both Saints Cuthbert and Adamnan, saints of the Orthodox west, both wore such crosses, as we can see today on display at the cathedral in Durham, in the north of England. It seems more difficult to believe that a crusader would have traveled thousands of miles with pagan Vikings, rather than a Christian priestmonk, seeking out mission territory, or more likely, seeking a remote monastic home, as we know the Celts did in Greenland centuries before. Whether this figure represented an Orthodox priest or a cleric of the western Latins after the Schism, we’ll likely never know.

But for Orthodox Christians in Canada, the rubble at L’Anse aux Meadows and the carving from Baffin Island remind us that a minute Orthodox presence likely existed in Canada long before two world wars, and long before the Reformation. These facts confirm that the first Christians to set foot on our soil were from what is sometimes erroneously called the “undivided Church” – the Orthodox Church before the breaking away of Rome. And our brother Leif the Lucky, along with his kinsmen at L’Anse aux Meadows – and perhaps even a lone priestmonk on Baffin island, were what one might think of as founding members of the first Orthodox community in Canada – whether they knew it, or not.

Father Geoffrey Korz of All Saints of North America Church in Hamilton, ON (Pascha, 2007)

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Christ is risen!

A film about the Bevreti Monastery, Georgia, built by the initiative of Fr Teimuraz with the blessing of Patriarch IIia II.

Awarded the St Andrew Cross at the International Orthodox Film Festival 2013.

Director/Writer: David Kemkhadze
Genre: Documentary
Country: Georgia
Archdiocese: Georgian Apostolic Church
Nominations: Best Film, Best Director

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If you’re interested in learning more about Holy Lady Vladimir OCA Mission here on Newfoundland you can visit our website here. There is also a link to the website at the bottom right hand side of this blog just under the blogroll: If you click on the icon of the Mother of God of Vladimir it will take you directly there.

troparion3

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FINALE

Wednesday, April 2:

Time: 6:30PM

Location: Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, Saco, Maine

Theme: If You Wish, You Can Become All Flame”: Learning from the Holy Mothers and Fathers of the Church

 

Friday, April 4:

Time: 6:30PM

Location: Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, Saco, Maine

Theme: Experiences of Orthodoxy in South Korea, Greece and Newfoundland

 

Saturday, April 5:

Time: 2:30PM

Location: Saint Xenia Orthodox Church (ROCOR), Methuen, Massachusetts

Theme:If You Wish, You Can Become All Flame”: Learning from the Holy Mothers and Fathers of the Church

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pilgrimA Pilgrim’s Way is an Orthodox documentary about a young Romanian-Canadian man who travels to his homeland in search of truth and faith. I enjoyed all eight parts of the documentary, but particularly those parts wherein we hear the voices of contemporary holy elders living out the Gospel in Orthodox Romania. Here are my two favourtie parts (Part 4/8 and Part 8/8):

In this part I particularly found the young novice’s words important for us to keep in mind: In a year and half of living in the monastery and praying as much as his could, he felt – for only four to five minutes during prayer – that God was with him, that he could die at that moment and be with God. The rest of the time he struggled to pray (Minute 6).

We are often mislead to think that we are spiritual people and have had spiritual experiences, but the reality is prayer, spirituality, experiences of grace are won after long and hard battles.

This last part is by far the best segment of the whole documentary because it is the young man’s interviews with great elders. When he asks a monk about the Jesus Prayer the monk responds, “I have done architecture but I am not certified in it… The prayer of the heart you can fight a lifetime for it and you still don’t get it… Do little and well” (Minute 4-5). Very solid advice! The effort we put into prayer should be consistent and be done with our full attention, however short or long we pray.

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Christmas morning (on which, coincidentally, we had a huge snow storm).

We’ve been here just under three months, but so much has happened: a constant stream of services, a trip to Ontario, a season-change, and completing my first semester of my SW program. All of this make it feel like we’ve been here a lot longer than we have. We haven’t had the chance to see much of the city because we don’t have a car so our sight-seeing is limited to what we see on foot, walking to the chapel and walking to the grocery store. But what we see along the way is nice!

Although it has become winter with plenty of snow – the lack of sidewalk-plowing is noted by anyone attempting to walk anywhere – we are rejoicing in the cold. Everyone keeps asking us how we’re making out, having lived away from these cold Canadian winters for quite a number of years, but everyday we have to bundle up we thank God it isn’t hot outside. Yup, you read correctly, we thank God it isn’t hot out. Although, the five or more storms we’ve had in the last three weeks do bring their own annoyances (shoveling again!?). We had such a difficult time during those hot, humid Thessaloniki summers that we’re looking on the bright side of bundling up. (But ask me after three more months of winter if I still feel that way).

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Since we’ve arrived in Newfoundland we have, through the help of God, offered services at the chapel four days a week. Tuesday mornings we’ve had Matins at 6AM and Divine Liturgy at 7AM so parishoners can attend before work in the morning. These early morning services have been beautiful, but I am not a morning person… at all. So waking up at 5AM and walking half an hour to get to the chapel, chanting Matins and then struggling to stay awake while our devoted choir director sings Divine Liturgy has been an interesting trial for me. Thankfully, 5AM feels more like the middle of the night rather than early morning so waking up isn’t difficult, staying awake is. Father serves Vespers on Thursday evenings and Great Vespers on Saturday evenings. Sunday mornings I again blunder my way through Matins and the choir sings Liturgy for us.

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Now that the weather has turned on us, snowing every single day and what not, we’ve tweaked our schedule for these upcoming winter months. We’ll keep the weekend schedule and replace the two weekday services with a vigil (Vespers, Matins, and Divine Liturgy) twice a month or on principle feasts like St. Anthony the Great in January.  (This excludes the three days or so of services for Theophany this month).  Come Spring we’ll revise our schedule once again.

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Returning from church one Tuesday morning (this was only our second storm).

We are thankful to be here; we’re taking one day at a time and struggling to keep on the “strait and narrow path”. It has been amazing to think we are the only Orthodox community on the whole island. When Fr. John serves the Divine Liturgy he always prays “And for this island… and the faithful who dwell therein, let us pray to the Lord”. I love it. Even if the voice of the Orthodox faithful here is small, the prayers still reach Heaven and the whole island and all its inhabitants benefit from the Bloodless sacrifice offered here in St. John’s town – named in honour of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist of our Lord and Saviour.

View of St. John's from Cape Spear

View of St. John’s from Cape Spear at sunset

And something else: the most eastern point of all of North America is Cape Spear (pictured above), just outside of St. John’s. This means that on Tuesday mornings when the sun rises on this great Continent of ours the very first city the sun’s rays land on is a city in which the Divine Liturgy is being served. During these darker days the first sun rays come into our chapel’s windows around 7:30AM, about halfway through the Liturgy, just before the consecration. Think about what a blessing that is, not just for St. John’s or even Newfoundland, but for all of North America! The sun’s rays are greeted by the Divine Liturgy, or perhaps more correctly, the sun’s rays greet the Divine Liturgy.

So, you can see that our life here is one filled with subtle blessings. Of course it is was particularly hard in the beginning (not that it’s not still the beginning). I was simultaneously homesick for Greece and New Brunswick. I also had a lot of counter-culture shock still from having returned to Canada from Greece. I have never been good with change, but once I settle I feel at home. And the people here are so good-natured and helpful, although Fr. John does get stared at wildly at times (to be expected). In fact he received his first insult here from a car full of young men being boys, God bless them. He thinks he may have received a few insults in Greece that he just didn’t understand, but we rejoiced in this minor insult for Christ’s sake nonetheless.

sucess kidPlease continue to pray for us: living on the edge of the world on this “Rock” surrounded by the Atlantic brings blessings and challenges.

Take comfort. Amid all the coldness that transforms people’s hearts into snowballs, there are still sparks – burning coals and hearths of spiritual life in the modern world. Wherever a child stammers a quick prayer through innocent lips;… wherever a faithful mother prayers for her children’s salvation; wherever a young man or woman in the flower of youth offers himself or herself to the Lord’s service;… wherever a missionary goes through the virgin jungles to spread the light of the Gospel to spiritually unenlightened lands; wherever there is a mighty battle against the dark powers; wherever sinners repent sincerely for their miserable past… and seek forgiveness in Confession; wherever there are holy pulsations; wherever hearts are warmed in reading the Scriptures – there are the sparks, the blazing coals, the spiritual hearth, the living Church. There is where Christ lives and reigns to the ages of ages.

Faithful souls, whenever earthquakes topple our world and whenever you see the ruins left behind by the faithlessness and corruption of our times, do not be disturbed. You have a rock upon which you can stand and an anchor upon which you can depend… You have the sun that rose out of the tomb – Jesus, crucified and resurrected from the dead. Why are you afraid? What is there to fear? Come, let us worship and bow down to Him, Christ, the Victor over Death, the King of the Ages. -Metropolitan Augoustinos of Florina, Follow Me, p. 269.

Compline, Christmas Eve.

Compline, Christmas Eve.

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Below are two chapters of a sixteen-chapter short story I wrote a few years ago about the great Czech king and martyr Weneceslaus (or St. Vaclav as he is also called in the Orthodox Church). His title was actually Duke of Bohemia but he was named “King” posthumously as an honour. The short story is based on true events and people in his life. (Podevin, for example, was believed to be the name of the saint’s faithful page). The famous Christmas carol Good King Weneceslaus tells of a miracle the saint worked on the “feast of Stephen” which we in the Orthodox Church celebrate on December 27. St. Vaclav’s feast day is September 27, and his holy grandmother St. Ludmilla’s feast day is September 16. Enjoy!

Chapter One:

He who gives to the poor will lack nothing” (Proverbs 28:27)

The night was dark, the sky rich with the light of many stars. The white snow lay sparkling as it reflected the glow of the half moon. Every now and again a gusty wind swept the snow up into a spiral, dancing.

“Even the earth rejoices in Your birth, O Lord!” the Duke of Bohemia whispered as he gazed out from a large window of Prague castle. 

“Sire, could I offer you a cup of hot wine?” the page asked, interrupting Duke Václav’s thoughts, having entered the room without notice.

“No, thank you, my good page,” the Duke responded, leaning forward and straining to see a moving figure, hindered by the high snow.

“Podevin, that old man there, gathering wood, do you know him?”

            “Why yes, Sire. That’s Old Hermit Jiří. He lives not far from here,” the young page responded, now standing by his master’s side at the window.

“Where exactly does he live?”

“Oh I would say a mile or so hence, just at the foot of Blaník mountain, quite close to St. Agnes’s spring, in fact.”

“Well then, why don’t we go pay him a visit, and wish him a happy Christmas?”

“But Sire, it’s awfully cold out tonight. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather have one of your men in arms go in your stead?”

“No, no, my boy, after all, the Lord King our God became incarnate Himself, He didn’t send someone else in His stead, so neither shall I,” the Duke said, patting the page’s back.

“Say, go fetch some wine and bread. It’s best if we bear some gifts with us for the old hermit,” the Duke told the page.

“Oh, and grab a bundle of kindling as well, would you?” he added.

“May it be blessed, Sire,” Podevin said, bowing to his master and exiting the room.

Václav, finding himself alone, walked over to the illumined corner of his bedchamber and stood before a wooden board in front of which burned a small, red glass oil lamp. On the board was painted an image of the Incarnate Lord, gently held in the arms of His mother.

He who holds all creation in His hand, today is born of a virgin. He whose essence none can touch, today is bound in swaddling clothes as a child. He who in the beginning established the heavens, today is laid in a manger.

“I worship Your birth, O Christ, my King!” the Duke finally said aloud. Crossing himself, he bent low, resting his knees on the ground as he lowered his head.

Hearing footsteps echoing through the corridor he quickly stood up, not wanting anyone to see his moment of reverence.

“Here we are Sire, ready for our visit,” the page said, gesturing toward the basket he held, clearly weighed down by generosity.

“Well done, my boy. Let us be off then.”

They walked down the long passageway together, stopping before exiting the large castle in order to dress appropriately for the cold night.

“We should be plenty warm, don’t you think Podevin?” Duke Václav asked cheerfully.

“I should hope so, Sire,” Podevin responded, betraying a look of doubt.

“Well then, may an angel of peace accompany us, directing our way before the Lord,” the Duke proclaimed, and taking the glass lantern from off the wall he set out.

“Amen, so be it,” the young page contributed, a response he had grown accustomed to sharing.

Chapter Two:

“He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do” (John 14:12)

 Bundled up, bearing light and gifts, the two set off into the night. Vácslav walking confidently ahead while the page, about ten years the Duke’s junior, trudged along behind him as quickly as he could.

The walk to St. Agnes’s spring was nothing short of a stroll in fine weather. Why, the page had often gone there with his father as a child. But the snow made the walk much longer, and the cold much less pleasant.

As time passed the page, only a teenager, fell further and further behind. For each step he took in the snow, it seemed he slipped two feet back.

“Come now, Podevin, give over the basket. You shouldn’t have been carrying it to begin with!”

“No, Sire, please, it’s disgraceful and inappropriate for you to carry it,” the page protested.

“Now, now, don’t think that way. Why, how is it that you expect me, a ruler, to treat the ruled as less important than myself? And especially on this the very day we celebrate the divine condescension of the King of all!

“He who is worshiped by angels, saw fit to be born in a cave alongside dumb beasts. No, I don’t think myself worthier than any other. I’m just His lowly servant, ruling on earth, but desiring only to be ruled by Him,” the Duke finished, taking the basket from his page.

“I’m sorry, Sire, it’s only that the wind blows hard against us and I find the snow too high to walk through at such a brisk pace.”

“Of course, I understand. Why don’t you step in my imprints instead, I think you’ll find it easier to continue that way,” Václav suggested.

To Podevin’s surprise, not only was walking made easier by stepping in the Duke’s footprints, but indescribable warmth emitted from each one.

How can this be? the page thought. How can the snow, imprinted by the Duke’s stride, give off warmth?

But knowing his master well he abstained from asking such burning questions. He knew from experience it always made the Duke uncomfortable when someone pointed out the benefits and comforts that came of his words, his ways, his very gaze.

“Where to?” Václav asked, gesturing toward the wall of forest they had come upon. “Can you remember where the old father’s hut is from here?”

“Yes, Master, it’s there, through the trees and to our right. We’re not at all far now.”

They continued trekking along through the snow, now significantly more high – though noticeably contributing to the Duke’s joy.

“How I love this blessed white!” he exclaimed.

“There, Sire, draw your light over here. I believe that is Old Hermit Jiří’s hut.”

“So it must be,” the Duke said.

And drawing closer the two were both surprised to see the door to the hut open before they were even a stone’s throw away from it.

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” the old man called out, opening wide the door of his small hut. His thick grey beard and scruffy hair were illuminated by the light coming from behind him.

“Greetings, my good man,” the Duke said in his deep and cheerful voice. “Christ is born!” he called out, still in the thick of the forest.

“Glorify Him!” the old man responded, smiling and bowing low to greet the ruler of his homeland.

“You were expecting us?” the page asked, surprised by the way the hermit conducted himself, as if he had invited them and was anticipating their arrival for some time now.

            “All who arrive are invited, and not even one passes by who is not,”  the old hermit answered, his eyes sparkling the reflection of light from Václav’s lantern.

“Come in, come in! May my humble abode be as comforting to you as your majestic castle,” the hermit said, guiding them further into the one room that appeared to make up the entire hut.

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(Repost from here) 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.

“Should we say them?”

 

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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