Monday, 4 January 2021

Saint Kassiani the Hymnographer BATA BARDAK


 On Tuesday the 17th of November 2020, Bata Bardak conducted a zoom seminar for Spiritual Reading Group on the 9th-century Byzantine abbess Kassia, or Kassiani the Hymnographer. Here is his introductory paper. 

Kassiani (also known as Kassia) (1) was regarded as the most prominent female melodist of her time and is one of the most famous women of Byzantium. Critics of Greek poetry, both religious and secular, consider her the most distinguished poetess of the Greek Middle Ages (2). Born in Constantinople at the beginning of the ninth century, (almost three centuries before Hildegard of Bingen), she was an abbess, poet, composer and hymnographer, and is one of the first medieval composers whose musical scores are both extant and able to be interpreted by modern scholars. Forty-nine hymns used in the Orthodox Church are attributed to her, of which twenty-three have been established as genuine. In addition to her hymns another 789 secular verses in the form of epigrams and gnomic verse are attributed to her by tradition or manuscript authority. 

Although Kassiani has left such a rich literary and musical legacy, and in spite of her fame, or perhaps because of her fame, her life has unfortunately become shrouded with many myths over the centuries. Early traditions tell of how the strikingly beautiful Kassiani participated in the “bride-show” organized for the young emperor, Theophilos, by his stepmother Euphrosyne. This ceremony involved the parading of eligible young women before the emperor, who was to choose his wife by giving her a golden apple. Dazzled by Kassiani’s beauty, Theophilos approached her only to receive a terse rebuttal. His ego wounded, Theophilos instead chose the more docile Theodora as his wife. Heartbroken and smitten by remorse Kassiani retired to a convent to become a nun. This story also appears in Edward Gibbon’s eighteenth-century history of the decline of the Roman Empire. (3)

Over the years many fictitious stories and novels have been written around the alleged relationship between the two.More recently, Kassiani appeared in the television series Vikings (series 5, 2017) where she was depicted as a beautiful nun who plotted the murder of her faithless lover, the Greek admiral Euphemius, and become the mistress of the Amir Ziyadat Allah. Her most recent appearance was in 2019 when the English singer-songwriter Frank Turner included her in a song on his album No Man’s Land. (4) 

Despite the myths that have accrued around her life it is still possible to form a more realistic portrait of this remarkable woman. Renewed interest in Kassiani’s life in the late nineteenth-century gave rise to serious scholarly research and a deeper appreciation of her character, and she was officially canonized in 1889. 

Several medieval chroniclers record events from her life (5) and three letters from St Theodore the Studite (759-826), one of the most notable spiritual leaders of the time, survive.

Although the biographical evidence does not give us a complete picture of her life, she does emerge as an intelligent woman with emotional sensitivity, a talented poet and an original thinker. Deeply religious, she is also an astute observer of human character and an outspoken and often caustic critic of behaviour she did not approve of. 

Kassiani was born into a wealthy aristocratic family in Constantinople between 805 and 810. Her father held the high military rank of Kandidatos at the Imperial Court, a position of honour conferred on members of the aristocratic class. In keeping with her social status Kassiani received a good education. According to Baynes and Moss (6) the Byzantines placed great importance on education and parents educated their children, both sons and daughters, to the best of their means. Kassiani was privately educated and her curriculum featured Greek language, theology, Patristic literature and sacred music, as well as classical philosophy and literature (7). In correspondence between Theodore the Studite and Kassiani when she was still in her early teens, the abbot compliments her on her learning and on the literary skills of the compositions she had sent him (8). 

Kassiani lived during the second iconoclast period which lasted from 814 to 843.Iconoclasm objected to the use of icons and other liturgical images and enforced their removal and destruction. The first iconoclast period, between 726 and 787, is traditionally explained as a reaction to Islamic military successes against the Byzantines. These successes were attributed to Islamic prohibitions against images and motivated the Byzantine Christians to adopt the same position. This however is only a partial explanation. There had long been a school of theological thought within the Church motivated by the Old Covenant interpretation of the Ten Commandments forbidding the making and worshipping of “graven images” (9). This, as well as changes to worship and social and political upheavals contributed to the iconoclast debate. 

In the early ninth century the Byzantine Empire suffered a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of the Bulgarians in the north. The Arabs had already diminished the empire’s territory in the east and now ruled the three apostolic patriarchates of Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch. In the year 800, in the west, Charlemagne (748-814), king of the Franks and Lombards, had been crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III, thus terminating the Pope’s allegiance to the Byzantine Emperor. Emperor Leo V, seeing these events as indicators of divine displeasure, looked back to the past and instituted a second period of iconoclasm in 814, hoping to replicate the military success of Constantine V. 

From the very beginning of the iconoclastic controversy it was the women from all classes of Byzantine society, both lay and monastic, together with the monks, who remained faithful to the Church’s traditions (10). They openly defied the imperial edict in the face of persecution and many were executed. Kassiani participated in this struggle from an early age, aiding imprisoned monks. In his correspondence, Theodore the Studite commends her Orthodox zeal and compassion for imprisoned monks, as well as acknowledging that she had been beaten with a lash for aiding iconodules (11). 

To the modern Christian the question of icon veneration may seem a marginal theological issue, but at the time it reflected and often paralleled the Christological doctrines of the Church as well as addressing related concepts that were open to interpretation and required clarification. (12) Central to the debate was the Incarnation of Christ. Theodore the Studite argued that the “rejection of the veneration of Christian images effectively denied Christ’s Incarnation, which united the spiritual and material worlds, and which made human salvation possible. If Christ could not be portrayed, then he was not truly human, and humanity was not truly united with God in him”.(13) 

John of Damascus (675-749), the other chief opponent to iconoclasm, also addressed the arguments referring to the Ten Commandments’ prohibition of “graven images” by pointing to other Old Testament evidence, for example where God instructed Moses to make two golden statues of cherubim for the lid of the Ark (Exodus 25: 18-22) and to embroider the curtains and the tent of the Tabernacle with cherubim angels (Exodus 26:1). (14)

John declared that he did not worship matter but the creator of matter. He added that he venerated the matter through which salvation came, including the ink in which the Gospels were written, the paint of the icons, along with the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. The distinction between worship and veneration was key in the arguments for icons. 

Another side-effect of Incarnation theology and its affirmation of the theological body was the question of the natural body and all that it implicates – senses, feelings, spirit, physical form, social behaviour and so on. This had an important influence in the development of Orthodoxy as well as influencing the style of Byzantine art. (15) In her poetry Kassiani employs all aspects of the body, the senses and the feelings, to depict the relationship between humanity and God, and the spiritual growth through faith, love and repentance to salvation. (16) 

The events of the bride-show with Theophilos are accepted by scholars as being historically true (17) and the three medieval chroniclers give similar accounts. The staging of Imperial bride-shows was a well-established practice in the eighth and ninth centuries. Kassiani’s showing took place about 830 and she was one of six semi-finalists. From correspondence with St Theodore it is known that Kassiani had decided to become a nun early in her life, so her participation in the bride-show was probably due to family pressure. She appears to have had no desire to be Empress nor any interest in courtly trappings. 

Theophilos, unlike his more lenient father, Michael II, was a fierce iconoclast and brutal in imposing his will. He succeeded his father as sole emperor in 829. Although well-educated he was ostentatious in many of his actions and spent much of his reign leading his troops into battle against the Bulgars, Serbs and Arabs, with many defeats and some successes. 

According to the chroniclers, Kassiani caught his eye and he approached her with the golden apple and said, “Through woman has come all evil”, obviously alluding to the sin of Eve, but possibly challenging Kassiani by implying that the women opposing iconoclasm were the cause of his own problems and military defeats. Without hesitation Kassiani replied, “But also through woman better things began”, referring to the Virgin Mary. In the Eastern Church Mary is commonly referred to as Theotokos (literally The God-Birther). The role of Theotokos was an integral part of Incarnation theology and many writings by the iconodules were dedicated to the Theotokos. Kassiani’s retort was a clear attack on Theophilos’ iconoclastic views. Such a bold reply to the Emperor, especially from a woman, contravened court conventions and would have left Theophilos stunned and displeased. He passed Kassiani by and presented the apple to Theodora. This account of the verbal exchange between the two is completely consistent with the caustic tone and strong opinions revealed in Kassiani’s epigrams and gnomic verse. For example,

            “I hate one that conforms to all ways” and

            “I hate silence when it is time to speak”.

And the most telling;

            “A stupid person when honoured is arrogant towards everyone,

                        and when praised becomes even more over-confident….

            but if a stupid man is young and in a position of power,

                        alas and woe and what a disaster”. (18)

 

Far from being heart-broken by Theophilos’ rejection, Kassiani must have been greatly relieved that divine Providence had left her free to pursue the monastic vocation she so desired. 

In 842, following the death of Theophilos, iconoclasm finally came to an end. Unknown to Theophilos, the modest Theodora he had chosen for his Empress, although not as outspoken as Kassiani, was as equally fervent in her opposition to iconoclasm and had raised her five daughters and one son to revere icons. The successor, Michael III, was only two years of age when his father died and Theodora presided over the Regency with her uncle. She worked quickly to restore the icons, replacing her husband’s former advisors and convening a local council in Constantinople that brought a permanent end to the iconoclast controversy in 843. 

That same year, at the age of about thirty-three, Kassiani founded her own convent in the west of Constantinople on a hill near the Constantinian Wall and became its first abbess. In the Byzantine world it was not unusual for individuals, lay or ecclesiastical, to establish monasteries. Finally free from persecution it was here that Kassiani was to spend the remainder of her life, pursuing her literary interests, writing hymns and secular works. Located nearby to the convent was the monastery of Stoudiios, renowned for its creativity in the liturgical arts and which played a central role in re-editing the Byzantine liturgical books in the ninth and tenth centuries. The two communities maintained a close relationship and some scholars attribute this to the survival of Kassiani’s works. (19) 

Kassiani died around 865. There is a tradition that says she travelled briefly to Italy with another nun, Evdokia. From there she went to Crete, finally settling on the island of Kasos where she died and is buried. Scholars however assume that she reposed in her convent in Constantinople. 

Kassiani’s extant writings fall into two distinct and markedly different categories.

Her religious poetry displays an unquestionable faith in God and his ever-present redeeming mercy and love. In contrast to most of her contemporaries whose hymns tend to be verbose and lengthy, hers are short and concise, using simple and poignant vocabulary. She displays an originality of thought that often blends narrative and dramatic elements to produce hymns of vivid imagery and intense religious emotion. (20) While drawing heavily on Biblical references, Kassiani also displays a thorough understanding of Patristic literature as well as reflecting contemporary theological concepts. Her Christmas hymns and those in honour of St John the Baptist, for example, focus primarily on incarnation theology and the kenotic love of Christ. 

Kassiani’s most famous work is the Hymn of the Penitent Woman, commonly referred to simply as the Hymn of Kassiani. It is sung only once a year during Holy Week on Tuesday evening (Wednesday Matins) and refers to the nameless woman in the Gospels who anointed Christ while he was dining in the house of a wealthy man. (Matt.26:6-13, Mk.14:39, Luke 7:36-50) Some Western commentators identify her as Mary Magdalen but the two are separate identities in Orthodox tradition. The hymn begins as a narrative but ends in the first person, leading the listener to identify with the fallen woman. The image of the woman fallen into sin is transferred into the woman who falls down in repentance. Many critics regard it as one of the most moving and vivid examples of Byzantine poetry. 

Kassiani’s original music for this hymn survives. It requires a very wide vocal range and is considered one of the most demanding pieces of Byzantine chant. The music is slow, sorrowful and plaintive. In current practice it may be sung by solo cantors, male or female, or choirs in unison, often with a vocal drone, and lasts from ten to twenty minutes depending on tempo and style of execution. 

In her secular writings we see another side to Kassiani’s personality. Kassiani comments on a variety of subjects from social issues and personal moral concerns to her views on friendship and wealth. While often witty, she can sometimes appear extremely caustic on a first reading. Many of her comments, however, are directed to specific situations and when viewed in their proper context show Kassiani to be a sharp observer of human behaviour and outspoken critic of corruption and social injustice, who combines profane and religious maxims to express her moral views. 

When looking at the early sources relating to Kassiani and at her own writings the image that emerges is of a profound, deeply religious and talented woman. Serious and pious from an early age she developed, through her strength of character and brilliance of mind, to become one of the most respected women of Byzantium and made a lasting contribution to the thought and worship of the Orthodox church. 

Notes: 

1.      There are a number of variants of her name such as Kassia, Kassiani, Eikasia. Sometimes the Latin spelling is used such as Cassia or Cassiani. She was canonized under the Greek name Kassiani, but Kassia may have been the original form of her name .Modern English generally uses Kassia in references to her as a composer and Kassiani in reference to her religious life. Some sources refer to her as Kassia (or Cassia) the Nun. 

2.      Antonia Tripolitis (ed.) – Kassia: The legend, the woman and her works, New York, Garland, 1992. p.xii. 

3.      Edward Gibbon – The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1789. chapter 48 

4.      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kassia (30/8/2020)

 5.      The three Byzantine chroniclers are Symeon the Loogothete (or Symeon the Translator), Georgios Amartolos (also known as George the Monk or George the Sinner) and Leon Grammatikos (or Leo the Grammarion). 

6.      N. H. Baynes & H. St. L. B. Moss – Byzantium: An introduction to East Roman Civilisation, Oxford University Press, 1961.

 

7.      Silvas, Anna M. "Kassia the Nun c.810-c.865: an Appreciation." in Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200. Burlington: Ashgate, 2006.

 

8.      Tripolis. Op. Cit. p.xiv

 

9.      Exodus 20:4 and Deuteronomy 5:8

 

10.  Tripolis, Op. Cit. p.xiii-xiv

 

11.  Silvas, Op. Cit.

 

12.  Niki Tsironis – “The body and senses in the work of Cassia the Hymnographer: Literary trends in the Iconoclastic Period”, from Symmeikta 16, Institute of Byzantine

Research, Athens, September, 2008, pp.141-151.

 

13.  St Theodore the Studite – On Holy Icons, Crestwood, NY, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1981 (Translated by Catharine P. Roth)

 

14.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Iconoclasm (28/8/2020)

 

15.  Byzantium was the heir of the Classical world and Byzantine secular art was in the representational tradition of Classical art. Iconography developed as a deliberately stylized or “abstracted” form depicting the spiritual person rather than a lifelike portrait. Ref. David Talbot Rice – Byzantine Art, Penguin, 1962.

 

16.  Niki Tsironis, Op. Cit. p.141

 

17.  Tripolis, Op. Cit. p.xv

 

18.  “Stupidity” translation in Tripolis, p.125.

 

19.  Kurt Sherry – Kassia the Nun in Context: Religious thought of a Ninth-Century Byzantine Monastic, Pislataway, NJ, Gorgias Press, 2011. p.56

 

20.  Tripolis, Op. Cit. p.xvi

 

 

 

References:

 

Antonia Tripolitis (ed.) – Kassia: The legend, the woman and her works, New York, Garland,

            1992

 

Niki Tsironis – “The body and senses in the work of Cassia the Hymnographer: Literary

            trends in the Iconoclastic Period”, from Symmeikta 16, Institute of Byzantine

            Research, Athens, September, 2008, pp.139-157.

 

Susan Arida – “The theological voice of Kassiani”, in The WHEEL Journal, Issue 9/10, July

            18, 2017,  Arlington, MA.

 

Dimitris Salapatas – “The Role of women in the Orthodox Church”, from Orthodoxes Forum,

            Institute for Orthodox Theology, University of Munich, Series 29, 2015, Issue 2,

            pp.177-194.

 

Fr. George D. Konstantopoulos – The Hymn of Kassiani the Nun, 2016

            (http://orthochristian.com/92861.html)

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kassia

 

N. H. Baynes & H. St. L. B. Moss – Byzantium: An introduction to East Roman Civilisation,

            Oxford University Press, 1961

 

Silvas, Anna M. – "Kassia the Nun c.810-c.865: an Appreciation." Byzantine Women:

            Varieties of Experience 800-1200. Burlington: Ashgate, 2006. 17-39. Print.

 

St Theodore the Studite – On Holy Icons, Crestwood, NY, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press,

            1981 (Translated by Catharine P. Roth)

 

Kurt Sherry – Kassia the Nun in Context: Religious thought of a Ninth-Century Byzantine

            Monastic, Pislataway, NJ, Gorgias Press, 2011.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Iconoclasm

 

 

 

YouTube recordings of The Hymn of Kassiani (The Penitent Woman)

 

Το τροπάριο της Κασσιανής Πέτρος Γαϊτάνος Petros Gaitanos The hymn of Kassiani - YouTube

 

Το Τροπάριο της Κασσιανής (Κ.Πρίγγου)-Γρ.Παπαεμμανουήλ, ΕΒΧ Οι Δομέστικοι - YouTube

 

Tropario of Kassiani part 1/2 Ketsetzis Fotis - YouTube

 

Τροπάριο Κασσιανής 2011 - Ζάκυνθος - YouTube

 

English Settings

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zY5x1kPlwE

 

Hymn of Kassiani the Nun. Byzantine Tone 8 - YouTube

 

Hymn of Kassiani in English - YouTube

 

Hymn of St. Kassiani - Boston Byzantine Choir - YouTube

 

2014 04 15 Hymn of Kassiani chanted in English by S. Comfort, isokratima by B. Comfort - YouTube

Saint Kassiani the Hymnographer: Hymns & Writings

On Tuesday the 17th of November 2020, Bata Bardak conducted a zoom seminar for Spiritual Reading Group on the 9th-century Byzantine abbess Kassia, or Kassiani the Hymnographer. Here are the hymns and writings used during the seminar. 

When Augustus Reigned

 

When Augustus reigned alone upon the earth

the many kingdoms of men came to an end;

and since You were made man of a pure Virgin

the many gods of idols have been destroyed.

The cities have come under one universal kingdom

and the nations came to believe

in one divine dominion.

The people were registered by the decree of Caesar;

we, the faithful, have been inscribed in the name of

Your divinity when You our God were made man.

Great is Your mercy, Lord; glory to you.

 

 

Eight hymns on the Birth of Christ

 

I.          When you appeared, Christ,

            in Bethlehem of Judea

            born from a Virgin

            and wrapped in swaddling clothes as a new-born

            and lying in a manger,

            a company of angels from on high praised

            your great concession towards mankind

            who through the deepest compassion

            put on a body

            and deified the mortal being;

            glory to you, Lord.

 

II.        When you appeared, Christ,

            made flesh from a woman

            she who bore you,

            astounded by your condescension,

            tearfully said, Saviour;

            how can I bear you as an infant who are eternal

            how can I nourish with milk you who nourish

            the whole of creation with your divine power?

            who through the deepest compassion

            put on a body

            and deified the mortal body

            glory to you, Lord.

 

III.       When you appeared, Saviour,

            who reigns through the ages,

            you were worshipped by the Magi

            having been led by a star to you, sun of glory;

            they were astounded by your poverty

            and offered to you lying in a manger,

            gold, frankincense and myrrh

            who through the deepest compassion

            put on a body

            and deified the mortal being;

            glory to you, Lord.

 

IV.       When you appeared, Christ,

            to live among the people on earth

            becoming poor, to the contrary

            the whole creation added adornments to you as Lord

            the people rejoicing offered a hymn of thanksgiving

            to the one who bore you;

            the earth offered the cave and the Magi the gifts;

            to you who through the deepest

            compassion put on a body

            and deified the mortal being;

            glory to you, Lord.

 

V.        Angels present at the cave

            sang hymns of praise to you, Lord,

            born from a virgin as a man;

            Magi and shepherds with them

            worshipped you, Christ,

            lying in a manger, newborn;

            some were impressed by

            your unusual poverty, O Logos;

            others carried gifts to you,

            gold and myrrh and frankincense,

            joining them we cry aloud to you,

            benefactor of all,

            glory to you, Lord.

 

VI.       The sun of glory

            came forth from your radiant womb,

            oh highly favoured all-blameless,

            ordained to spread with its rays

            the light of salvation;

            you remained a virgin after the birth

            as you were before it,

            something unexplainable;

            and you covered him with swaddling clothes

            as a cloud, he who enlightens

            those who cry out with faith,

            benefactor of all,

            glory to you, Lord.

 

VII.     Creation was enlightened

            by your birth on earth, Lord,

            and the heavens praised you with fear

            shepherds along with Magi

            reverently glorified you

            when they saw you, O Logos, being poor

            and wearing swaddling clothes

            through which, merciful one, you broke

            all bands of sin

            uniting life with immortality

            for those who entreat you,

            benefactor of all,

            glory to you, lord.

 

VIII.    Today God is made flesh

            by a holy Virgin

            and the Lord becomes poor

            so that poverty might be made rich

            which the serpent had debased;

            now let us approach him

            and be enlightened

            for the light has shone upon those in darkness

            and exalted the humble,

            those who like the angels sing

            glory to God in the highest

            and on earth peace

            with good will among men.

 

 

Three hymns for the forefeast of the Theophany (Baptism of Christ)

 

I.          When you appeared, Christ,

            the Lord among the servants

            approaching the waters of Jordan

            and touched by the hand of your servant, the Forerunner

            and baptized in the waters,

            the host of angels were amazed seeing

            your great condescension, benefactor,

            who was baptized for us,

            accepted a human body

            and wiped clean the sins

            of the mortals; glory to you, Lord.

 

II.        Jesus the Christ

            who enlightens those in darkness,

            who brings about our spiritual

            renewal, came to John asking

            to be baptized, calling out to him:

            wash me with these waters; with them

            I shall regenerate

            the whole of mankind

            that is ensconced in corruption

            and impiously enslaved by the serpent’s

            cunning, glory to you, Lord.

 

III.       Oh Creator, how shall I lay my hands upon you;

            who are the divine fire?

            How will the waters of the river receive you

            Who are regarded as a great sea of divinity

            and the inexhaustible source of life?

            How shall I baptize you who are not polluted

            and who moreover takes away the sin of mankind

            for which on our account you were born of a virgin,

            said he who was born of a barren woman

            I have need of your baptism,

            Glory to you, Lord.

 

 

Hymn for Holy Wednesday Vespers

The Penitent Woman (commonly referred to as “The Hymn of Kassiani”)

 

Lord, the woman fallen

            Into many sins,

Recognizing your Divinity,

            Rises to the status of myrrh-bearer,

And mourning brings to you myrrh

            Before your burial.

Woe to me, she says,

            For night holds for me

            The ecstasy of intemperance

Gloomy and moonless

            A desire for sin.

Accept the springs of my tears,

You who with clouds spread out

            The water of the sea:

Bend down to me

            To the lamentations of my heart,

You who made the heavens incline

            By your ineffable humiliation.

I will tenderly kiss your sacred feet,

I will wipe them again

            With the hair of my head;

The feet whose sound

            Eve heard in Paradise

In the afternoon,

            And hid in fear,

Who can delineate

            The multitude of my sins

And the depths of your judgement’

            My Redeemer, saviour of souls?

Do not disregard me, your servant

            You, whose mercy is infinite.

 

 

Three hymns for the feast of the Meeting (the Presentation of Christ in the Temple)

 

I.          When you appeared Christ,

            in the arms of her who bore you

            as in a pair of tongs                                                                 (ref. Isaiah 6:6-7)

            you were given to Simeon the Elder a perfect child,

            a coal perceived not burning;                                                  (ref. Isaiah 6:1-12)

            when he held you in his arms

            he rejoiced full of youthful spirit

            and asked for release, “Saviour,” he cried out to you,

            “now release me, your servant,                                               (cf. Luke 2:29-30)

            from this world to eternal life,

            according to your word,

            for I have seen you in human form.”

 

II.        The undefiled Virgin

            carrying in her arms

            him whom she embodied

            delivers him to the holy elder, saying

            “Receive him whom the teachings

            of the prophets proclaimed,

            the child who because of compassion is now summoned

            and as the holy lawgiver fulfils the law”;

            and he cried out to him;

            “You have come who will release me

            from this world to eternal life;

            glory to you, Lord.”

 

III.       “How can I hold you as a child,

            you who holds everything together?

            How do I bring you to the temple, who is beyond goodness?

            How do I deliver you to the arms of the elder

            who sits in the bosom of the Father?

            How do you endure purification,

            you who purifies the whole corrupt nature?”

            So said the Virgin

            the temple who contained God

            marvelling at your great condescension,

            Christ.

 

 

Hymn commemorating the Birth of St John the Baptist, at Vespers

 

Now the voice of Isaiah the prophet

this day has been fulfilled

by the conception of one greater than the prophet, John.

For behold, he said, I will send my messenger before your countenance,

who shall prepare your way.

He then, as soldier and forerunner of the Heavenly King,

truly made straight the paths of our God,

being a man by nature, but an angel in his life.

For he embraced complete chastity and self-restraint,

he held to that which was according to nature,

but avoided that which was contrary to nature.

Let us all, the faithful, imitate him in virtue,

implore him to plead on our behalf

for the saving of our souls.

 

 

Hymn in honour of Mary the Egyptian

 

You severed the temptations of the soul

and the passions of the body

with the sword of temperance;

the crimes of the mind

you choked with the silence of spiritual discipline,

and with streams of your tears

you watered the entire desert,

and made to grow in us the seeds of repentance:

therefore we celebrate your memory, holy one.

 

 

Selections from the Canon for the Dead

 

From Ode Six

            Christ, when you conclude

            our lives and deeds here on earth

            and begin the scrutiny

            of all our deeds,

            do not cross examine, Lord,

            the transgressions of those

            you have already received.

 

From Ode Seven

            Long-suffering one,

            since you have a boundless

            measure of love for mankind,

            during the trial of those who have already departed to you,

            do not place all their transgressions before them,

            but forgive them

            and save them, Oh Christ.

 

            Most impartial judge,

            when you weigh

            our deeds,

            do not judge with reason,

            but let your goodness prevail

            and add weight

            to the scale, Lord,

            when the evil deeds

            tip it the other way.

 

 

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Selections from the Secular Epigrams and Gnomic Verses

 

I hate one that conforms to all ways.

 

I hate silence when it is time to speak.

 

I hate the verbose in an unsuitable time.

 

I hate the rich man moaning as if he were poor.

 

I hate the poor man boasting as if in wealth.

 

I hate the one who does not encourage everyone with words.

 

I hate one who speaks before examining.

 

I hate the one who teaches knowing nothing.

 

Knowledge in a stupid person is a bell on a pig’s snout.

 

There is absolutely no cure for stupidity.

 

I hate a murderer condemning the hot-tempered.

 

I hate the adulterer when he judges the fornicator.

 

I hate the leper who drives out the leprous.

 

I hate a debtor who sleeps unconcernedly.

 

It is better to possess grace from the Lord, than beauty and wealth that does not gain grace

 

A little is the most, if the friend is grateful, but to the ungrateful the most is the least.

 

Selection from ‘Stupidity’

 

Woe, oh Lord, if a stupid person attempts to be clever;

Where does one flee, where does one turn, how does one endure?

 

A stupid person is always inclined to overdo:

Putting on a pair of shoes he runs everywhere.

 

It is better if a stupid person is never born

but if born, may not walk on the earth

but soon afterwards be sent to Hades.

 

An association between a sensible person and a stupid one cannot endure;

for it will weaken by their antithesis.

How can it overcome their impudence?

It is better to be poor with sensible people

than to be rich with stupid and ignorant ones