Byzantine Hymn of Victory to the Theotokos

To thee, the Champion Leader, do I offer thanks of victory:
O Theotokos, thou who hast delivered me from terror.
But as thou that hast that power invincible,
O Theotokos, thou alone can set me free.
From all forms of danger free me and deliver me,
That I may cry unto thee: Hail, O Bride without bridegroom!

The above video is chanted by the Boston Byzantine Choir and taken from their album “First Fruits”. Here is a link to the chant in its original Greek.

Sixth century mosaic of the Theotokos and Christ child uncovered in the apse at Hagia Sophia, the mother cathedral church at Constantinople dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God. Following the Ottoman conquest of the imperial city in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II “the Conqueror” permitted his soldiers three days of unchecked license to raid, pillage and slaughter as they wished, but then he rode into the ruined city and dismounted in front of the desecrated cathedral where only days before a final Liturgy had been offered by and on behalf of the city’s Orthodox and Catholic defenders. Upon entering, the sultan gaped in awe as he entered the sacred space raised almost a thousand years before to the glory of the Triune God on Emperor Justinian’s orders. Mehmed had the building preserved, but altered significantly, as a mosque to symbolize the triumph of Islam over the Christian faith of the Eastern Romans. Only recently have Turkish authorities permitted the uncovering of the white Islamic tiles, under which gleam magnificent Byzantine Orthodox mosaics such as these.

St Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople composed this hymn of thanksgiving on the eve of the Annunciation in the year 718 after miraculous events attributed to the intervention of the Mother of God and the bodiless powers of heaven repulsed repeated land and naval sieges by Arab Saracens to capture the Byzantine imperial capital.

Here is the link through which I located the following information on the background of the composition of St Germanus’ hymn.

In 717-718, led by the Saracen [Umayyad] general Maslamah [full name: Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik, called Μασαλμᾶς in contemporary Byzantine accounts], the Arab fleet laid siege once more to the city. The numerical superiority of the enemy was so overwhelming that the fall of the Imperial City seemed imminent.

But then the Mother of God, together with a multitude of the angelic hosts, appeared suddenly over the city walls. The enemy forces, struck with terror and thrown into a panic at this apparition, fled in disarray. Soon after this, the Arab fleet was utterly destroyed by a terrible storm in the Aegean Sea on the eve of the Annunciation, March 24, 718.

Thenceforth, a special “feast of victory and of thanksgiving” was dedicated to celebrate and commemorate these benefactions. In this magnificent service, the Akathist Hymn is prominent and holds the place of honour.

It was only on the occasion of the great miracle wrought for the Christian populace of the Imperial City on the eve of the Annunciation in 718 that the hymn “To thee, the Champion Leader” was composed, most likely by Saint Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople.

Rejoice Virgin Theotokos! Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee! Blessed art Thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, for Thou hast borne the Saviour of our souls!”

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