Frederica Mathewes-Green on St Romanos’ Kontakion of the Nativity

St Romanos the Melodist

Saint Romanos the Melodist (Greek: Ρωμανός ο Μελωδός. lived c. 490-556), was one of the greatest of Byzantine Greek hymnographers, called “the Pindar of rhythmic poetry”. He is the patron saint of all church singers. Baptized as a young child and originally from a Syrian Jewish family, he served as a sacristan and deacon in Beirut and then at the Great Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. His most famous masterpiece, the Kontakion of the Nativity of Christ, came to him in a miraculous dream in which the Theotokos instructed him to swallow a scroll after he had, earlier that day, performed terribly while attempting to chant in the cathedral. Since Romanos normally chanted poorly, when he chanted his beautiful new competition on the Eve of the Nativity, all those in attendance were astonished, both at the new-found beauty of his voice and the profound theological depth of his hymn. Romanos flourished during the sixth century, which is considered to be the “Golden Age” of Byzantine hymnography.

Khouria Frederica is an acclaimed Orthodox author, whose work has appeared in such diverse publications as the Washington Post, Christianity Today, Smithsonian, the LA Times, First Things, Books & Culture, Sojourners, Touchstone, and the Wall Street Journal.

She has been a regular commentator for National Public Radio (NPR), on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, a commentator on the Hallmark TV network, a columnist for the Religion News Service,, and Christianity Today, Her podcast “Frederica Here and Now” is carried on Ancient Faith Radio.

She has published 9 books, including The Jesus Prayer: The Ancient Desert Prayer that Tunes the Heart to God (Paraclete, 2009), Facing East: A Pilgrim’s Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy (HarperCollins, 1997) and The Illumined Heart: The Ancient Christian Path of Transformation (Paraclete, 2001). Her essays were selected for Best Christian Writing in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006, and Best Spiritual Writing in 1998 and 2007. She has published over 700 articles.

She has also appeared as a speaker over 500 times, at places like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Wellesley, Cornell, Calvin, Baylor, and Westmont; at the Smithsonian Institute, the Aspen Institute, Washington National Cathedral, the Los Angeles Times Book Festival, the American Academy of Religion, the Veritas Forum, the Family Research Council, and the National Right to Life Committee.

She has been interviewed almost 700 times, on venues including PrimeTime Live, the Diane Rehm Show, the 700 Club, NPR, PBS, CNN, NBC, Fox News, and by Time, Newsweek, the New Republic, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the New York Times.

She lives with her husband, the Rev. Fr. Gregory Mathewes-Green, in Baltimore, MD, where he is pastor and she is Khouria (“Mother”) of the Maryland parish they founded, Holy Cross Orthodox Church.


Here is a YouTube link to another rendition of the beautiful kontakion, performed at St. Basil the Great Greek Orthodox Church on December 12, 2010 under the direction of Bill Attra by the combined St. Romanos Chorale.


One thought on “Frederica Mathewes-Green on St Romanos’ Kontakion of the Nativity

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