“Ave Dei Patris Filia”: Magnificent polyphonic hymn to the Virgin Mary

From Hierodeacon Herman, a friend of mine who is the Chapel Music Director at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary (on the Revised Julian/”New” Calendar). Earlier this week the Orthodox Arts Journal interviews Fr. Hierodeacon Herman about his ongoing Choral Advent Calendar Facebook ministry here:

Here is another hymn for the Mother of God, as keep the afterfeast of her Entrance into the Temple. John Taverner (c. 1490–1545; not to be confused with the modern composer John Tavener) composed some of the sublime polyphonic music of the English renaissance. Though later in life he became a firm adherent of the Protestant reformation and regretted composing “Popish ditties,” in which category he certainly would have included today‘s selection, we can be grateful such music from his Catholic period has survived.

The text of this motet is long but rich, and befitting the exalted purity and beauty of the Holy Virgin and Theotokos. Taverner’s composition, especially as performed here by the choir of Christ Church, Oxford, is dazzling in its delicacy, majesty, and profundity – increasingly so, as the piece progresses.

Latin: (English translation below)

Ave Dei patris filia nobilissima,
Dei filii mater dignissima,
Dei Spiritus sponsa venustissima,
Dei unius et trini ancilla subiectissima.

Ave summae aeternitatis filia clementissima,
summae veritatis mater piissima,
summae bonitatis sponsa benignissima,
summae trinitatis ancillia mitissima.

Ave aeternae caritatis desideratissima filia,
aeternae sapientiae mater gratissima,
aeternae spirationis sponsa sacratissima,
aeternae maiestatis ancilla sincerissima.

Ave Jesu tui filii dulcis filia,
Christi Dei tui mater alma,
sponsa sine ulla macula,
deitatis ancilla sessioni proxima.

Ave Domini filia singulariter generosa,
Domini mater singulariter gloriosa,
Domini sponsa singulariter speciosa,
Domini ancilla singulariter obsequiosa.

Ave plena gratia solis regina,
misericordiae mater, meritis praeclara,
mundi domina, a patriarchis praesignata,
imperatrix inferni, a profetis praeconizata.

Ave virgo facta
ut sol praeelecta,
mater intacta,
sicut luna perpulcra,
salve parens inclita,
enixa puerpera,
stella maris praefulgida,
felix caeli porta:
esto nobis via recta
ad aeterna gaudia,
ubi pax est et gloria.

O gloriosissima semper virgo Maria!
Amen.

ENGLISH translation:

Hail, most noble daughter of God the Father,
most worthy mater of the Son of God,
most graceful bride of God’s Spirit,
closest servant of God one and three.

Hail, most clement daughter of the highest Eternity,
most blessed mother of the highest Truth,
most benign bride of the highest Kindness,
meekest servant of the highest Trinity.

Hail, most beloved daughter of everlasting Charity,
most thankful mother of everlasting Wisdom,
most sacred bride of everlasting Inspiration,
sincerest servant of everlasting Majesty.

Hail, sweet daughter of thy Son, Jesus,
bountiful mother of Christ thy God,
bride without the slightest blemish,
handmaid of the coming of the Lord.

Hail, most singularly generous daughter of the Lord,
most singularly glorious mother of the Lord,
most singularly beautiful bride of the Lord,
most singularly obedient handmaid of the Lord.

Hail, queen of the sun, full of grace,
mother of mercy, famous by thy merits,
mistress of the world, preordained by the patriarchs,
empress of hades, foretold by the prophets.

Hail, virgin made
as unique as the sun,
mother unblemished,
as beautiful as the moon,
hail, famous begetter,
diligent mother,
splendid star of the sea,
auspicious gate of Heaven:
be for us a straight path
to eternal joy,
where peace and glory are.

O most glorious and ever-virgin Mary!
Amen.

Hierodeacon Herman was appointed the Chapel Music Director at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in late April of 2010. His childhood and youth were spent immersed in the Anglo-Catholic liturgical and musical traditions, which led him to the study of organ and choral music at Westminster Choir College, in Princeton, New Jersey, where, in 1999, he was received into the Orthodox Church.

After completing his undergraduate studies, Fr. Herman enrolled at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, where he graduated with an M.Div. in 2005. The following two years he spent as the choir director and instructor in Liturgical Music and Liturgical Theology at St. Herman’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska. In 2007 Fr. Herman became a novice at the Monastery of St. John of San Francisco, in Manton, California. A year later he was tonsured a Rassophore-monk and ordained to the Holy Diaconate.

In the summer of 2009 Fr. Herman was asked by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, former primate of the Orthodox Church in America, to fulfill various obediences on the East Coast. He was transferred to St. Vladimir’s Seminary and began part time studies there in the M.Th. program. In addition, he is an editor of liturgical publications for St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press, has assisted in the music program at St. Tikhon’s Seminary, and, at St. Vladimir’s, has served as the faculty liaison for St. Ambrose Society, the seminary’s student-led Pro-Life interest group.

Father Herman took monastic vows and was tonsured to the Lesser Schema on September 24th, 2011, at Three Hierarchs’ Chapel at the Seminary. He is a member of the Brotherhood of St. Tikhon’s Monastery.

Third century Greek prayer to Theotokos uncovered on papyri scroll

This remarkably preserved papyrus scroll dating to approximately AD 250 (52 years before the start of the savage Diocletian persecutions, and 63 years before Christianity was finally made a legal religion in the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine the Great) shows clear, unambiguous continuity from the apostolic age and early Church down to the present Orthodox and Catholic veneration of the Virgin Mary. The third century hymn is almost identical to existing, centuries-old Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic hymns praising the Theotokos (lit. “bearer of God”).

In the Byzantine Rite used by the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, the hymn occurs as the last dismissal hymn of daily Vespers during the fast of Great Lent. In Greek practice it is usually sung in Neo-Byzantine chant.

The Slavonic version of the hymn is also often used outside of Great Lent, with the triple invocation of  Great Lent. In Greek practice it is usually sung in Neo-Byzantine chant.

The Slavonic version of the hymn is also often used outside of Great Lent, with the triple invocation «Пресвѧтаѧ Богородице спаси насъ» (“Most Holy Theotokos, save us”) appended. Other than the traditional and modern chant settings, which are the most commonly used, the most well-known musical setting is perhaps that of D. Bortnyansky.

The short third century prayer reads as follows:

Here is a link to Greek monks singing the ancient hymn “Beneath thy Compassion”. It translates as follows:

Greek: Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν καταφεύγομεν Θεοτὸκε, τὰς ἡμῶν ἱκεσίας μὴ παρίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνου λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς, μόνη ἁγνὴ, μόνη εὐλογημένη.

English: Beneath thy compassion we take refuge, Theotokos! Our prayers, do not despise in necessities, but from danger deliver us, only pure, only blessed one.

Romanian: Sub milostivirea ta scăpăm, Născătoare de Dumnezeu, rugăciunile noastre nu le trece cu vederea în nevoie, ci din primejdie ne izbăvește pe noi, una curată, una binecuvântată!

Here is more information about the history of this hymn via Father Silouan Thompson’s blog.

Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God

Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God

Orthodox Christians Commemorate the Nativity of the Virgin Mary

Reblogged from the IRD’s blog, Juicy Ecumenism, here.

On September 8, most of the world’s local Orthodox Churches commemorate the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary. Like the Great Feast of the Dormition celebrated in August, this holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus’ mother is one of the twelve Great Feasts of the liturgical year. What is the significance of this important feast day for Orthodox Christians?

The birth of the Virgin Mary to her barren, elderly parents, Sts. Joachim and Anna, was, like the birth of Isaac to the elderly Abraham and barren Sarah, a miraculous work of God which confirmed the parents’ special covenant with Him. As the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s article on the Feast of the Virgin’s Nativity notes,

The birth and early life of the Virgin Mary is not recorded in the Gospels or other books of the New Testament, however this information can be found in a work dating from the second century known as the Book of James or Protevangelion.

According to the story found in this book, Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, were childless for many years. They remained faithful to God, but their prayers for a child were unanswered. One day, when Joachim came to the temple to make an offering, he was turned away by the High Priest who chastised him for his lack of children. To hide his shame, Joachim retreated to the hill country to live among the shepherds and their flocks.

As Joachim was praying, his wife Anna was praying at the same time at their house in Jerusalem. An angel appeared to both of them and announced that Anna would have a child whose name would be known throughout the world. Anna promised to offer her child as a gift to the Lord. Joachim returned home, and in due time Anna bore a daughter, Mary.

According to the Orthodox Church in America (OCA)’s article on the feast, Orthodox Christians celebrate it “as a day of universal joy. Within the context of the Old and the New Testaments, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was born on this radiant day, having been chosen before the ages by Divine Providence to bring about the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God.”

You might be asking “Why do Orthodox Christians make such a big deal about the birthday of Jesus’ mother?” For one reason, since Mary is the mother of our Lord and Savior, in a way, she has become the mother of us all — for Mary herself notes in the words of the Magnificat (St. Luke 1:46-55) that “from henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” From the very beginning of our salvation and redemption at the Annunciation, Mary has been hailed and blessed by angels and men as the mother of our Savior and redeemer.  When we honor and praise her, we please her Son, since He loves His mother very much and always listens to her. Since Jesus is so important to Orthodox Christians, we consider it only natural that we remember His mother’s birthday, which marked the beginning of our redemptive arc.

The significance of the feast is embodied in the hymns we sing at the forefeast of Mary’s Nativity on the night before the actual feast. Here are the two main hymns for the forefeast (courtesy of OCA.org’s Music Downloads for September 7):

Troparion (Tone 4)

Today from the stem of Jesse and from the loins of David,

The handmaid of God Mary is being born for us.

Therefore all creation is renewed and rejoices!

Heaven and earth rejoice together.

Praise her, you families of nations,

For Joachim rejoices and Anna celebrates crying out:

“The barren one gives birth to the Theotokos, the Nourisher of our life!”

Kontakion (Tone 3)

Today the Virgin Theotokos Mary

The bridal chamber of the Heavenly Bridegroom

By the will of God is born of a barren woman

Being prepared as the chariot of God the Word

She was foreordained for this, since she is the

divine gate and the true Mother of Life.

Because God the Father chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of His Son, we honor her as blessed and exalted above all women. As the mother of our Savior, she is the mother of our very Life, Christ our God. Because of this, we think it is only fitting to remember her birthday, since from her youth, her parents dedicated her to God’s service in the holy Temple at Jerusalem. From her earliest days, Mary was being prepared for the earth-shattering, cosmos-changing role God had foreordained for her. It all began with her miraculous birth to an elderly priest and his barren wife. From such improbable beginnings ultimately came our salvation and the promise of eternal life.

Profound theological truths expressed in Glykophilousa icon

Image

Profound theological truths expressed in Glykophilousa icon

The icon of the Glykophilousa, the Sweetly Kissing, shows the bond of love between the Theotokos and her son and the physical expression of that love in a tender kiss. Often the Mother of God has a sombre, reflective expression, and her infant Son touches her face to comfort her.

This theological icon proclaims the mystery of the Incarnation. It points to the living, human relationship between mother and son. The infant’s hand is the hand of the Logos, cherishing the finest fruit of his creative love. Her embrace enfolds the Uncircumscribable whom heaven and earth cannot contain. The Glykophilousa shows Christ as a human child, relating to his mother as any other human child does, but also as a divine person whose every human expression, action, gesture reveals something of the Godhead.

This icon is virtually the obverse of the Hodegetria in which the Virgin points to her son as the way, the truth, and the life. Here she gazes at Jesus, not out of the icon at us. She does not point to him, she embraces and kisses him. And the infant is caught in movement as he turns in her arms, returning her embrace, his hand rising up to touch her cheek, drawing our awareness back to her. He does not point to her, he touches her tenderly, with loving trust.

As we contemplate the cyclic interplay of divine and human love, of mother and son, our own humanity is interpreted by the relation between.

Blackwell’s Dictionary of Eastern Christianity (Edited by Ken Parry, David J. Melling, Dimitri Brady, Sidney H. Griffith and John F. Healey).

2011 Archpastoral Letter from Metropolitan Jonah on the Feast of Christ’s Nativity

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of The Orthodox Church in America

Nativity Icon

Dearly beloved in the Lord,

Christ is Born!

I greet you with the love, joy and hope that is so graciously granted to us with the Incarnation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Today, we celebrate the “Winter Pascha,” proclaiming that God is indeed with us! Today, the only-begotten Son of God takes on our human nature, enabling us to become partakers of His divine nature. Today, the Law and the Prophets are fulfilled as, in the “fullness of time,” the long-awaited Messiah ushers in that peace which is beyond all understanding!

And today, we celebrate that for which we have prepared during the Nativity Fast. Our fasting, intensified prayer, and almsgiving find their meaning and fulfillment in the Mystery of the Incarnation: All that we have is a gift from God, given to us as faithful stewards, that we might proclaim God’s very presence in our midst. Our calling is to “incarnate” the Incarnate Word into our lives, our actions, our very being, at all times, and in everything we do. This, to be sure, is not easy. The world will challenge those who embrace “The Way” at every turn. Yet, it is the world that, in its self-proclaimed emptiness, precisely reveals its thirst for “something more,” a “sign” or “reality” that gives meaning to life beyond the superficial trappings of the “holiday season.”

In rendering thanks to God for His manifest love for His People, and in strengthening ourselves to proclaim the Incarnation in our lives, it is crucial for every member of the Church to discern his or her gifts and to employ them for the building up of the Body of Christ. How? One of the Nativity hymns gives us a clue.

What shall we offer Thee, O Christ, Who for our sake has appeared on earth as man?
Every creature which Thou hast made offers thanks.
The angels offer Thee a song. The heavens, their star. The wise men, their gifts. The shepherds, their wonder.
The earth, its cave. The wilderness, the manger.
And we offer Thee a Virgin Mother!

It is the Mother of God, the Theotokos, who is the very model of stewardship, of discernment, of embracing all that the heavenly Father called her to do. Where the first Eve said “no” to God, she responded positively. And in so doing, she embraced all that her Son accomplished by His birth in time and space, becoming an example for us.

As we continue our celebration, let not our faith be “shelved” with our ornaments and seasonal decorations. Let not the flame of our commitment wax cold. Let not our devotion to serving the Incarnate Word, even as His Mother served Him. May the grace and peace from above, so abundantly given by our all-merciful Savior, remain with us throughout this most glorious feast, and be strengthened within us in the days, weeks and months beyond!

Let us glorify Him!
Faithfully yours in Christ,

SIGNATURE
+JONAH
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

Image

Sourcehttp://oca.org/holy-synod/statements/metropolitan-jonah/nativity-of-christ-2011

Kontakion to the Theotokos as Champion Leader and Defender of Constantinople

Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-omWZieJMvY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

This beautiful Byzantine kontakion “To thee, my Champion”, featuring both male and female chanters, commemorates the miraculous deliverance of the Imperial Capital of Constantinople from almost certain conquest by Arab besiegers in 718. Contemporaries, including then Patriarch and future saint Germanus (r. 715-30) attributed the city’s salvation to the intercessions of the Theotokos.

The award-winning Cappella Romana, a Byzantine vocal ensemble formed in 1991 in Portland, Oregon, chants this magnificent piece, taken from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Music of Byzantium” CD. A similar Greek version of this kontakion, featuring exclusively male voices and images from a Russian Orthodox liturgy, can be found here.

Members of Cappella Romana, directed by Alexander Lingas, a musicologist of Byzantine music at City University in London.

St Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople composed this hymn of thanksgiving on the eve of the Annunciation in the year 718. 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.”

Great Supplicatory Canon to the Theotokos

Video

In honor of the forefeast of the Dormition of our Blessed Lady the Theotokos (Θεοτόκος, literally “birth-giver of God”), I wanted to share this beautiful chant of the Great Supplicatory Canon (Μέγας Παρακλητικός Κανόνας) by the choir of nuns at the Convent of the Annunciation in Ormylia, Chalkidiki, Greece.

For those Anglophones seeking to practice their Greek (or those Greek-speakers looking to improve their English reading abilities) this video has artful subtitles in both languages.

Here is another beautiful video of the Canon by the renowned Byzantine chanter Καβαρνός Νικόδημος (Kabarnos Nikodimos). The poetic and majestic rhythm of Kabarnos’ chanting of the Paraklesis inspires a sense of adoration toward the Blessed Mother in the listener.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us! Υπεραγία Θεοτόκε, σώσον ημάς!

Byzantine Hymn of Victory to the Theotokos

Video

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!”