In Thee, O Full of Grace: Magnificent Theotokion

 

From Fr. Hierodeacon Herman’s wonderful Facebook ministry here. Fr. Herman is the Chapel Music Director at St Vladimir’s Seminary which is on the Revised Julian (“New”) Calendar:

Today is the Leave-taking – the last day – of the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God. The hymn chosen for today is an Orthodox troparion sung during the Anaphora at the Liturgy of St. Basil. It tells of how God prepared the Holy Virgin (after her years of formation spent in the temple) to become a sacred temple herself, the dwelling place of God become flesh. The setting, by Benedict Sheehan of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, is an arrangement of an old Russian melody (from a body of chant actually known as “Greek Chant”) in tone eight. This performance comes from the newly-released premier album of the St. Tikhon’s Chamber Choir.

In thee, O full of grace, all creation rejoices:
the assembly of angels and the race of men.
O sanctified temple and spiritual paradise,
the glory of virgins, from whom God was incarnate
and became a child: our God before the ages.
He made thy body into a throne,
and thy womb he made more spacious than the heavens.
In thee, O full of grace, all creation rejoices.
Glory be to thee!

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

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.”

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!”

Shen Khar Venakhi – “Thou Art a Vineyard”

Video

In this video the renowned Rustavi choir in Georgia sings this beautiful, internationally beloved Theotokion, an Orthodox hymn honouring the Virgin Mary. Sandro Vakhtangov directed this video, Anzor Erkomaishvili the camera work and artistic arrangements, and Vato Kakhidze produced it.

The hymn’s Georgian words translate:
Thou art a vineyard newly blossomed.
Young, beautiful, growing in Eden,
A fragrant poplar sapling in Paradise.
May God adorn thee. No one is more worthy of praise.
Thou thyself are the sun, shining brilliantly.

Prevailing ecclesiastical and historical tradition holds that St. King Demetre (Demetrius) I (r. 1125-1156) composed the hymn during his period of exile at a monastery when his son David briefly usurped the throne. Demetre’s other son ultimately succeeded him as King Giorgi III in 1156, reigning until his death in 1184, when his daughter St. Queen Tamar the Great succeeded him as monarch.

At St. Nicholas Cathedral we have many Georgian parishioners, so the choir has often used the music as a Cherubikon and sometimes even for the “It is truly meet”/Axion Estin to the Theotokos.

Images of the beautiful country of Georgia:

A beloved Paschal hymn

Video

This beautiful Theotokion (hymn to the Theotokos, the “God-bearer”) honours the ancient Orthodox tradition that an angel visited the Virgin Mary to inform her of her Son’s Resurrection before he appeared to the other women disciples at Christ’s tomb.

Here is a link to the choir of St Barnabas Orthodox Church singing the hymn at a 2010 wedding liturgy in Costa Mesa, California.

The angel cried to the Lady full of grace:
Rejoice, rejoice, O pure Virgin!
Again, I say: rejoice! Your Son is risen
from His three days in the tomb.
With Himself He has raised all the dead.
Rejoice, rejoice, O ye people!
Shine, shine! Shine, O new Jerusalem!
The glory of the Lord has shown on you.
Exult now, exult, and be glad, O Zion!
Be radiant, O pure Theotokos, in the Resurrection,
the Resurrection of your Son!