Tag Archives: Holy Week

Anticipating Kassia’s Cosmic Hymn

by V.K. McCarty | български | ελληνικά | Српски

Foot washing

In preparing to participate in the services leading to Pascha, a memorable element of the Liturgy for many of the faithful is the Hymn of St. Kassia (ca.810-ca. 865 CE), “Lord, the Woman Fallen into Many Sins.” It is remembered as a heartwarming centerpiece of the Tuesday Evening service, and sung as the Doxostikon of the Aposticha, when the Wednesday “Bridegroom Matins,” is offered. The robust popularity of the “Kassiani,” as the hymn itself is often called, may stem from its appealing melody and the opportunity it provides for the chant to be elaborated on the tune with flourishes of extemporaneous melismatic ornaments which leave worshippers spellbound. Emotional urgency simmers through the story in light of the approaching Passion of Our Lord.

Because the text cries out from the inner landscape of the woman’s soul, there is a graceful fluid commingling in it of both the Gospel women who anoint Jesus at supper, the one in Luke read at the service (7:36-50) and the one in Matthew (26:6-13) as well; and, it is the same haunting amalgamation of women used by St. Romanos in his longer metrical homily, the kontakion, “On the Harlot.” So, this is a hymn rich with paradox and parallels, and a credit to the scriptural literacy of the Orthodox listener. Like Romanos, Kassia gives voice to the woman, here praising God for the majesty of Creation:

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Doing Holy Week at Home During COVID-19

by Gregory Tucker | Ελληνικά

Many Christians around the world have come to realise over the last few weeks that this year’s Holy Week and Pascha will be somewhat unlike any that they have previously experienced, on account of the current viral pandemic. Very many churches are now closed, with services cancelled or in-person participation restricted to a select “skeleton crew.” Orthodox Christians are obviously not exempt from the consequences of the pandemic and many are already mourning the loss of public worship at the high point of the liturgical year, even as they understand and respect the regulations imposed by civil authorities.

Although it may be possible during the coming weeks to view or listen to liturgical services online, many churchgoers will rightly acknowledge that this is no substitute for prayer and worship in person. Screens and speakers necessarily render us the passive audience of a performance. Clergy can quickly become like stars of stage and screen, existing in a glittering world somewhere “out there,” apart from our own mundane experience of isolation and enclosure. The edges of our electronic devices frame liturgical action like the proscenium arch in a theatre, with the same effect of separating drama from life. Even if we successfully minimise distractions, disable pop-up notifications, and discipline ourselves to remain quiet and present to the broadcast, many of us will still desire something more immediate and active than online liturgy—something truly in the here-and-now of our reality of social distancing and quarantine.

Various possibilities present themselves as alternatives (or, complements) to watching liturgy online, including the observation (or revival!) of our prayer rule with renewed energy and attentiveness, and the disciplined reading of scripture, especially the Psalms and Gospels. But it is also possible to bring the services themselves into our homes, and some may be inclined to do this during a period that would ordinarily be saturated by liturgy.

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It’s That Time of the Year Again: In Tone Four, “The murderers of God, the lawless nation of the Jews…”

by Bogdan G. Bucur  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский  |  српски

byz-hymn-e1491498366215.png

Disturbing Words, Disturbed Emotions

The words in the title are from one of the stichera at the Beatitudes chanted on Holy Thursday evening (Triodion, 589). Similar references to “arrogant Israel, people guilty of blood,”  “bloodthirsty people, jealous and vengeful,” and “the perverse and crooked people of the Hebrews” occur in the unabbreviated English translation of the Lamentations service printed in the Lenten Triodion.

It is true that this kind of language appears less strident when considered within the context of Byzantine rhetoric; it is also true that the pattern is set by the prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Micah 6:1-5; Amos 2:9-12); and it is, yet again, true that we must also take into consideration the larger context of the Church’s growth from a charismatic, egalitarian, theologically innovative, and administratively schismatic group within first-century Judaism into the increasingly Gentile reality of the second century. Indeed, during the early decades of the Christian movement, the context for the vitriolic anti-Judaism found in the Hebrew Bible, in some apocalyptic writings of the Second Temple era, and in the New Testament (e.g., “brood of vipers,” “synagogue of Satan,” “enemies of God,” “sons of the devil”) shifted gradually from harsh intra-Jewish polemics to polemics between the overwhelmingly Gentile Church and “the Jews.” All good and true—but today these invectives are deeply disturbing, and we know that rhetoric of this kind has at times been part of the explosive mix that led to violence against Jews. Continue reading

It’s That Time of the Year Again: In Tone Four, “The murderers of God, the lawless nation of the Jews…”

by Bogdan G. Bucur  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский

byz-hymn-e1491498366215.png

Disturbing Words, Disturbed Emotions

The words in the title are from one of the stichera at the Beatitudes chanted on Holy Thursday evening (Triodion, 589). Similar references to “arrogant Israel, people guilty of blood,”  “bloodthirsty people, jealous and vengeful,” and “the perverse and crooked people of the Hebrews” occur in the unabbreviated English translation of the Lamentations service printed in the Lenten Triodion.

It is true that this kind of language appears less strident when considered within the context of Byzantine rhetoric; it is also true that the pattern is set by the prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Micah 6:1-5; Amos 2:9-12); and it is, yet again, true that we must also take into consideration the larger context of the Church’s growth from a charismatic, egalitarian, theologically innovative, and administratively schismatic group within first-century Judaism into the increasingly Gentile reality of the second century. Indeed, during the early decades of the Christian movement, the context for the vitriolic anti-Judaism found in the Hebrew Bible, in some apocalyptic writings of the Second Temple era, and in the New Testament (e.g., “brood of vipers,” “synagogue of Satan,” “enemies of God,” “sons of the devil”) shifted gradually from harsh intra-Jewish polemics to polemics between the overwhelmingly Gentile Church and “the Jews.” All good and true—but today these invectives are deeply disturbing, and we know that rhetoric of this kind has at times been part of the explosive mix that led to violence against Jews. Continue Reading…