Thursday, March 31, 2011

A False Dichotomy

Random thought:

We do a great disservice to the universe by tending to think of everything in absolute opposites.

Nothing defined as 'good' comes without at the very least the possibility of 'bad'.

Take, for instance, the rain storm we're having right now. The rain is good, in that it is natural, and the plants and animals native to Florida need it to survive. However, it brings with it flooding, lightning, hail, tornadoes.

In antiquity the religions didn't try to separate good and evil the way we do now. Each god(dess) had a helpful aspect and a harmful aspect. Yes, the faithful thought that they could bribe or pay the deities in order to be in favor of them, which didn't work because they were worshipping nature and nature doesn't give two figs about how much beer you keep in the temple or how many doves or goats you sacrificed to it. But the point it the thinking was different. Good and bad were seen as intertwined. One existing in the same space as the other.

As opposed to now, where we see them as opposites that repel.


Leverage Season 3 dvd's have a release date!

It's about damn time, people!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Rashidun - Islam: A Short History

The section I just finished was all about the four 'rightly guided' caliph's that followed Mohammed.

I found it interesting that almost immediately after Mohammed's death tribes who had joined the ummah under him wanted to break off and go back to being tribes. They hadn't converted to Islam due to religious faith, but for security. They were banding together to protect themselves and to not be left on the outside of the ummah, because the only people the Muslims couldn't raid were members of the ummah.

Abu Bakr (sorry, I keep typing that 'Baker'...) enticed them back by making a policy of raiding the neighbouring peoples outside of Arabia. This had the added benefit of financing the Muslim state, which was especially important since prior to the unification of the Arabian peninsula under Mohammed a good portion of the tribes made their living by raiding one another. The inability to make raids against their own tribe, the ummah, made supporting themselves very difficult. Abu Bakr's policy also enabled him to circumvent the age old issues that Arab tribes people had with 'kings'. They didn't tend to follow a singular leader for long. But as long as Abu Bakr was a war leader, they would follow.

And about the reign of Uthman: "The Qur'an-reciters, who knew the scripture by heart and had become the chief religious authorities, were also incensed when Uthman insisted that only one version of the sacred text be used in the garrison towns, and suppressed variants, which many of them preferred, but which differed in minor details."

She doesn't cite reference on this fact, but it does blatantly state that there were multiple variant texts of the Qur'an in circulation as soon after Mohammed's death as Uthman's reign, which began after Umar was assassinated in 644. So..a little more than ten years after Mohammed's death.

Monday, March 28, 2011

living where you work - Islam: A Short History

Right, so I think my reflections from Islam: A Short History are going to tend toward the random, since there has, so far, been no new information.

Armstrong has a thing about Islam. She never converted, but she clearly was very fond of Islam and can't say enough nice things about it. She spends a couple of paragraphs on Mohammed's love of women. Not *that way*. Dirty minds...

But that the emancipation of women was a big deal for him. I know a lot of Muslims who claim that woman had no rights, etc. prior to Islam, but then how was Khadijah so rich and powerful? She had her own business, which is what she hired Mohammed to run. So clearly at least some women had rights. I have no doubt that it wasn't equal across the economic levels - women from wealthier families having more rights and opportunities than those who were poor, etc.

The thing that I find the most interesting, though, is the layout of the first mosque in Medina. The interesting aspect, to me, is that Mohammed and his wives basically lived in the mosque. It wasn't just the religious center for the Muslims, or the community center, it was Mohammed's house. Or houses, since each wife got her own little hut.

I read that, and I thought, well, how annoying. It's not enough that you have to share your husband with other women, only getting him part of the time, but then you have people coming in to ask him questions, because he literally lives in his office.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Advantages of Being a Woman?

My sister is trying to write a paper on a cross cultural experience.

One of the aspects of the paper is that she needs at least three traits that define/identify her within her own culture. The big one that she chose, the one that she says defines her the most is that she is a woman. And then she needs to talk about some advantages and disadvantages of each trait.

She's had no problem coming up is *dis*advantages to being a woman, but she can't think of any advantages to being a woman. And that just seems wrong. I'm not asking for help for my sister writing this paper. She needs to do that on her own. Which is why I gave her my thoughts on the advantages in the briefest forms possible. I'm not writing the paper for her, capiche?

But I thought I'd bring the question to you, oh readers. What do you see as the advantages of being a woman in your culture? Since we're not all from the same culture, even when we live in the same country, I'm thinking it likely makes a different. I know that some advantages I gain by being a woman in the South don't exist for woman in the North, or the West.

Also, I HAVE A NEW COMPUTER! Her name is Ivy, and my new external hard drive to go with her is named Kincaid. And there is approximately one person who will understand that naming scheme. *waves to sanil*

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oral/Aural society - Islam: A Short History

One of the things that gets stressed about the Qur'an is that it was an oral revelation. It wasn't (at first) written down. Susanne did a post a while back where the author of the book she was reading theorised that this enabled Mohammed to make edits and adaptations to his speeches as the need and/or mood of the crowd required. So while we may (and I'm not sold on this fact in and of itself) have the original version of the written Qur'an, totally unchanged from when Mohammed's followers wrote it down, we absolutely don't have the *original* Qur'an, because we weren't there and can never have heard Mohammed saying it.

And it's not just the Qur'an. The message of the Bible, every letter and Gospel in the New Testament was meant to be heard, not read. If for no other reason than the fact that the majority of the people at that time, and for centuries after that, could not read. It just wasn't practical, or helpful. Think about it this way. It takes a couple of hours every day for, heck, I don't even know how long to teach someone not just to read, but to read well. There's a difference. Trust me. It doesn't seem like much, does it? But in those times, there was a very, very small gap between survival and death for most people. Harvesting, dealing with livestock, selling their goods, working, cooking, cleaning, on and on and on. A million things that we don't worry about any longer but that they had to. Unless they were well off and therefore had idle time and money to pay for books and someone to teach them or they had necessity then reading and writing weren't that important to them.

But does it really make that much difference? Hearing versus reading?

I think it does. In the first place, if we are to hear something the way it was intended, then we will be in community, which is where our faith is meant to be practiced. Not alone, reading our sacred text and deciding what it means all on our lonesome, but *with* other believers. In the second place,we process things that we hear differently, both emotionally and intellectually.

As an example, I've been listening to books in my car for a while now. And I just recently listened to a death scene from a book I've read multiple times. The death is sad, and poignant and heroic. I'm sorry the character died, in spite of the fact that he's only in this one book, not even a recurring character. But I never *cried* for this character's death until I listened to it being acted out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

in another time, he might have been a hippie - A Short History of Islam, Karen Armstrong

First, reading a brief run down of the culture that the Qur'an was revealed into, the dramatic shift of society - from a nomadic lifestyle which couldn't produce enough food to sustain the people to a commerical/trading culture which separated people very sharply into the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' and the fact that the rich people, the ones who were settled were forgetting and abandoning the old paths, the old ways of sharing that enabled people to survive - reminded me of the fact that people react differently to such upheavals. They either adapt and go with it, abandoning the old beliefs and forms and embracing entirely new ones, they cling ever more strongly to the old ways (becoming the *bad* kind of fundamentalists), or they take the old ways and adapt them, look at them in a different light. I'd say that that's what happened with the Qur'an and Islam. Nothing new, exactly. People already believed that their supreme god, al-Lah was the same God as the Jews and the Christians worshipped. Many of the rituals were already in use. Only the interpretation of *why* changed.

One of the things that gives me...pause? shall we say? about Mohammed is the fits that he had with every supposed revelation. It's not recorded in any of the prophets in the Bible that they suffered when they spoke with God or one of the angels. So why did Mohammed have these fits? All that pain?

And then this:

"Social justice was, therefore, the crucial virtue of Islam. Muslims were commanded as their first duty to build a community (ummah) characterized by practical compassion, in which there was a fair distribution of wealth. This was far more important than any doctrinal teaching about God. In fact the Qur'an has a negative view of theological speculation, which it calls zannah, self-indulgent whimsy about ineffable matters that nobody can ascertain one way or the other. It seemed pointless to argue about such abstruse dogmas; far more crucial was the effort (jihad) to live in the way God had intended for human beings. The political and social welfare of the ummah would have sacramental value for Muslims. If the ummah prospered, it was a sign that Muslims were living according to Gods will, and the experience of living in a truly islamic community, which made this existential surrender to the divine, would give Muslims intimations of sacred providence. Consequently, they would be affected as profoundly by any misfortune or humiliation suffered by the ummah as Christians by the spectacle of somebody blasphemously trampling on the Bible or ripping the Eucharistic host apart." - p. 6

Ah, so, basically, what I got from that was that the Muslim ummah is supposed to be the ultimate 'prosperity gospel' experiment. If you live right, God will make certain that everything in your life goes perfectly. If something goes wrong, it's your fault because you've stepped out of line.

Also, the egalitarian utopia that Mohammed had envisioned never came to pass. There's just as much inequality in the modern (and historical) ummah as there is in any other community. But that's hardly a specific failing of Islam. Just human nature, really.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Movie: Limitless

Right, first things first.

Bradley Cooper is *pretty*. Not like, Orlando Bloom, delicate looking pretty. And not quite Liam Neeson, rugged man pretty (aka handsome, I know). But closer to Neeson on the spectrum.


Right. Right. Glad we've got that out of the way. So.

The premise of the movie is that Bradley Cooper's character, Eddie Morra, is a down and out kind of loser. He's one short step up from being out on the street and is an unsuccessful writer. After being dumped by his girlfriend, Lindy, he runs into his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon. Vernon takes him out for a drink and gives him a pill. Vernon, as you may guess, is not an upstanding member of society. The pill, NZT, allows a person to access all of their brain, all the time. (There's the old myth that we only use 20% of our brain, which isn't technically true. We use all of our brain, just not all at the same time. Different parts have different uses and get used for different things, etc.)

So Eddie takes the pill, and bam. He's a freaking genius. He knows everything he ever saw, heard, read. Things he didn't think he took in, he did. And he can extrapolate from them and from incoming information to allow for every possibility and choose the best path.

There's plot twists, and people coming after him, and yadda. It's a good movie, and I'm not going to spoil it. Go see it. Seriously.

But the one thing that I find perhaps socially interesting from the movie is that it doesn't end with a 'drugs are BAD' message. Yes, it does show that there are side effects to the drug. But those side effects only occur when the dosage is exceeded, or when he stops taking it entirely. When he's on it and taking it properly, remembering to eat, etc. the only side effect is that his life is fabulous. Except for the people trying to kill him, but since he's smarter than them, it's less of a problem than it might be.

I'm still thinking about this, about the implications of the message seeming to be, 'as long as you use drugs responsibly, it's okay'. So I don't have any deep thoughts. Maybe I'm reading too much into the movie? Whatever. I loved it.

Have a picture of Bradley Cooper. Gaze upon his masculine beauty and despair!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sex Inside of Marriage

I am...mostly amused by this post. But I want to write it, so I will!

Candice just recently did a post reevaluating her stance on sex toys in Islam. (Also, this post has nothing to do, specifically, with Candice's post, which is why I'm not replying over there!)

After I read it, and stopped giggling (which, I mean no insult or disrespect, okay? But it's *amusing* to me that there has to be religious rulings on what is and is not acceptable in the sex life of a married couple.), I remembered that there are Christians who have these hang ups too. And that, also, amuses me.

My point of view is this:

Once you're married? Anything that is consensual and pleasurable between you is a-okay!

The point of sex (aside from reproduction) is to bring the couple closer. To make them one. Right? It's all about closeness and love and intimacy.

Here's the thing. Everyone has kinks. Everyone. You may not *think* it's a kink. You may think it's the most vanilla thing out there and 'kink' only applies to whips and chains. And you'd be wrong.

Do you like having sex with your spouse in the middle of the day? Does that make it extra special? Extra arousing?

That's a kink. And I'm not even talking about especially bendy sex there. Just plain, old fashioned, sex.

Anything the idea of which serves to heighten your arousal and enjoyment is a kink. Got it?

ALSO, *gets on soapbox*, in spite of the general perspective on BDSM sex, it too is meant to be all about closeness and love. It's not just about the sex - it's about the trust and the ability to give yourself over to someone else. Got it? *hops off of soapbox*

The important aspect is that everything done during sex between two people must be done out of love and mutual pleasure.

Which is why *I* personally think that it's very, very, very important for a couple to discuss their sexual preferences and needs prior to marriage. I'm not talking like, first date or anything. But when it's serious? When you're considering getting engaged?

This is a talk that needs to happen. Because if you're not sexually compatible and/or not willing to try the things that make your spouse happy? You're going to either have a really miserable marriage, or a really short one. Or a little bit of both.

I know, for myself, that I have certain very specific kinks. I own those kinks and a lifetime of sex without them would not be fully satisfying to me. So if and when I find someone that I want to marry, we will be having that talk.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We are religious because we have imaginations

My new book is Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong. I've just read the intro and part of the chronology so far. Anyway, I thought this section from the intro was interesting.

"There is a symbiotic relationship between history and religion, therefore. It is, as the Buddha remarked, our perception that existence is awry that forces us to find an alternative which will prevent us from falling into despair.

"Perhaps the central paradox of the religious life is that it seeks transcendence, a dimension of existence that goes beyond our mundane lives, but that human beings can only experience this transcendent reality in earthly, physical phenomena. People have sensed the divine in rocks, mountains, temple buildings, law codes, written texts, or in other men and women. We never experience transcendence directly: our ecstasy is always 'earthed,' enshrined in something or someone here below. Religious people are trained to look beneath the unpromising surface to find the sacred within it. They have to use their creative imaginations. Jean-Paul Sartre defined the imagination as the ability to think of what is not present. Human beings are religious creatures because they are imaginative; they are so constituted that they are compelled to search for hidden meaning and to achieve an ecstasy that makes them feel fully alive. Each tradition encourages the faithful to focus their attention on an earthly symbol that is peculiarly its own, and to teach themselves to see the divine in it."

Rewriting History - The South Did It! Not Us!

*cough* Okay, this is a 'soap box' issue for me. This post is basically nothing more than a rant.

You've been warned.

*climbs up onto soap box*

"Actually, you are wrong there. I’m not denying that blacks were discriminated in some areas of the south but that is far from the whole country and it was not LEGAL. Also, when slavery was legal it was not legal in the whole country only parts of the south. If you are interested in the history of blacks in this country there is all kinds of information out there. All you have to do is look." - this is a quote from another comment on another blog. The original post is all about Saudi Arabia and why the West is viewed as being so immoral and of course slavery got brought up, along with about a million other things. I'm not bothering to reply to this over there because it's an old comment on an old post and, well, hell. I'm just not going to bother because I know it won't be seen.

*clears throat*


It was *legal* in the entire country. That includes your precious freaking North, okay?

Did it die out earlier in the North than it did in the South? Yeah. By nearly a hundred years. And that means diddly squat, got it? The Northern slave owners were not any more humane or loving toward their slaves than the ones in the South. *Both* treated other human beings as property. This is *wrong*. But that's the way it was historically.

We keep getting it thrown at us by the high and holy Yankees that the South was a slave economy and blah blah blah. So were you! Just because you've collectively rewritten history and made us out to be the bad guys doesn't make it so!

I am *proud* to be a Southerner. I am *proud* of our history. Does it have dark sides to it? Yes. So does every other region or country in the world. That doesn't mean we can't have pride in who we are and our culture! And it doesn't mean that we have to roll over and let you guys make us out to be the villains. We were *all* bad guys. I feel no personal guilt for the history of slavery in any form. *I* never owned slaves. I wouldn't own slaves and I know how cruel and evil a practice it was. But let's be honest here. If we were living back in the time and culture where slavery was a common and accepted practice, how many of us would think nothing of it? A good portion, I wager. Much of our moral compass is determined by the culture and the time that we are raised in.

As for blacks not being discriminated against in the North? I have to ask what the hell you're smoking if you think that's true. Just because it was *illegal* (some of the time, some of the places and it depends on how you define 'discrimination') doesn't mean it didn't happen. Not all discrimination is violent in nature. Look at the history. Not just the broad strokes, but personal stories. Find out how many children were removed from their mothers because they were mixed race babies? When did it stop being illegal to intermarry? Some states didn't repeal those laws until the 1960's. Maryland (which, last time I checked was in the North) didn't repeal theirs until 1967. But yeah. Discrimination against blacks didn't happen in the North. Because it was 'illegal'. Hah. HAH!

I have to agree with the original commenter on one thing though. If you want to know history, there's all kinds of information out there. Look it up. But don't just take one books word for it. Or what your parents told you. Actually do your research. Find the truth. It's not always pretty, or comfortable, but it is what it is.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Akathist Hymn to the Holy Virgin

Okay, so I'm posting the text to the Akathist Hymn. I copied this translation of it from this website. (Because I am lazy...)

There are also approximately a million videos of this hymn up on YouTube, if you want to listen to it. Like all proper (meaning OLD school) hymns, it's beautiful.

It's also quite long, so you have been warned.

Kontakion 1

Choir: To Thee, the Champion Leader, we Thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos: but as Thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do Thou deliver us, that we may cry to Thee: Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride! (Customarily sung three times at the beginning of the Akathist, once at the end.)

Ikos 1

Priest: An archangel was sent from Heaven to say to the Theotokos: Rejoice! And beholding Thee, O Lord, taking bodily form, he was amazed and with his bodiless voice he stood crying to Her such things as these:

Rejoice, Thou through whom joy will shine forth:
Rejoice, Thou through whom the curse will cease!
Rejoice, recall of fallen Adam:
Rejoice, redemption of the tears of Eve!
Rejoice, height inaccessible to human thoughts:
Rejoice, depth undiscernible even for the eyes of angels!
Rejoice, for Thou art the throne of the King:
Rejoice, for Thou bearest Him Who beareth all!
Rejoice, star that causest the Sun to appear:
Rejoice, womb of the Divine Incarnation!
Rejoice, Thou through whom creation is renewed:
Rejoice, Thou through whom we worship the Creator!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 2

Priest: Seeing herself to be chaste, the holy one said boldly to Gabriel: The marvel of thy speech is difficult for my soul to accept. How canst thou speak of a birth from a seedless conception? And She cried: Alleluia!

Ikos 2

Priest: Seeking to know knowledge that cannot be known, the Virgin cried to the ministering one: Tell me, how can a son be born from a chaste womb? Then he spake to Her in fear, only crying aloud thus:

Rejoice, initiate of God's ineffable will:
Rejoice, assurance of those who pray in silence!
Rejoice, beginning of Christ's miracles:
Rejoice, crown of His dogmas!
Rejoice, heavenly ladder by which God came down:
Rejoice, bridge that conveyest us from earth to Heaven!
Rejoice, wonder of angels sounded abroad:
Rejoice, wound of demons bewailed afar!
Rejoice, Thou Who ineffably gavest birth to the Light:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst reveal Thy secret to none!
Rejoice, Thou Who surpassest the knowledge of the wise:
Rejoice, Thou Who givest light to the minds of the faithful!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 3

Priest: The power of the Most High then overshadowed the Virgin for conception, and showed Her fruitful womb as a sweet meadow to all who wish to reap salvation, as they sing: Alleluia!

Ikos 3

Priest: Having received God into Her womb, the Virgin hastened to Elizabeth whose unborn babe at once recognized Her embrace, rejoiced, and with leaps of joy as songs, cried to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, branch of an Unfading Sprout:
Rejoice, acquisition of Immortal Fruit!
Rejoice, laborer that laborest for the Lover of mankind:
Rejoice, Thou Who givest birth to the Planter of our life!
Rejoice, cornland yielding a rich crop of mercies:
Rejoice, table bearing a wealth of forgiveness!
Rejoice, Thou Who makest to bloom the garden of delight:
Rejoice, Thou Who preparest a haven for souls!
Rejoice, acceptable incense of intercession:
Rejoice, propitiation of all the world!
Rejoice, good will of God to mortals:
Rejoice, boldness of mortals before God!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 4

Priest: Having within a tempest of doubting thoughts, the chaste Joseph was troubled. For knowing Thee to have no husband, he suspected a secret union, O blameless one. But having learned that Thy conception was of the Holy Spirit, he said: Alleluia!

Ikos 4

Priest: While the angels were chanting, the shepherds heard of Christ's coming in the flesh, and having run to the Shepherd, they beheld Him as a blameless Lamb that had been pastured in Mary's womb, and singing to Her, they cried:

Rejoice, Mother of the Lamb and the Shepherd:
Rejoice, fold of rational sheep!
Rejoice, torment of invisible enemies:
Rejoice, opening of the gates of Paradise!
Rejoice, for the things of Heaven rejoice with the earth:
Rejoice, for the things of earth join chorus with the heavens!
Rejoice, never-silent mouth of the Apostles:
Rejoice, invincible courage of the passion-bearers!
Rejoice, firm support of faith:
Rejoice, radiant token of Grace!
Rejoice, Thou through whom hades was stripped bare:
Rejoice, Thou through whom we are clothed with glory!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 5

Priest: Having sighted the divinely-moving star, the Magi followed its radiance; and holding it as a lamp, by it they sought a powerful King; and having reached the Unreachable One, they rejoiced, shouting to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 5

Priest: The sons of the Chaldees saw in the hands of the Virgin Him Who with His hand made man. And knowing Him to be the Master, even though He had taken the form of a servant, they hastened to serve Him with gifts, and to cry to Her Who is blessed:

Rejoice, Mother of the Unsetting Star:
Rejoice, dawn of the mystic day!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst extinguish the furnace of error:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst enlighten the initiates of the Trinity!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst banish from power the inhuman tyrant:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst show us Christ the Lord, the Lover of mankind!
Rejoice, Thou Who redeemest from pagan worship:
Rejoice, Thou Who dost drag us from the works of mire!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst quench the worship of fire:
Rejoice, Thou Who rescuest from the flame of the passions!
Rejoice, guide of the faithful to chastity:
Rejoice, gladness of all generations!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 6

Priest: Having become God-bearing heralds, the Magi returned to Babylon, having fulfilled Thy prophecy; and having preached Thee to all as the Christ, they left Herod as a babbler who knew not how to sing: Alleluia!

Ikos 6

Priest: By shining in Egypt the light of truth, Thou didst dispel the darkness of falsehood; for its idols fell, O Saviour, unable to endure Thy strength; and those who were delivered from them cried to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, uplifting of men:
Rejoice, downfall of demons!
Rejoice, Thou who didst trample down the dominion of delusion:
Rejoice, Thou who didst unmask the fraud of idols!
Rejoice, sea that didst drown the Pharaoh of the mind:
Rejoice, rock that doth refresh those thirsting for life!
Rejoice, pillar of fire that guideth those in darkness:
Rejoice, shelter of the world broader than a cloud!
Rejoice, sustenance replacing manna:
Rejoice, minister of holy delight!
Rejoice, land of promise:
Rejoice, Thou from whom floweth milk and honey!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 7

Priest: When Symeon was about to depart this age of delusion, Thou wast brought as a Babe to him, but Thou was recognized by him as perfect God also; wherefore, marveling at Thine ineffable wisdom, he cried: Alleluia!

Ikos 7

Priest: The Creator showed us a new creation when He appeared to us who came from Him. For He sprang from a seedless womb, and kept it incorrupt as it was, that seeing the miracle we might sing to Her, crying out:

Rejoice, flower of incorruptibility:
Rejoice, crown of continence!
Rejoice, Thou from whom shineth the Archetype of the Resurrection:
Rejoice, Thou Who revealest the life of the angels!
Rejoice, tree of shining fruit, whereby the faithful are nourished:
Rejoice, tree of goodly shade by which many are sheltered!
Rejoice, Thou that has carried in Thy womb the Redeemer of captives:
Rejoice, Thou that gavest birth to the Guide of those astray!
Rejoice, supplication before the Righteous Judge:
Rejoice, forgiveness of many sins!
Rejoice, robe of boldness for the naked:
Rejoice, love that doth vanquish all desire!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 8

Priest: Having beheld a strange nativity, let us estrange ourselves from the world and transport our minds to Heaven; for the Most High God appeared on earth as a lowly man, because He wished to draw to the heights them that cry to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 8

Priest: Wholly present was the Inexpressible Word among those here below, yet in no way absent from those on high; for this was a divine condescension and not a change of place, and His birth was from a God-receiving Virgin Who heard these things:

Rejoice, container of the Uncontainable God:
Rejoice, door of solemn mystery!
Rejoice, report doubtful to unbelievers:
Rejoice, undoubted boast of the faithful!
Rejoice, all-holy chariot of Him Who sitteth upon the Cherubim:
Rejoice, all-glorious temple of Him Who is above the Seraphim!
Rejoice, Thou Who hast united opposites:
Rejoice, Thou Who hast joined virginity and motherhood!
Rejoice, Thou through whom transgression hath been absolved:
Rejoice, Thou through whom Paradise is opened!
Rejoice, key to the kingdom of Christ:
Rejoice, hope of eternal good things!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 9

Priest: All the angels were amazed at the great act of Thine incarnation; for they saw the Unapproachable God as a man approachable to all, abiding with us, and hearing from all: Alleluia!

Ikos 9

Priest: We see most eloquent orators mute as fish before Thee, O Theotokos; for they are at a loss to tell how Thou remainest a Virgin and could bear a child. But we, marveling at this mystery, cry out faithfully:

Rejoice, receptacle of the Wisdom of God:
Rejoice, treasury of His Providence!
Rejoice, Thou Who showest philosophers to be fools:
Rejoice, Thou Who exposest the learned as irrational!
Rejoice, for the clever critics have become foolish:
Rejoice, for the writers of myths have faded away!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst rend the webs of the Athenians:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst fill the nets of the fishermen!
Rejoice, Thou Who drawest us from the depths of ignorance:
Rejoice, Thou Who enlightenest many with knowledge!
Rejoice, ship for those who wish to be saved:
Rejoice, harbor for sailors on the sea of life!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 10

Priest: Desiring to save the world, He that is the Creator of all came to it according to His Own promise, and He that, as God, is the Shepherd, for our sake appeared unto us as a man; for like calling unto like, as God He heareth: Alleluia!

Ikos 10

Priest: A bulwark art Thou to virgins, and to all that flee unto Thee, O Virgin Theotokos; for the Maker of Heaven and earth prepared Thee, O Most-pure one, dwelt in Thy womb, and taught all to call to Thee:

Rejoice, pillar of virginity:
Rejoice, gate of salvation!
Rejoice, leader of mental formation:
Rejoice, bestower of divine good!
Rejoice, for Thou didst renew those conceived in shame:
Rejoice, for Thou gavest wisdom to those robbed of their minds!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst foil the corrupter of minds:
Rejoice, Thou Who gavest birth to the Sower of purity!
Rejoice, bridechamber of a seedless marriage:
Rejoice, Thou Who dost wed the faithful to the Lord!
Rejoice, good nourisher of virgins:
Rejoice, adorner of holy souls as for marriage!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 11

Priest: Every hymn is defeated that trieth to encompass the multitude of Thy many compassions; for if we offer to Thee, O Holy King, songs equal in number to the sand, nothing have we done worthy of that which Thou hast given us who shout to Thee: Alleluia!

Ikos 11

Priest: We behold the holy Virgin, a shining lamp appearing to those in darkness; for, kindling the Immaterial Light, She guideth all to divine knowledge, She illumineth minds with radiance, and is honored by our shouting these things:

Rejoice, ray of the noetic Sun:
Rejoice, radiance of the Unsetting Light!
Rejoice, lightning that enlightenest our souls:
Rejoice, thunder that terrifiest our enemies!
Rejoice, for Thou didst cause the refulgent Light to dawn:
Rejoice, for Thou didst cause the river of many streams to gush forth!
Rejoice, Thou Who paintest the image of the font:
Rejoice, Thou Who blottest out the stain of sin!
Rejoice, laver that washest the conscience clean:
Rejoice, cup that drawest up joy!
Rejoice, aroma of the sweet fragrance of Christ:
Rejoice, life of mystical gladness!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 12

Priest: When the Absolver of all mankind desired to blot out ancient debts, of His Own will He came to dwell among those who had fallen from His Grace; and having torn up the handwriting of their sins, He heareth this from all: Alleluia!

Ikos 12

Priest: While singing to Thine Offspring, we all praise Thee as a living temple, O Theotokos; for the Lord Who holdeth all things in His hand dwelt in Thy womb, and He sanctified and glorified Thee, and taught all to cry to Thee:

Rejoice, tabernacle of God the Word:
Rejoice, saint greater than the saints!
Rejoice, ark gilded by the Spirit:
Rejoice, inexhaustible treasury of life!
Rejoice, precious diadem of pious kings:
Rejoice, venerable boast of reverent priests!
Rejoice, unshakable fortress of the Church:
Rejoice, inviolable wall of the kingdom!
Rejoice, Thou through whom victories are obtained:
Rejoice, Thou through whom foes fall prostrate!
Rejoice, healing of my flesh:
Rejoice, salvation of my soul!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 13

Priest: O all-praised Mother Who didst bear the Word, holiest of all the saints, accept now our offering, and deliver us from all misfortune, and rescue from the torment to come those that cry to Thee: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! (This Kontakion is sung three times)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Praising Mary's Honor - Extravagance & Only Human But It Was Enough

These are the last two sections before the actual text of the Akathist Hymn. Do you guys want me to go over the hymn itself oikos by oikos with the Scriptural references or do you just want this book to be over? It's seriously such a tiny book but there's been so much to share it's taken this long!

- Extravagance

The Akathist Hymn, in spite of being on the surface all about Mary is really about the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus Christ and the subtle paradoxes of the Incarnation. Here's the thing about theology in regards to Mary - it only exists in order to aid us in having a proper theological understanding of Christ and the Incarnation. And again, not all of it, but only the parts that we can comprehend which is just the tip of the iceberg.

"The more Christians thought about it, the more wonder they felt at the bare fact of Mary's pregnancy. The God who made the entire universe, who holds Creation in the palm of His hand, was somehow voluntarily enclosed in the space of her womb. ('He made your body more spacious than the heavens!' another hymn would rejoice.)"

Everything human about Christ came from Mary. She was the only genetic contributor to his human body. All that is *us* in Him came from her. For this she can almost be looked at as a 'home town hero made good'. Someone from humble beginnings who did something amazing. Mary, through her obedience to God, through her simple 'yes' aided in the salvation of all.

The language of the Akathist Hymn is a contrast to the language of the Protoevangelium of James. Whereas the language in the Protoevangelium is plain, almost homey, this hymn is elaborate and glorious in its language. Mary is praised as "mother of the unsetting star", "dawn of the mystic day", "pillar of virgins", "gate of salvation", and much more.

Some people might feel uncomfortable with such language being used for Mary, who is, of course, only human. The thing to keep in mind is that the language is not used in some mistake or attempt to replace praise of God with praise of Mary. It's more along the lines of counting your blessings. Enumerating all the wonderful things that God has done for you doesn't set the things up as a rival to God. It is done to remind you of what God has done for you. So is the language used about Mary. It is done to remind us what God has done for us, in part through Mary's cooperation.

In addition, the language used about Mary is strongly typological. Mary is seen foreshadowed all throughout the Old Testament. "Mary's virgin conception, in particular, has been considered in light of the Hebrew Scriptures. In this miracle, God altered the course of nature by His own will and power. Yet He did this while preserving the delicate harmony of the female human body, His own creation. This great miracle waited on the permission of a girl, and was achieved without compromising the integrity of her vulnerable natural body."

Here's a few of the references found in the Old Testament to the (at the time) coming miracle of the Incarnation:

Gen. 28:12 - The ladder that Jacob saw, which reached from heaven to earth.

Ex. 3:2 - The bush that Moses saw, which was burning but not consumed.

Ex. 16:32 - The golden urn of manna that Moses preserved, so that future generations could see the bread God provided in the wilderness.

Ex. 17:6 - The rock that Moses struck, which then produced a fountain of water.

Num. 17:8 - The rod of Aaron, which blossomed though it was dry.

Dan. 2:34 - The stone that Daniel saw, which was cut from a mountain by no human hand.

Ezek. 43:4 - The east gate that Ezekiel saw, through which the Lord entered and which would henceforth be shut.

As time went on, the praise of Mary grew more lavish. You can see that if you look from the text of the Protovengelium to the Compassion prayer to the Akathist Hymn. But to take these honors as precise theological assertions would be a grave misunderstanding. Western Christian thought in regards to theology was shaped by the work of St. Thomas Aquinas who developed an approach that treats faith like a science. We won't debate whether that's right or wrong, or anything like that. I appreciated the attempt to treat faith like something quantifiable not that long ago. I've since come to realize that that's not satisfactory, or the way it was meant to be. Faith is faith and cannot be treated like science, where every answer can logically be known or anticipated to be known once we've advanced enough. Faith will never, and should never, be quantified. Regardless, the Akathist Hymn predates Aquinas by about 700 years, so his version of theology doesn't enter into it.

The goal here is not so much understanding God in a rational way as it is directly experiencing Him. "This worship starts with the assumption that God is present throughout Creation, sustaining our every heartbeat, hearing our every thought, perceptible in the beauty and love we encounter in the material world. And it's assumed that trying to think about this makes you trip over your own feet. As St. Maximos the Confessor (580-662) put it, 'direct experience of a thing suspends rational knowledge of it, and direct perception of a thing renders the conceptual knowledge of it useless.'"

Worshipers expect to offer this hymn, not just about Mary, but to her, while participating in an inexpressible communication with her. They do this while standing in the presence of God, in the midst of family and friends, saints and angels, seen and unseen. The encounter takes place whether we feel anything emotionally. The author points out that people tend to get 'experience' and 'emotion' mixed up when speaking about faith. The experience is of primary importance, with any emotions or thoughts that may arise being secondary and almost unimportant. The important part is to participate - to be fully there.

"So the context of these praises is a celebration, and they are a suitably glorious outpouring for that purpose, much like the language a lover bestows on his beloved. If you were to hear one of these Christians singing to Mary, 'You alone are our only hope,' you would probably ask him, 'Do you really believe that Mary is your only hope?' He might well reply, 'Of course not, where did you get that idea?' People in love say extravagant things."

-Only human - but that was enough

Mary was ardently loved by the early Christians (and is still loved today in Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, I'd like to point out), respected for her holiness, but they didn't get her mixed up with God. If Jesus Himself 'in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin' (Heb. 4:15), Mary cannot have done better than that. Mary lived a sinless life, but that doesn't mean she was never tempted by sin. All it means is that she, as a person just like you or I, resisted all temptation through her faith in God and His grace.

"The whole point of her role in God's plan is that she represented us; she was an authentic human being. And though the early Christians saw in her an exemplary model of holiness, they didn't think she had magical powers, or that she knew everything in the mind of God."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I want it...

but do I need it?

It's only $9.99 on the kindle, and I have the first volume.

It's the same problem I have with the Orthodox Bible study books by Fr. Lawrence R. Farley. I *want* them, but do I really need them?

The Hollows aka The Rachel Morgan Series

How do I keep forgetting just how much I love these books until I'm reading them?

I mean, I remember that I love them and the characters and how much I am torn between wanting Rachel with Ivy and Rachel with Trent but then I start reading them and I realize that I haven't recalled exactly how much fun the books are and how...just how much I love Rachel and Jenks! *Not* together. Just...I love them.

Trent! *makes grabby hands*

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Praising Mary's Honor - How can you know scripture if you can't read?

There's a lot of complex theological truth contained in the Akathist hymn and other kontakion like it. How could the people hearing the hymn be expected to remember it all? Especially considering the fact that many of them were uneducated and illiterate.

Romanos' own knowledge of Scripture was extraordinary. In another kontakion he wrote, The Victory of the Cross, there is a dialogue between Hades and Belial that recalls an impressive range of biblical incidents in which wood was used for deliverance. From Jael's tent-peg (as an aside, I love the name Jael) to Haman's gallows to the stick Elisha threw in the Jordan to make a lost axe-head float. In today's world we could use software to look up all these incidents and more. As far as anyone knows, Romanos didn't even have a concordance. He simply knew the Scriptures.

These hymns were written for the people - they were aimed at the congregations level of knowledge and understanding. If Romanos included all these references, he expected his audience to understand exactly what he was referring to and follow him as he connected these events, perhaps in ways they had not considered before.

All of this becomes even more impressive when you remember that at the time, and for most of Christian history, the Bible was not readily available to people as a physical item they could own. The only time they got Biblical information was when they heard it. Most of us can't recall things that we hear five minutes after we hear them. We have to make an effort to learn things in that fashion. That's because our society has shifted gears, we're no longer a verbal culture, but a literate one. Our learning comes through reading.

"The dependence on oral transmission of faith explains why public preaching was so important. St. Paul exhorts the Romans: 'How are [people] to believe in [Christ] of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can they preach if they are not sent?' He concludes by citing the prophet Isaiah's words: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!'

"You'll note there is nothing there about reading the Good News. Oral transmission of Christianity has a class-transcending effect: an informed faith is not only for the educated. Any peasant could gain a good grasp of Christian teachings, just by attending worship. By listening to hymns like this one, by listening to the chanted Scripture readings and by studying the icons (a kind of picture Bible) covering a church's interior, any milkmaid could learn enough to tell the real Trinity from a shabby substitute.

"And that common worship experience forged a common faith. Christians acknowledge Scripture as our highest authority, but that's shorthand for the faith that Scripture preserves. When the book is exploited apart from this faith, it malfunctions: a splinter group runs off a scary isolated verse, or a preacher ruminates endlessly on 'Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man.' This Scriptural faith is not discovered by pitting one bright interpreter against another; that just provokes argument. Instead it is found, fresh and living, in the collective memory of the worshiping body of Christ.

"When worship doesn't change, the faith doesn't change. Even today, someone who wants to find out what Eastern Christians believe about, say, the Ascension of Christ is not sent to a catechism or a tome of systematic theology. Instead, they're invited to look at how Eastern Christians approach this topic when they worship. What hymns do they sing when this feast rolls around? What clues can be picked up from the icon that depicts the Ascension?

"To worshipers, the beliefs they honor in such forms feel organically their own. These points of faith haven't been imposed by a bossy outsider, and they aren't subject to unexpected 'updatings' that immediately feel dated. Instead, these beliefs come up from the believers' own roots, and as a result they will defend them with their lives. It's estimated that more Christians were martyred under Communism than in the whole preceding history of the faith.

"When the Church was still young, an attentive, informed laity was able to resist strange moral and theological ideas, even when these were propounded by clergy. St. Basil the Great describes fourth-century worshipers who met 'in the open air, in heavy rain, in the snow,...and under the blazing heat of the sun' rather than enter churches held by priests who were followers of Arius."

Being Human

I'm convinced that Aiden gives Josh terrible advice about women and pretty much everything else so he can keep him for himself.

And you can't prove me wrong, so nyah.

No, the show is not the British version. I actually no longer care. I'm enjoying them both, separately.

You May Live in the South, But You're Never Southern

Unless you were born here.

It is just a fact of life.

There are subtle hints (aside from accents and lack of proper manners) that let everyone know no matter how acclimated you are to the culture you're not 'one of us'.

Dislike of grits is one of them.

Grits are *GOOD*. Fried or regular. Plain or cheese. Grits yay!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It is impossible to say that there was a time when Christ was not, because prior to the creation of creation, there was no time.

I wish my brain would stop mixing theology/philosophy/the Dresden Files.

Don't ask.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lent: The Re-Lenten-ing

For the record, I don't feel particularly good. I've had an upset stomach since yesterday. Not sick-sick, just...'hey, that ain't quite right'-sick. Just sort of generally blargh-y. *makes blargh face* No fun at all.

However, I had hummus and pita for lunch, plus fruit and some yogurt, and my stomach seems to have settled down. Yay!

One of the girls at work came up with this tiny cheer for Lent, since we were discussing Shrove Tuesday, and how people are *supposed* to go to Church Tuesday night for a 'pep talk' before Lent starts in the Catholic Church on Ash Wednesday. And we started giggling, wondering what sort of a pep rally you could have for *Lent*.

'Two four six eight! No more cookies, no more cake!'

And then we broke down in hysterics. Funnier than it should have been.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Smallville - Scion


Okay, Smallville, you've had your problems. We all know it.

Like the distinct LACK OF FUCKING FLYING! that is not another Kryptonian or in a dream or some shit. Or your LACK OF THE GODDAMN BATMAN! *cough*

But I approve of your Conner!

Now give him a Timmy!

ps: Sanil, all I saw was a Legion ring in the preview. No Orange Lantern Ring.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Supernatural S6 - And Then There Were None

The one where Samuel dies? Y/Y?

See, Dean told Zachariah that he'd stab him in the face. And he did. So now I need Dean to kill Samuel. Cause he said he would.

Hi Mommy! I do like the mother.

Dear truck driver: it does not pay to pick up pretty girls on the highway. Not on this show anyway.

Oh, oh, it wasn't a drill bit in the preview last week. It was her tongue! I will bet you!

Or maybe not, since he didn't get hollowed out or anything. Mmm...

'Sarcasm attracts the hammer, Bob.' I know, I know. Completely inappropriate.

Rufus! Grumpy Old Hunters!

Well that's nice and pleasant. Gooey stuff in the ear. *blargh* Why is there not a smiley for blargh face?

And there's Gwen. Shoot her. Shoot! No, dammit. Shoot HIM!

"Ow. Somebody needs a hug." *tries to hug Rufus and Bobby at the same time*

Eve = Mommy. Wow, what a stretch. *smacks Samuel**with a baseball bat*

I don't like Gwen. And I don't trust her. Dean, don't be stupid here.

Wait, what?

Oh! Mommy got him!

Never leave someone alone in the dark warehouse with the monster on the loose.

Okay. Got it. Mommy laid the new little monster inside truckers ear. He worked at the cannery, it crawls out of him, into the other guy. And now it's in the cannery. Duh. Wow, I'm slow tonight.

'Khan worm on steroids!'


Admit it. Ricardo Montalban was hot.

Um. Bobby/Rufus? y/y?

Of *course* he had a hold out gun. Duh.

Also, I really love Dean's gun. If I didn't have such small girly-hands, that would be the gun I would get. M1911A1. As it is, I do have girly-hands, and it looks like a large grip. But I guess I'd have to handle one to know for sure.

Dangit! I wanted Dean to kill him dead!

On an unrelated note, I think this Suckerpunch movie would only be good if I was severely high.

You have a cranial saw in the truck?

Of course.

And now we have the obligatory emo woobie moment. God, just hug already.

And now we shall have Bobby and Rufus kiss and make up. Dammit.

*makes wibbly movements* BOYS!

Lord, everyone on this show needs so much therapy.


Okay, you kind of knew it was coming, but still.

Note for the future: always restrain the 'corpse' before you try to cut it's brain open.

'define a hundred'


The monster is never just gone.

Sam...that is both dumb and brilliant. Pretty much like you.

Some people pay for that kind of thing...

RUFUS! Wait! Now what will I do with my new found Bobby/Rufus feelings? *wails* Dammit. All my old-guy pairings are half dead.

Why do you keep talking about herpies?

Khan-worm speaks!

Dude. Uh...this is a bad idea for many reasons.

And Sammy had to turn away.

Squish it, stupid!

And on another unrelated note. Red Riding Hood - do want!

Beast of Gevaudan story = personal obsessive favorite!

How much do I love that Rufus was Jewish?

'he always used to pull the old, can't work on the Sabbath card, when we had to bury a body'

preview: FUCKING APRIL 15 WHAT THE FUCK?!!??? ANOTHER break?

Cas! Balthazar! Mommy! COWBOYS! Silly death? Gabe? Could that be your work? Did I mention COWBOYS?

Delicious Food of Deliciousness

Hummus. So tasty. So good. Why don't more people eat it?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Praising Mary's Honor - Focus on Pregnancy

The Akathist Hymn was written in a time when the interest around Mary was focused closely on her pregnancy. This was in response to a number of controversies in the fourth and fifth centuries over when, precisely, the Son of God came to be.

Arius, a priest, began teaching around AD 320 that Christ existed before the universe, and that he created it and everything in it. However, he himself was created by God the Father. In other words, Christ had not always existed, from eternity. "There was a time when he was not", Arius said.

This, of course, aroused great controversy. In AD 325 Emperor Constantine called together the clergy for the first Ecumenical Council. They met in Nicea and after much debate produced the Nicene Creed, a statement of faith which was signed by all but three of the 318 bishops present. The creed states that Christ was not created by God. Rather, he is "begotten, not made" and "of one being with the Father." Arianism hung around as a heresy for centuries.

In the fifth century, Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, began to teach that Christ had two separate natures: human and divine. He taught that it was wrong to say that 'God suffered' or 'God was crucified' because those events were only experienced by Christ's human nature, not his divine nature.

Likewise, the child Mary carried in her womb could not have been God, because "no one can bring forth a son older than herself". He opposed calling her Theotokos (though the title had been in use at that point for at least 200 years). Instead, he wished her to be titled Christotokos, indicating that she gave birth to Christ's human nature alone. The third Ecumenical Council, in Epehsus, AD 431 rejected Nestorius' argument. The son of Mary was both human and divine, and she properly deserved the title of Theotokos.

Theotokos is often translated 'Mother of God'. However, it more properly means 'Birthgiver of God'. While Mary is the only Theotokos, we can all hope to become Theophorus, or God-bearers. We desire and aim to carry God within us, through the Holy Spirit.

I know people who have problems with the title Theotokos because, well, how can Mary be the mother of God? How could she give birth to God? Is she a goddess? Is she older than a being that has no beginning and no end? No. Of course not. Stop being silly.

Mary did, quite literally, give birth to God in the only kind of birth He has ever experienced. The Son was born onto earth in a mortal, human form. He has two natures, both human and divine, but they are inextricably and permanently joined. You cannot have one without the other. If Mary gave birth to Christ's human nature here on earth, then she also gave human form, human birth to his divine nature. But that doesn't imply that she created the divine nature. Just that she, and only she as Christ had no human father, gave Him His mortal, human flesh.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Praising Mary's Honor - The Annunciation Hymn

The author likes to call the Akathist Hymn the Annunciation Hymn. I prefer Akathist. Don't mind me. :D

The Akathist Hymn is arranged as a series of greetings to Mary, and it begins with the Annunciation (hence the author's preference). The congregational refrain between oikoi is difficult to translate. It's modeled on Gabriel's words in Scripture, "Rejoice [Xaire], favored one [xarito'o]."

Romanos used "Xaire", but varied the term by which Mary is addressed. Now it is "Xaire, nymphe anymphouete." You can get the general idea by noting that 'nymphe' means bride and that it's followed by 'anymph'. The 'a' prefix usually indicates an opposite. But what's the opposite of bride?

"The paradox the phrase wishes to convey is that, in the conception and birth of Jesus, Mary is genuinely a bride, and yet she remains a virgin."

Translators have tried a lot of variations for the phrase. 'Unwedded Bride', 'Bride without a bridegroom', 'Spouse Unespoused' and 'Bride ever-virgin'. The author has chosen to use 'Unmarried Bride', but points out that it isn't any more accurate than any other translation of the phrase.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Praising Mary's Honor - The extraordinary invention

Trying to get back on track with the last third of this book. :D

This section deals with the Akathist Hymn, which was written around AD 520.

We spoke, briefly, in the previous section about the transmission of oral traditions. However, with the Akathist Hymn, we have a very carefully written work. One that is meant to convey Scriptural allusions and theological paradoxes to listeners who are illiterate. Who cannot read the texts for themselves.

This is not because the Bible was kept locked away from them, because they 'lacked understanding' or anything like that. The simple fact of the matter is that literacy wasn't yet a standard thing. The higher classes learned to read, but they were always a minority. Even those who could read were less than likely to have their very own copy of the Bible, or even books of the Bible. We're still 900 years away from the invention of the printing press. Every copy of every book had to be written by hand. It was time consuming and expensive.

The author-composer of hymns such as these must take profound theological ideas and make them accessible to an audience who will only experience them through the hearing of the hymn. The facts need to be condensed down into memorable nuggets. And setting them to music always helps. :)

"The Akathist Hymn is regarded as the brightest example of a hymn form, the kontakion, which accomplishes these tasks magnificently."

But the composer, St. Romanos, did not at first seem naturally inclined to such a task. He was born in Syria around AD 475 and served first as a deacon in Beirut and then in Constantinople. He was attracted to the church of Blachernae and settled there. In this Eastern capital he was far out of his depth. The city priests mocked his country manners, his lack of theological education and his sour singing voice. The elaborate liturgies required a great deal of vocal skill, and in Constantinople poor chanters were not welcome.

On the night before Christmas, Romanos prayed and wept in the church until he fell asleep. He dreamed, and in the dream the Theotokos appeared to him and gave him a scroll which she instructed him to swallow. The next day, at the service for the Nativity of Christ, Romanos sang a new hymn in a voice of unearthly beauty:

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Inexpressible,
and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable;
angels and shepherds together give glory,
and the Magi are guided by a star,
when for our sakes was born, as a new babe,
The one who from eternity is God.

His hymns are still sung in the Orthodox church today.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...