January 2017


Resurrection Hymn (Apolytikion) in Plagal 1st Tone

This coming Sunday is Plagal 2nd Tone. You can see the comments on this Apolytikion at Apolytikion Plagal 2nd Tone. This post goes back to last week’s Apolytikion.

Of all the 8 Resurrection hymns, the hymn in Plagal of the 1st Tone is probably the clearest example of theology expressed through poetry. The hymn is divided into two parts: the first part takes us to the life of the Trinity which expressed itself in the Incarnation of the Logos; the second part shows us the working out of that life and love in the Cross and the Resurrection.

Greek Text

Τον συναναρχον Λόγον Πατρι και Πνεύματι,
τον εκ Παρθένου τεχθεντα εις σωτηριαν ημών,
ανυμνησωμεν πιστοί και προσκυνησωμεν,
ότι ηυδοκησε σαρκί ανέλθειν εν τω σταυρών και θάνατον  υπομείνai,
και εγειρε τους τεθνεωτας,
εν τη ενδόξων Αναστασει αυτού.

Transliteration

Ton sinanarchon Logon Patri ke Pnevmati,
ton ek Parthenou techthenta is sotirian imon,
animnisomen pisti ke proskinisomen,
oti ivdokise sarki anelthin en to stavro ke thanaton ipomine,
ke egire tous tethneotas,
en ti endoxo Anastasi aftou.

English Translation

The Word co-beginningless with the Father and the Spirit
born of the Virgin for our salvation,
let us, O Faithful, hymn and worship,
for it pleased him to mount in the flesh on the cross and endure death,
and He raised those who had died
in His glorious Resurrection.

The Hymn in Greek

Awe and Worship

The hymn hinges on the central phrase, “Let us, O Faithful, hymn and worship (the Logos).” This command centers us in the action of worship. We are not asked to analyze these truths rationally, only to fall down before them in awe.

This central, connecting phrase is grammatically balanced: in the center is the noun (pistoi, O faithfu), the people addressed; on either side of this noun are the two verbs of command (animnisomen, proskinisomen–let us hymn, let us worship).

Uniting Earth and Heaven

What is the function of this central line?

The command to the faithful to praise and worship unites the first part of the hymn which looks to the inner life of God with the second part which looks to God’s saving actions on earth.

The tight grammatical structure of the first line reflects the unity of persons in the Holy Trinity. The emphasis is on the Word/Son of God, since He alone took on human nature while not leaving the life of the Trinity.

Ton synanarchon Logon Patri kai Pnevmati

The Word co-beginningless with the Father and the Spirit

The three persons of the Trinity are brought into immediate proximity; the Word (Logon) receives the emphasis, since it is the direct object of the main verbs. The Word is bound grammatically to the Father and the Spirit by the adjective synanarchon. The prefix syn (with) puts the adjective ananarchon into a relationship with other nouns by their using a special case (called the dative). Not only are the Persons of the Trinity united by proximity in the line; they are also bound together grammatically.

The three Persons of the Trinity are bound by a specific characteristic, being without a beginning (ananachon). This specific characteristic is mentioned because, as we see in the second line, the Word of God enters into human nature, taking on a beginning from the Virgin.

ton ek Parthenou techthenta

born from a Virgin

This line also gives us the reason for this condescension: for our salvation.

What’s the Point?

The second part of the hymn gives the proof of God’s concern for our salvation shown in the first part of the hymn; the life of the Trinity and the incarnation of the Word bring about the defeat of death on the cross and the subsequent resurrection of all people.

The reason proving God’s concern for our salvation produces two verbs, each used in an unusual way:

  • The first verb is evdokisas, which indicates assent or approval, but it also has the implication of happiness, of being content with the decision. Our Lord not only freely went to the cross and death; He went joyfully. The infinitives which completes the thought of the verb, indicate that our Lord was not the passive victim. The first infinitive anelthin give the image of a king mounting his throne. The second infinitive upomeinai indicates that, although our Lord did not cause His death, He did patiently endure this death; He went through this death willingly and not by compulsion.

 

  • The verb egeire brings us to the Resurrection, but it is not referring to Christ, either as a passive verb (e.g. “raised by the Father”) or intransitive (e.g. “He rose from the dead”), but rather is active and has tethneotas, those who have died, as its object. This verb shows that the Resurrection is not something reserved to or unique to Christ; rather, it is through His own Resurrection that our Lord raises all the dead. The Resurrection, then, is not a passive act, just as the death on the Cross was not passive, but is active and effecting the salvation of humanity, promised in the first part of the hymn.

 

What about Us?

Where is all this heady theology leading us? The beginning and end of the hymn lead back to the middle. The great truths of our salvation, the Trinity and the Incarnation, are simply “put out there” without comment, but framed entirely by God’s desire for our salvation, for our ultimate participation in the life of the Trinity. We as human beings are not to speculate or analyze; the only response possible to such overwhelming love is worship.

 

 

 

 

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The Apolytikion of Theophany (January 6)
The Baptism of our Lord in the Flesh

The Feast of the Theophany, or Manifestation, of our Lord on January 6 is the second most important feast of the Church year after the Pascha/Pentecost celebration. In the East, the Feast of January 6 commemorated the Birth of Christ, the coming of the Magi, and the Baptism by John in the Jordan River; it was a feast commemorating the earliest manifestations of our Lord on earth. In the 4th century, when the Eastern Church accepted the celebration of the birth of our Lord on December 25, the January 6 feast was restricted to the commemoration of the Baptism. Both at the evening Vesperal Liturgy at the beginning of the feast on January 5, and at the morning Liturgy on January 6 the Church celebrates the Great Blessing of Water to commemorate the blessing which the Jordan River received when our Lord entered it for baptism.

The great feast days of the Orthodox Church are not restricted to one day of celebration. The celebration of most feasts extend for 8 days. Theophany is extended an extra day; the last day of the celebration (the Apodosis or “Leavetaking”) is January 14.

Greek Text

Ἐν Ἰορδάνῃ βαπτιζομένου σου Κύριε,
ἡ τῆς Τριάδος ἐφανερώθη προσκύνησις,
τοῦ γὰρ Γεννήτορος ἡ φωνὴ προσεμαρτύρει σοί,
ἀγαπητὸν σὲ Υἱὸν ὀνομάζουσα,
καὶ τὸ Πνεῦμα ἐν εἴδει περιστεράς,
ἐβεβαίου τοῦ λόγου τὸ ἀσφαλές.
Ὁ ἐπιφανεῖς Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός,
καὶ τὸν κόσμον φωτίσας
δόξα σοί.

Transliteration

En Iordani vaptizomenou sou Kyrie,
I tis Triados ephanerothi proskynisis,
tou gar Yennitoros i phoni prosemartyri si,
agapiton se Ion onomazousa,
ke to Pnevma en idi peristeras,
eveveou tou logou to asphales.
O epiphanis Christe o Theos,
ke ton kosmon photisas
doxa si.

English Translation

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord,
the worship of the Trinity was revealed,
for the voice of the Father bore witness to You,
naming You the beloved Son,
and the Spirit in the form of a dove
confirmed the surety of the word.
O Christ our God who appeared
and enlightened the world
glory to You.

The Hymn in Greek

The Hymn in English

 

The Meeting of Heaven and Earth

The hymtheophany02n for Theophany provides a narration which reflects the icon of the Feast, and fills out the theological meaning of the Scriptural narrative.

The first two lines of the hymn are a unit, setting up the union of heaven and earth. Each line follows the same structure: the central verbal form balances a noun phrase to the left and a single noun to the right. The first line sets the earthly scene; the second line expands the event to the heavenly realm.

 

En Iordani               vaptizomenou sou           Kyrie
I tis Triados             ephanerothi                      proskinisis

The first line has our old friend, the genitive absolute. It gives the circumstances under which the main verb occurs.

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord,
The worship of the Trinity was revealed.

The Revelation of the Trinity from Heaven

So, how does the revelation of the worship of the Trinity come out of the baptism of the young prophet from Nazareth?

The Gospels tell us that the Father recognized this man as His only Son; the Spirit hovered about Him.

It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.  Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:9-11

The next four lines of the hymn summarize the scene. The lines alternate between a mention of the Person of the Trinity and what they contribute to the revelation of the Trinity.

tou gar Yennitoros i phoni prosemartyri si,
agapiton se Ion onomazousa,
ke to Pnevma en idi peristeras,
eveveou tou logou to asphales

The first and third lines mention the Person and the means of communication: in the first, the Father witnesses with His voice; in the third, the Spirit appears as a dove. In the second and fourth lines we see the result of this revelation: the Father names of Jesus as His beloved Son; the Spirit confirms the truth of the Father’s witness.

The lines are also linked by the verbal forms: the section is framed by the two finite verbs of the sentence (proesmartyri and eveveou), expressing the action of the revelation. The inner sentences contain participles: the Father’s witness is expressed by naming (onomazousa); although the second participle is not expressed, the parallelism requires that the Spirit’s confirmation must come from an implied participle indicating “appearing”.

The structure of these lines, with all the action centered on the person of the Son, reflects the common action of all the Persons of the Trinity in revealing the communal nature of the Godhead.

The Revelation of the Trinity on Earth

How is this revelation brought back to the earth?

The hymn brings us back to our beginning, the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The concluding prayer (doxa si) is introduced by two participles fundamental to the story.

O epiphanis Christe o Theos,
ke ton kosmon photisas

The hymn addresses our Lord both as man (Christos, the Messiah) and God (Theos). This is the most important part of the revelation of the Trinity, that the man who comes to John to be baptized is actually God who has assumed our human nature. The participles (epiphanis and photisas) remind us of the Gospel of John (1:5)

And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend (or overcome) it.

By this revelation, our Lord now, in turn, shines the light of the true nature of God into the world.

The Revelation of the Trinity to Us

How does this revelation of the Trinity affect us?

Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we can only truly know who we are if we truly know who God is. Since God at the baptism reveals himself as a community of love, we now know that we as human beings are meant to live as a community of love. The darkness of our selfishness and isolation has been overcome by the light of the eternal love of the Persons of the Trinity for one another.

The hymn also teaches us that, through the revelation of the Trinity, heaven and earth have been reunited. The Father once again speaks to His people, as He once did with Adam in the garden. The Spirit once again hovers over the waters, bringing forth the new creation. We, in turn, are called to participate in this new union of heaven and earth, seeing creation as being once again penetrated by heaven and once again able to reveal the presence of God. As a result, we should treat creation with the respect due to an icon of God.