Resurrection Apolytikion in Plagal 4th Tone

They say, “Less is more.” This is certainly true of the Resurrection Apolytikion in Plagal 4th Tone. The story of our redemption is reduced to the bare minimum of words; the melody is also simple and somewhat standard for this tone. And yet, the whole mystery of redemption is contained in these few words!

Greek Text

Ἐξ ὕψους κατῆλθες ὁ εὔσπλαγχνος,
ταφὴν κατεδέξω τριήμερον,
ἵνα ἡμᾶς ἐλευθερώσῃς τῶν παθῶν.
Ἡ ζωὴ καὶ ἡ Ἀνάστασις ἡμῶν, Κύριε δόξα σοι.

Transliteration

 Ex ipsous katilthes, o efsplachnos,
taphin katedexo tri-imeron,
ina imas eleftherosis ton pathon.
I zoi ke i Anastasis imon, Kyrie doxa si.


Translation

From on high You descended O Merciful One,
You accepted the three-day tomb,
In order to free us from the passions.
Our Life and Resurrection, O Lord, glory to You.

Sung in English

 

What’s in a Title?

 The hymn is structured around titles of our Lord:

  • Efsplachnos—Merciful One
  • Zoi—Life
  • Anastasis–Resurrection

The hymn opens with an address to “The Merciful One”. The ancients Greeks believed that the center of pity was the bowels, the efsplachna. This is not an unreasonable assumption; if we reflect on feelings of pity or empathy, the physical aspect of this emotion seems to arise from the center of our bodies. And so, someone who is “full of pity” is literally, a “bowel person” or “Efsplachnos.”

By opening the hymn with this title, then, the author wants to emphasize for us that God became a human being and underwent death and burial out of pity for us, for our condition of slavery to sin and death.

The other two titles, Life and Resurrection, reflect “the other end” of the story. When God undergoes death according to the flesh out of pity for us, He destroys death for us, and replaces it with life. The second title, Resurrection, is not simply another way of saying that. God does not grant us some abstract “eternal life” which is spiritual and disembodied. No—He grants us complete life as we were created—soul and body. Just as He rose from the dead physically and not just spiritually, so also He raises us to life, recreating and renewing us as a unity of soul and body.

How Do We Get There?

 In between these titles, we have the story of redemption. The balance of the first two lines of the hymn reveals the whole story. The phrases each consist of three words, balanced in the center by the verb.

              Ex ipsous                     katilthes                       o Efsplachnos

             Taphin                         katedexo                      tri-imeron

Both verbs—katilthes and katedoxo—are compounds of the simple verbs erchomai (to come) and dehomai (to accept) with the prefix kata, which indicates a downward motion. The first line takes us down from the spiritual realm of heaven into the earthly realm by God taking on our human nature and becoming a human being. The second takes us down farther into the tomb and, by extension, into the underworld and the realm of death, where Christ won the victory of life over death.

The nouns and the modifiers are also balanced in a chiastic manner (i.e. ABC—CBA), so that the realm of eternity (ex ipsous—from above) yields, ultimately, to the temporal confinement of the tomb (tri-imeronof three days). The balance of efsplachnos and taphin shows that God in Jesus did not die by accident, but planned the working out of our salvation through His pity for us.

Why Did It All Happen?

The next phrase adds the purpose, the way that our redemption works itself out in our daily lives. This third phrase consists of four words (an expansion from the previous pattern, indicating a completion of the action), balanced by the verb.

Ex ipsous                     katilthes                       o Efsplachnos

            Taphin                         katedexo                      tri-imeron

            Ina imas                      eleftherosis                  ton pathon

God takes pity on us, descends into time and space by taking our nature and then further descends into death and the grave. By freeing us from death (giving us life and resurrection), He also frees us from our passions. Here, the chiasm reaches its fulfillment: efsplachnos  in the first line (indicating the giver of freedom) is balanced with imas (us) in the third (indicating the receiver of the freedom). The ex ipsous (the heavenly realm) by descending into the earthly and fallen realm enables the slavery of ton pathon (the passions) to be broken.

The Holy Fathers saw the passions and the roots of sin, the expression of our fallen nature which pervert and warp the gifts which God originally gave us in creation. They are our desires gone wild, which then enslave us to sin, which we commit by following them.

(For a good discussion of the Patristic idea of the passions, please see Deacon Charles Joiner’s blog Orthodox Way of Life: Walking the Path to Theosis: http://orthodoxwayoflife.blogspot.com/2009/07/what-are-passions.html)

When God enters our human nature and descends to death, in order to free us from the passions, it does not mean we are reduced to a state of emotionlessness. Rather, when God frees us from death, He also frees us from the slavery to these passions, and through His own life, transforms them into their original good state, a state in which they serve us in order to bring us to that true life.

So Where Does That Leave Us?

When we contemplate the great, cosmic truths which these few simple words contain, there is only one response: Doxology. Because of His pity for us, He entered our world, entered our death, destroyed its slavery and the slavery of the passions. Now, as free men and women we can only bow down in worship and thanksgiving: Kyrie, doxa siLord, glory to You.

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Resurrection Apolytikion–Plagal 2nd Tone

English Version

Greek Text:

Αγγελικά Δυνάμεις  επί  το μνήμα σου,
και οι φυλασσοντες απενεκρωθησαν:
και ιστατο Μαρία  εν τω τάφων,
ζητουσα το αχραντον σου σώμα.
Εσκυλευσας τον Αδην, μη πειρασθεις υπ αυτού:
υπηντησας τη παρθένων, δωρουμενος την ζώνη.
Ο αναστας εκ των νεκρών, Κυριε, δοξα σοι.

Transliteration:

Angelike dimanis epi to mnima sou,
ke i philassontes apenekrothisan:
ke istato Maria en to tapho,
zitousa to achranton sou soma.
Eskilevsas ton Adin, mi pirasthis up’ aftou:
ipindisas ti partheno, doroumenos tin zoin.
O anastas ek ton nekron, Kirie, doxa si.

English Translation:

The Angelic Powers were at your tomb,
and those guarding were struck unconscious:
and Mary stood in the tomb,
seeking your immaculate body.
You despoiled Hades, not having been attacked by him.
You met the Virgin, granting life.
O You who rose from the dead, Lord, glory to You.

The hymn falls into two parts. The first part sets the scene with somewhat static language. The major characters are present: the Angels, Mary Magdalene (representing the Myrrh-bearing Women), and the guards. The second part also has three characters: Christ, Hades and the Theotokos, and is filled with verbs and participles denoting action.

In the first part of the hymn we are in the realm of death. The angels and the guards provide bookends for the central image of Mary Magdalene searching for our Lord’s body. All three characters are static: the Angels have no verb at all, indicating a simple copulative “are”. They are simply “there”; they play no active role in this hymn. The guards too are unconscious; the verb used apenekrothisan (became unconscious) contains the word nekros  (dead), and indicate a state of motionlessness even beyond being unconscious. Even Mary, although she is searching for the body, indicating some action, the controlling verb is istato (stood). We have an image of Mary standing and looking around the tomb, rather than actively searching.

The hymn breaks, almost violently, in the middle. The scene shifts to our Lord and His very active resurrectional life. There is nothing static about this second part; the verbs are active and strong, and the only passive verb (pirathis/tested or attacked) is actually negated.

The second part begins with the very strong verb eskulefsas (you despoiled). This is a military word, and indicates the stripping of the arms from a conquered enemy. At the same time mi pirasthis (not having been tried or attacked) indicates that the battle was all one-sided; Hades did not have a chance. He was not only defeated, he was not even able to attack.

The victorious battle scene is balanced by the tender mention of our Lord meeting with His mother. Again, the verb upindisas (you met) is active, indicating that our Lord is truly living and active. The two participles (pirasthis and doroumenos) show the negative and positive sides of the resurrection. Our Lord was not the victim of Hades, but rather overcame and despoiled him. As a result, as the possessor of true life, He is able to bestow life, first and foremost to His own mother who gave Him life according to the flesh.

Although the discretion of the Evangelists naturally kept them from narrating this private moment, a reward for the steadfast faith and love of the Theotokos, the earliest tradition of the Church is that Mary was one of the women at the tomb. The scene is described by the 3rd century writer Origen who quotes an apocryphal Gospel called The Gospel of the Twelve Apostles:

mary-at-the-resurectionShe opened her eyes, for they were lowered in order not to view the earth, the scene of so many dreadful events. She said to Him with joy: “Rabboni, my Lord, my God, my Son, You are resurrection, indeed resurrected.” She wished to hold Him in order to kiss Him upon the mouth, but He prevented her and pleaded with her, saying, “My mother, do not touch me. Wait a little, for this is the garment which the Father has given Me when He resurrected Me. It is not possible for anything of flesh to touch Me until I go into heaven.

This body is, however, the one in which I passed nine months in your loins…Know these things, My mother. This flesh is that which I received in you. This is that which has reposed in my tomb. This is also that which is resurrected today, that which now stands before you. Fix your eyes upon my hands and upon my feet. O Mary, My mother, know that it is I, whom you nourished. Doubt not, O My mother, That I am your son. It is I who left you in the care of John at the moment I was raised on the Cross.

This passage also gives us some insight as to why the hymn speaks of our Lord appearing “to the Virgin” (ti partheno) rather than “to His mother“. The Fathers liked to compare our Lord’s passing through the sealed womb of the Theotokos without injuring her physical virginity with His passing through the walls of the tomb without breaking the seals on the stone at the entrance. This same body passed through both barriers and left both unharmed.

The final phrase is a prayer which wraps up the hymn in the spirit of doxology. When we at confronted with these profound mysteries: the empty tomb, the defeat and disgrace of Hades/Death, and the visit with the Virgin, the activity of life negating the passivity of death, we have only one possible reaction: falling down in worship and doxology.

This beautiful little hymn, by looking, like a movie camera, at individual scenes that made up the miracle of the first Paschal morning, expresses the profound truth that our Lord has overcome, defeated and despoiled death, and that His divine risen life brings the same life to all of us. Just as He visited the Virgin and granted her life, so also He visits us in the Divine Liturgy, in the very heart of our worship, and grants us His own risen life as well.

The Apolytikion or Dismissal Hymn of Pentecost, chanted by Nikodemos Kabarnos

EuloghtoV ei Criste o QeoV hmwn

O pansofouV touV alieiV anadeixaV

katapemyaV autoiV to Pneuma to Agion

kai di autwn thn oikoumenhn saghneusaV

Filanqrwpe, doxa soi.

Evloyitos i Christe o Theos imon

O pansophous  tous aliis anathixas

katapempsas aftis to Pnevma to ayion

ke thi afton tin ikoumenin sayinevsas

Philanthrope, thoxa si

Blessed are you, O Christ our God

Who showed forth the fisherman all-wise

When you sent down on them the Holy Spirit

And through them you caught the whole world in the fishing net,

O Lover of humanity, glory to you.

The hymn for Pentecost presents some interesting features. First of all, unlike western hymns for Pentecost, this hymn is addressed not to the Holy Spirit, but to Christ. In a certain sense, it really reflects the role of the Holy Spirit; the Spirit’s presence pervades the hymn, but is not contained by the hymn. The Holy Spirit fills and transcends the work of Christ in the world.

We also see the two aspects of the descent of of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. First of all, the disciples, mostly fishermen, are shown to be able to speak to the people each in their own language. They have also become eloquent preachers. Peter’s words “cut to their heart” (Acts 2:37) and that day 3000 people were baptized. In this way, the presence of the Holy Spirit transformed the earthly occupation of the disciples into a missionary occupation. They were literally now “fishing for humans” and capturing them in the net of the Church.

And so, this hymn shows us the operation of the Holy Spirit in the Church. First of all, it transforms our mundane lives into spirit-filled lives. No matter how high or low the world values our occupations, the Holy Spirit finds each one valuable and is able to give a divine wisdom in it, so that the humblest uneducated peasant is able to refute the wise men of the world through the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost[1]

The icon of Pentecost also reflects this truth. As the disciples are seated in the upper room, the Spirit descends on them in the form of tongues of fire. As the flame lands on each one, he turns in a different direction. In this way, the icon shows that each disciples had a particular gift from God, but that all of these gifts were special and unique. The Holy Spirit uses our individual gifts and our individual occupations for a purpose; there is no single mind or single thought in the service of God.

The purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit is also beautifully expressed in the hymn: mission. The disciples become apostles (from the Greek apostello “to send out”). The first thing the Apostles do is to preach Christ crucified and risen and the need for repentance. The message, the Good News of resurrection and forgiveness of sins is something the world needs. When preached through the power of the Holy Spirit (and not through our own agendas or desire for self-aggrandizement), it strikes to the heart, and captures the world in the fishermen’s net.

Each Orthodox Christian experiences a personal Pentecost when he or she is chrismated after Baptism. Also, each Divine Liturgy is a personal and corporate Pentecost, when the priests asks the Father to “send the Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts here offered”. At each Divine Liturgy we are filled with the Holy Spirit, transformed into the Body of Christ and then, like the Apostles on the first Pentecost, sent out into the world as missionaries. Preaching the Gospel is not the realm of specialists; it is the grace of the Holy Spirit working in and through our lives.

If we have not yet struck people to the heart through our preaching, not just in words but, more importantly, in deeds, then we should examine ourselves. Have we been cooperating with the grace of the Holy Spirit, or have we been standing in the way? Have we been conduits or obstructions? Have we spread out the nets, or have we folded them away?

It’s been a while! Life gets very hectic. I am going to try to revive my blog Salvation’s Beginning. During the summer I will periodically devote some space to looking at the hymns of our church, analyzing the poetry and seeing how our theology is encapsulated in the beautiful gems which are the hymns of our Church.

See you again soon!

A blessed Leave-taking (Apodosis) of the Theophany to all! May God manifest his Trinitarian life in the life of each of us!

Philippian Generosity

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
14 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Greeting and Blessing

21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household.
23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

 Reflections:

 1)      Are we satisfied with whatever state of life God has given us? Are we able to say with St. Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? Or do we complain when things seem to go badly? If God is present in our lives and if we have committed our whole life to him (as we say in the Divine Liturgy), how would this change our attitude to the way our lives are going?

2)      The gift which the Philippians sent to Paul in Ephesus seems to have been one of many gifts they sent to him in his need. In other words, Paul is praising their spirit of generosity which is a sign of the grace of God in them. How is God calling us to exhibit the grace he has given us by becoming a partner in the sufferings of others? The gift of the Philippians was certainly not just “writing a check”; the money they sent St. Paul was certainly a sacrifice on their part, a gift out of their want rather than out of their abundance. How can we concretely show this same sort of love towards those in need? Not out of our abundance, but in a spirit of self-sacrificial love?

Our Citizenship in Heaven

17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

 Philippians 4

 1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

Be United, Joyful, and in Prayer

 2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.

3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Meditate on These Things

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

 Reflections:

 1)      Many of the citizens of Philippi were Roman citizens, since Philippi was a Roman colony. Paul is telling the people that, in fact, they are citizens of heaven, which means that, just as they were responsible to bring Roman culture to northern Greece as citizens of Rome, so they also were responsible to bring the culture of heaven to their society as citizens of heaven. We pray this in the Our Father (“They will be done on earth as it is in heaven”). What would we need to do in a practical sense to bring the culture of heaven to our surroundings.

2)      St. Paul calls on the Philippi to rejoice. In antiquity, this would not be an individualistic expression of emotion, but a community celebration. What is the community celebration for the Christian? If you did not answer “the Divine Liturgy”, why do you not think of the Liturgy as the essential celebration of the Christian community. St. Paul talks about this celebration in the context of restoring love and unity between the two women and in the context of the resurrection. How does the Liturgy relate to these two topics?

3)      In a society that emphasizes the hideous, the biting, the sarcastic, the ugly, how can we as Christians keep our minds trained on the beauty of the spiritual life? What should we do when we are confronted with the ugly, death-centered attitude of our society?

All for Christ

 1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Pressing Toward the Goal

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

 Reflections:

 1)      From N.T. Wright: Paul names various credits which once gave him reason to trust in the flesh (vv. 4-6). The main thing Paul meant by the flesh here (and often in Galatians and Romans) is the pride of physical descent cherished by Jews. As this passage makes clear, he knew all about it from the inside. This had been his pride too. If you emphasized the “flesh” and your identity “according to the flesh,” as he himself had done in his pre-Christian days, then instead of stressing something that made you different from the pagan world around, you were instead stressing that which you had in common with them. You were setting up your Judaism as just another ethnic, geographical, religious and cultural grouping, along with all the other ones in the world.

2)      Orthodox from traditional ethnic backgrounds often see their Orthodoxy in terms of their ethnicity (I am Orthodox because I am Greek/Russian/Albanian/Serbian, etc.) and so take the actual content of the faith for granted. People not of traditional Orthodox ethnic backgrounds who enter the Church later in life often react against this position by de-emphasizing the importance of culture altogether, not realizing that they also bring a culture to the faith. Have you ever fallen into one of these categories? Have you prided yourself on your ethnicity and family connections, or on the lack of these things, making ethnicity or the lack of ethnicity an idol in the place of God? It is important to remember that Faith is always incarnate in people and people always have a culture; Faith is not something separate from our lives, but something that informs and directs our lives. The trouble comes when we think that because we are of certain ethnicity, or because we are not of a certain ethnicity, we are saved. How can we live the proper relationship of faith and culture in our Parish?

3)      Do we count “all things as loss” in order to obtain the excellent knowledge of Christ? We cannot count Christ and some other things as gain. This would mean that Faith in our Lord, in his death and resurrection is simply one of the many compartments of our lives, something we can put on for Sunday morning, and take off again when we get home from Church. Is the excellent knowledge of Christ the one thing needful in our lives? Do we even care if we know Christ, or maybe we have only heard about him from others. Would we be willing to give up everything to have Christ? Or would we be content to give up Christ in order to hold on to other aspects of our lives?

4)      Verse 12 should be sufficient to disprove any idea of an instantaneous moment of salvation. The Christian life is not a one moment “accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior” and then sitting back being saved. It is a journey and a struggle, with the prize which we can see and taste in the Liturgy, the Banquet of the Kingdom, but which we strive for throughout our lives. Are we still striving? Does the prize mean enough to us to strive for it? We strive for all sorts of goals, at work, in our families, in our social groups, in the Church. Have these goals distracted us from the real and only goal of our lives, the life of the resurrection?