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Medieval Sourcebook:
AKATHISTOS Hymn


The Akathistos hymn is the most famous Byzantine hymn to the Virgin Mary. As Averil Cameron has shown, devotion to the Mother of God became central to the Identity of Constantinople in the sixth century, when she was taken as the protector of the city. This hymn expresses that devotion

 

THE AKATHIST HYMN
TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

[The entire service is either sung or chanted, preferably sung, to traditional melodies. If the melodies are unknown, a chanting 'recto tono' will suffice, though much of the grandeur will be lost.]

-----

[LEADER]: BLESSED IS OUR GOD, ALWAYS, NOW AND FOREVERMORE. AMEN.

- O HEAVENLY KING, COMFORTER, SPIRIT OF TRUTH, YOU ARE EVERYWHERE PRESENT AND FIT ALL THINGS. TREASURY OF BLESSINGS, AND GIVER OF LIFE, COME AND DWELL WITHIN US, CLEANSE US OF ALL STAIN, AND SAVE OUR SOULS, O GRACIOUS ONE!

- HOLY GOD, HOLY AND MIGHTY, HOLY AND IMMORTAL ONE, HAVE MERCY ON US. (Three times)

- O MOST HOLY TRINITY, HAVE MERCY ON US! O LORD, CLEANSE US OF OUR SINS! O MASTER, FORGIVE OUR TRANSGRESSIONS! O HOLY ONE, COME TO US AND HEAL OUR INFIRMITIES FOR YOUR NAME'S SAKE!

- LORD, HAVE MERCY. (Three times)

- GLORY BE TO THE FATHER + AND TO THE SON, AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT, NOW AND EVER, AND FOREVER, AMEN.

- OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE THY NAME, THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD, AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES, AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US, AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL.

- FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM AND THE POWER AND THE GLORY, FATHER +, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT, NOW AND EVER AND FOREVER. AMEN.

- LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.

[RESPONSE]: Lord, have mercy!

 

PREAMBLE

As soon as the angel had received his command, he hastened to Joseph's house and said to the ever-virgin: "Behold, heaven was brought down to earth when the Word Himself was fully contained in you! Now that I see Him in your womb, taking a servant's form, I cry out to you in wonder: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!"

 

FIRST CHANT

An Archangel was sent from heaven to greet the Mother of God, and as he saw you assuming a body at the sound of his bodiless voice, O Lord, he stood rapt in amazement and cried out to her in these words:

Hail, O you, through whom Joy will shine forth!
Hail, O you, through whom the curse will disappear!
Hail, O Restoration of the Fallen Adam!
Hail, O Redemption of the Tears of Eve!
Hail, O Peak above the reach of human thought!
Hail, O Depth even beyond the sight of angels!
Hail, O you who have become a Kingly Throne!
Hail, O you who carry Him Who Carries All!
Hail, O Star who manifest the Sun!
Hail, O Womb of the Divine Incarnation!
Hail, O you through whom creation is renewed!
Hail, O you through whom the Creator becomes a Babe!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

[RESPONSE]: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

 

KONTAKION

Knowing that she was a virgin, the blessed one courageously answered the angel: "Your surprising words seem hard for my mind to accept: how can you speak of a birth that is to come from a conception without seed? And why do you cry, Alleluia?"

[RESPONSE]: Alleluia!

 

SECOND CHANT

Trying to grasp the meaning of this mystery, the Virgin asked the holy messenger: "How is it possible tha a son be born from a virginal womb? Tell me." And he answered her with awe, crying out in these words:

Hail, O hidden Sense of the Ineffable Plan!
Hail, O Belief in Silence That Must Be!
Hail, O Forecast of the Marvels of Christ!
Hail, O Fountainhead of truths concerning Him!
Hail, Celestial Ladder, by whom God came down!
Hail, O Bridge leading earthly ones to heaven!
Hail, O Wonder, ever-thrilling to the angels!
Hail, O Wound, ever-hurting to the demons!
Hail, O you who gave birth to Light ineffably!
Hail, O you who told no one how it was done!
Hail, O you who surpass the wisdom of the wise!
Hail, O you who enlighten faithful minds!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

[RESPONSE]: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

 

KONTAKION

When the power of the Most High overshadowed the one who had never known the nuptial bed, her fruitful womb conceived, and she became for all a delicious field: for those who wished to reap salvation by singing "ALLELUIA!"

[RESPONSE]: AlleluiaPregnant with God, the Virgin hastened to Elizabeth, her unborn child rejoiced, immediately knowing her embrace. Bouncing and singing, he cried out to the Mother of God:

Hail, O Tendril whose Bud shall not wilt!
Hail, O Soil whose Fruit shall not perish!
Hail, O Tender of mankind's loving Tender!
Hail, O Gardener of the Gardener of Life!
Hail, O Earth who yielded abundant mercies!
Hail, O Table full-laden with appeasement!
Hail, for you have greened anew the pastures of delight!
Hail, for you have prepared a haven for the souls!
Hail, acceptable Incense of Prayer!
Hail, Expiation of the whole universe!
Hail, O you Favor of God to mortal men!
Hail, O you Trust of mortals before God!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

[RESPONSE]: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

 

KONTAKION

Filled with a storm of contradictory thoughts, the wise Joseph was greatly disturbed: until then, he had seen you a virgin, and now he suspected you of secret guilt, all-blameless one! Learning that your conception was of the Holyl Spirit, he cried out: "Alleluia!"

[RESPONSE]: Alleluia!

FOURTH CHANT

The Shepherds heard the angels singing hymns of praise tot he coming of Christ in the Flesh. And running to Him as to a shepherd, they saw Him as a spotless lamb, grazing at Mary's breast. They sang a hymn to her and said:

Hail, O Mother of Lamb and Shepherd!
Hail, O Fold of rational sheep!
Hail, O Protection against unseen foes!
Hail, O Key to the Doors of Paradise!
Hail, for the heavenly rejoice with the earth!
Hail, for the earthly meet the heavens in song!
Hail, the Unsilenced Voice of the Apostles!
Hail, the Undaunted Might of Martyrs!
Hail, O Steadfast Foundation of Faith!
Hail, O Shining Emblem of Grace!
Hail, O you through whom death was despoiled!
Hail, O you through whom we were clothed with glory!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

[RESPONSE]: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

 

KONTAKION

When they saw the Star moved by God, the Magi followed its glittering light. Using it as a beacon, they found through it the Mighty King, and reaching the One Beyond All Reach, they rejoiced and cried out to Him: "Alleluia!"

[RESPONSE]: Alleluia!

 

FIFTH CHANT

The Sons of Chaldaea saw in the Virgin's hands the One whose hands had fashioned men: and acknowledging Him as the Master, although He had taken the form of a servant, they hastened to honor Him with their gifts and cried out to the Blessed One:

Hail, O Mother of the Star Without Setting!
Hail, O Radiance of the Mystical Day!
Hail, O you who quenched the flame of error!
Hail, O Light of those who search the Trinity!
Hail, O you who unthroned the Enemy of Men!
Hail, O you who showed forth Christ the Lord, Lover of Mankind!
Hail, O you who cleansed us from the stain of pagan worship!
Hail, O you who saved us from the mire of evil deeds!
Hail, O you who made cease the cult of fire!
Hail, O you who guide the faithful toward wisdom!
Hail, O you, Delight of all the Nations!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

[RESPONSE]: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

 

KONTAKION

The Magi, become God-bearing heralds, returned to Babylon, conforming to your command, announcing You, the Christ, to all, and leaving Herod as a fool who did not know how to sing: "Alleluia!"

[RESPONSE]: Alleluia!

 

SIXTH CHANT

Illuminating Egypt with the Light of Truth, you cast away the darkness of error. For the idols, unable to stand your might, fell down, and those who had been delivered from them cried out to the Mother of God:

Hail, O Resurrection of mankind!
Hail, O Downfall of the Demons!
Hail, O you who crushed the error of deceit!
Hail, O you who exposed the fraud of idols!
Hail, O Sea who drowned the symbolic Pharaon!
Hail, O Rock who quenched those who thirst for Life!
Hail, O Pillar of Fire who guided those in darkness!
Hail, O Shelter of the World, wider than the clouds!
Hail, O Food who took the place of Manna!
Hail, O Handmaid of holy delight!
Hail, O Land of the promised good!
Hail, O you who flow with milk and honey!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

[RESPONSE]: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

 

KONTAKION

As Simeon was about to leave the present deceitful world, You were entrusted to him as an infant, but You made Yourself known to him as the perfect God. Wherefore he marveled at your wisdom beyond words, and cried out: "Alleluia!"

[RESPONSE]: Alleluia!

 

SEVENTH CHANT

The Creator displayed a new creation to us who had come from Him: He came forth from a womb that had received no seed, and He left it intact as it had been, so that at the sight of this marvel, we would sing to her and cry out:

Hail, O Blossom of Incorruption!
Hail, O Crown of Self-mastery!
Hail, O you who shone forth as a Sign of Resurrection!
Hail, O you who displayed the Life of Angels!
Hail, Fruitful Tree from whom believers feed!
Hail, Shady Glen where many are sheltered!
Hail, O you who have born the Guide of the Lost!
Hail, Source of Life to the captives' Release!
Hail, O you who unsettled even the Just Judge!
Hail, Indulgence of many who have fallen!
Hail, O Stole for those who lack freedom to speak!
Hail, O Tenderness who exceed all desire!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

[RESPONSE]: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

 

KONTAKION

Now that we have seen this strange birth, let us estrange ourselves from the world and turn our minds to heaven: indeed, it is for this that the God Most High appeared on earth as a lowly man, desiring to draw up to heaven those who cry out to Him: "Alleluia!"

[RESPONSE]: Alleluia!

 

EIGHTH CHANT

While fully present amid those below, the uncircumscribed Word was in no way absent from those above: for what happened was a divine condescension, and not a moving from one place to another: and it was a birth from a Virgin inspired by God, who heard these words:

Hail, O Space of the Spaceless God!
Hail, O Gate of the Sublime Mystery!
Hail, O Message unsure to men without faith!
Hail, O Glory most certain to those who believe!
Hail, O Sacred Chariot of the One above the Cherubim!
Hail, Perfect Dwelling of the One above the Seraphim!
Hail, O you who reconciled opposites!
Hail, O you who combined maidenhood and motherhood!
Hail, O you through whom Paradise was opened!
Hail, O Key to the Kingdom of Christ!
Hail, O Hope for the Ages of Bliss!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

[RESPONSE]: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

 

KONTAKION

The whole order of the Angels marveled at the great work of your becoming a man: for they saw the One Inaccessible as God become a Man accessible to all, living with us and hearing us cry out: "Alleluia!"

[RESPONSE]: Alleluia!

 

NINTH CHANT

O Mother of God, we see the best of speakers become as mute as fish in your regard, for they could not explain how you could give birth while remaining a virgin. As for us, while marveling at the mystery, we cry out to you with faith:

Hail, O Container of God's Wisdom!
Hail, O Treasury of His Providence!
Hail, O Reproof of foolish philosophers!
Hail, O Confusion of speechless wise men!
Hail, for you perplexed the inquisitive minds!
Hail, for you dried up the inventors of myths!
Hail, for you ripped the Athenians' meshes!
Hail, for you filled the Fishermen's nets!
Hail, O Retriever from the Abyss of Ignorance!
Hail, O Lamplight of Knowledge to many!
Hail, O Ship for those who seek Salvation!
Hail, O Harbor for the Sailors of Life!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

[RESPONSE]: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

 

KONTAKION

Desiring to save the world, the Creator of All came down to it of His own will. Being at the same time our Shepherd and our God, He appeared among us. And so the like called upon the like, and as God He heard: "Alleluia!"

[RESPONSE]: Alleluia!

 

TENTH CHANT

O Virgin Mother of God, you are the strength of Virgins and of all those who have recourse to you. For the Maker of heaven and earth covered you with His shadow, O Pure One, and came to dwell in your womb, and taught us all to cry out to you:

Hail, O Pillar of Virginity!
Hail, O Gateway of Salvation!
Hail, O Principle of the New Creation!
Hail, O Dispenser of God's bounties!
Hail, for you restored those born in shame!
Hail, for you gave sense to those who had lost it!
Hail, O you who stopped the corruptor of minds!
Hail, O you who bore the Sower of Chastity!
Hail, Holy Chamber of virginal wedlock!
Hail, O you who join the faithful with God!
Hail, O gracious Foster-Mother of virgins!
Hail, O Bridesmaid of holy souls!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

[RESPONSE]: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

 

KONTAKION

Because He wished to grant release from all the ancient debts, the One who pays men's dues came down Himself to those who had spurned His grace; He tore up their obligations, and heard from all of them this cry: "Alleluia!"

[RESPONSE]: Alleluia!

 

TWELFTH CHANT

By singing praise to your maternity, we all exalt you as a spiritual temple, Mother of God! For the One Who Dwelt Within Your Womb, the Lord Who Holds All Things in His Hands, sanctified you, glorified you, and taught all men to sing to you:

Hail, O Tabernacle of God the Word!
Hail, O Holy One, more holy than the saints!
Hail, O Ark that the Spirit has gilded!
Hail, Inexhaustible Treasure of Life!
Hail, Precious Crown of rightful authorities!
Hail, Sacred Glory of reverent priests!
Hail, Unshakable Tower of the Church!
Hail, Unbreachable Wall of the Kingdom!
Hail, O you through whom the trophies are raised!
Hail, O you through whome the enemies are routed!
Hail, O healing of my body!
Hail, O salvation of my soul!
Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

[RESPONSE]: Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!

 

KONTAKION

O Mother worthy of all praise, you who have given birth to the Word, the Holiest of the Holy, accept this present offering, deliver all men from every affliction, and save from the future punishment those who cry out to you: "Alleluia!"

[RESPONSE]: Alleluia!

Gabriel was rapt in amazement as he beheld your virginity and the splendor of your purity, O Mother of God, and he cried out to you: "By what name shall I call you? I am bewildered; I am lost! I shall greet you as I was commanded to do: 'Hail, O Woman full of Grace!'"

 

DISMISSAL

- GLORY TO YOU, O CHRIST, OUR GOD AND OUR HOPE: GLORY BE TO YOU!

[RESPONSE]: GLORY BE TO THE FATHER +, AND TO THE SON, AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT, NOW AND EVER, AND FOREVER AMEN. LORD, HAVE MERCY! LORD, HAVE MERCY! GIVE THE BLESSING!

MAY CHRIST OUR TRUE GOD (If a Sunday or the Easter Season: WHO IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD) HAVE MERCY ON US AND SAVE US, THROUGH THE PRAYERS OF HIS MOST PURE MOTHER AND OF ALL THE HOLY, GLORIOUS, AND ILLUSTRIOUS APOSTLES, THROUGH THE PRAYERS OF ST. (N) WHOSE MEMORY WE CELEBRATE TODAY, AND OF ALL THE SAINTS, FOR HE IS GRACIOUS AND LOVES MANKIND!

[RESPONSE]: AMEN!

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*** This document has been posted with permission courtesy of the Fishnet conference of OSC. For signup information, call 800-733-2863. ***

11/18/95

 

 

 

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This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

Paul Halsall Mar 1996
halsall@murray.fordham.edu