The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary

May 22, 2009 § Leave a comment

Detail of 14th c. Byzantine icon in the Ohrid Icon Gallery, Yugoslavia

Detail of 14th c. Byzantine icon in the Ohrid Icon Gallery, Yugoslavia

Ikos 1 from the Akathist to the Holy Virgin

(This Akathist has twelve “stanzas” which praise the Virgin with the voice of many characters in her life. The first ikos is in the voice of the Angel Gabriel.)

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!

What is an akathist? What is an ikos? you may ask. Here is the answer…

Historians of Byzantine hymnography have long cited the influence of fourth-century Ephrem the Syrian’s poetry on the first-known Byzantine hymnographer, Romanos the Melodist (sixth century). Romanos, himself of Syrian origin, wrote in a genre of hymnography called a kontakion. The structure of the entire kontakion involves a short poetic introductory piece, a proominion, which establishes both the literary theme and the musical pattern which governs the rest of the kontakion. This introductory stanza is followed by an ikos, a short hymn that takes up and develops the theme while following the musical pattern established in the proominion. Usually some type of refrain or alternating refrains follow each ikos, either a series of strophes with the same concluding phrase or a simple ‘alleluia’. A kontakion could contain as many as twenty-four ikoi with refrains. This whole structure was repeated up to twelve or thirteen times, though each unit ended with the same refrain.  – Wainwright, Geoffrey, The Oxford History of Christian Worship, pp. 281-282.

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