Akathist Hymn to the Most Holy Theotokos

The Akathist (“not sitting” — none in the church are to sit while it is being chanted) Hymn to the Most Holy Theotokos may be one of many works ascribed to St Romanos the Melodist, who died around 560 AD. Traditionally, it’s taken to have been first sung in 626 to avert an attack of the Avars on Constantinople. It’s an acrostic hymn, each kontakion and oikos beginning with a subsequent letter of the Greek alphabet. This is a work of combined simplicity of expression and depth of theological instruction, and is thus excellently suited for instruction in the faith. The Theotokos, Mary the Ever-Virgin, is accorded such honor because of her voluntary and humble submission to the will of God, and she is recognized as responsible for bringing salvation to the world in the birth of Jesus Christ through that act of submission. Mariology is really only Christology when properly understood. This hymn is treasured among the Orthodox, and rightly so. The translation below is from The Great Horologion (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1997).


Original Kontakion, Plagal of Fourth Tone
When the bodiless one learned the secret command, in haste he came and stood before Joseph’s dwelling, and spake unto the Maiden who knew not wedlock: The One Who hath bowed the Heavens by His descent is held and contained unchanging wholly in thee. Seeing Him receiving the form of a servant in thy womb, I stand in awe and cry to thee:

Rejoice, thou Bride unwedded.

Kontakion, Plagal of Fourth Tone
To thee, the Champion Leader, we thy flock 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, thou Bride unwedded.


An Angel, and the chiefest among them, was sent from Heaven to cry: Rejoice! to the Mother of God. And beholding Thee, O Lord, taking bodily form, he stood in awe, and with his bodiless voice he cried aloud to her such things as these:
Rejoice, thou through whom joy shall shine forth.
    Rejoice, thou through whom the curse shall be blotted out.
Rejoice, thou the Restoration of fallen Adam.
    Rejoice, thou the Redemption of the tears of Eve.
Rejoice, Height hard to climb for human thought.
    Rejoice, Depth hard to explore, even for the eyes of Angels.
Rejoice, for thou art the Throne of the King.
    Rejoice, for thou sustainest the Sustainer of 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 the Creator becometh a babe.
Rejoice, thou Bride unwedded.

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