From the Akathist to the Theotokos

Saturday is the Feast of the Annunciation, when we celebrate both the full willingness of an innocent young girl to do the will of God, and the conception of that same God as a human infant within her, a mystery that, we are told, even the angels find difficult to fathom.

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.

The Akathist hymn is a lengthy acrostic hymn (the above is the Alpha section) written in the sixth century by St. Romanos the Melodist. The name “akathist” is given to a certain body of hymns sung during the singing of which no sitting is permitted. It’s one of the treasures of Orthodoxy, and the crowning gem of St. Romanos’ works. The translation above is from the beautifully produced Great Horologion (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1997).

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