Sunday, March 22, 2009

"On the Victory of the Cross": Kontakion 22 of St. Romanos the Melodist


"...In the east, [Kontakion 22 of St. Romanos] has long been associated with the feast of the Veneration of the Cross during the fourth week of Lent, which starts on the third Sunday and continues during the following week. The 1st Proemium and 1st stanza are still used as Kontakion and Ikos for the 3rd Sunday of Lent. It is sung in the 7th, or Grave, Tone. As in Greek tragedy the dramatic events take place ‘off stage’, and the Kontakion takes the form of a dramatic dia-logue between Hades and Satan below the earth as they comment on the drama taking place on earth."

Detail of Christ Crucified, Fresco by the Pachomaioi Fathers (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

Proemium 1. Idiomel.
The sword of flame no longer guards the gate of Eden,
For a strange bond came upon it: the wood of the Cross.
The sting of Death and the victory of Hades were nailed to it.
But you appeared, my Saviour, crying to those in Hades:
‘Be brought back
Again to Paradise’.

Proemium 2.
Nailed to the form of the Cross
As truly a ransom for many
You redeemed us, Christ our God,
For by your precious blood in love for mankind
You snatched our souls from death.
You brought us back with you
Again to Paradise.

Proemium 3.
All things in heaven and earth rightly rejoice with Adam,
Because he has been called
Again to Paradise.

Three crosses Pilate fixed on Golgotha,
Two for the thieves and one for the Giver of life,
Whom Hades saw and said to those below,
‘My ministers and powers,

Who has fixed a nail in my heart?
A wooden lance has suddenly pierced me and I am being torn apart.
My insides are in pain, my belly in agony.
My senses make my spirit tremble,
And I am compelled to disgorge
Adam and Adam’s race, given me by a tree,
A tree is bringing them back
Again to Paradise’.

(excerpts from Fr. Ephraim Lash:
Your Cross do we venerate O Master, and we glorify Your Holy Resurrection! Amen!

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