Friday, July 16, 2010
St. Athenogenes the Martyr, and "O joyful Light..."
Icon of Christ "O Fotodotis" ("The Light-giver") (http://www.rel.gr/photo/displayimage.php?album=33&pos=142)
The hymn "O joyful Light..." is a beloved and very ancient Christian hymn, and is currently chanted during the Orthodox Vespers service. St. Basil the Great alludes to it in his work "On the Holy Spirit", and discusses how the Holy Martyr Athenogenes (distinct from St. Athenogenes the Hieromartyr, who also celebrates on July 16th) sang it as he approached martyrdom:
"It seemed fitting to our fathers not to receive the gift of the light at eventide in silence, but, on its appearing, immediately to give thanks. Who was the author of these words of thanksgiving at the lighting of the lamps, we are not able to say. The people, however, utter the ancient form, and no one has ever reckoned guilty of impiety those who say We praise Father, Son, and [Holy Spirit, God]. And if any one knows the Hymn of Athenogenes, which, as he was hurrying on to his perfecting by fire, he left as a kind of farewell gift to his friends, he knows the mind of the martyrs as to the Spirit. On this head I shall say no more."
(taken from non-Orthodox source here: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3203.htm)
And below, Fr. Ephraim Lash's translation of this hymn:
O joyful Light of the holy glory of the immortal, heavenly, holy, blessed Father, O Jesus Christ. Now that we have come to the setting of the sun and see the evening light, we sing the praise of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is right at all times to hymn you with holy voices, Son of God, giver of life. Therefore the world glorifies you.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!