{    Cnytr   }

{Saturday, March 28, 2009  }

.:{Akathistos Saturday}:.




The fifth Sunday in Lent for our Eastern Catholic bretheren is called the "Akathistos Saturday", "Akathistos" from the Greek term meaning "not sitting", as it must be recited standing, as when the Gospel is read, to render proper reverence. This blogger idly wonders whether this particular Saturday always follows the Annunciation or whether it happened to work out this way in this particular year.

Those who have followed this blog for way too long may know of this blogger's interest in the Eastern Catholic rites, and especially this the (5th century, Byzantine) Akathist hymn, from as early as 2003, Lauren's visit to Greece in 2004 (argh, still kicking myself for not photographing Hosios Loukas), a slightly incomprehensible blog in 2005 about the Orientale Lumen conference and Greek vespers (being held in DC again this year), and the recent posts in 2009 since this blogger began regularly attending Eastern rite liturgies.

It has been a great joy and wonder to participate in these liturgies. I hope to share with you at least a little of the awe and wisdom I hope to gain from them.

Posted above is a small excerpt from the first Ikos of the Akathist hymn:

Rejoice, O star who manifest the Sun;
Rejoice, O womb of the divine incarnation;
Rejoice, O you through whom creation is renewed;
Rejoice, O you through whom the Creator becoms a babe;

Rejoice, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!


This blog (evidently run by a parish priest and his supporting staff) has a little more information on Akathistos Saturday, taken from Saint Barbara Byzantine Catholic Church (Dayton, OH) bulletin for March 2, 1997:

On the fifth Saturday of Lent our Easter Church has a special service in honour of the most Pure Virgin Mary. This service, which is celebrated only in the Easter Church, is called Akathistos, a Greek word meaning 'not sitting'. Hence, the name Akathistos Saturday.

Akathistos Saturday, like the Sunday of Orthodoxy, bears no relation to the Great Fast. It occurs during that time because of historical tradition and practice of the Church. During the Matins service of this Saturday the entire Akathistos of the Annunciation of the most Holy Mother of God is sung. This Akathistos can be called the symbol and crown of the sublime cult of the Mother of God in the Easter Church. For this reason, it deserves special attention.

The Church service of this Saturday was instituted in honour of the Mother of God in thanksgiving for her protection of the capital city of Byzantium - Constantinople - against an enemy invasion on three sepa-rate occasions. The first invasion occurred during Emperor Heraclius (626), when the Persians launched an attack from the East and the Sketes or Avars from the West, and the city was in grave peril. Patriarch Sergius I (610-639) took the beautifully clothed icon of the most Pure Virgin Mary, called the Odigitria (Greek = a guide), or Our Lady Guide of Wayfarers, and her robe and went in procession around the city. As the procession drew near to the Church of the most Holy Mother of God, situated in the suburb of Blacherna, he soaked the robe of the Mother of God in the sea. Immediately a storm arose which sank the enemy's ships. The city was saved. The people, acknowledged this as a miracle performed by the Mother of God assembled in the church at Blacherna, and passed the whole night in prayer, singing the hymn of praise, i.e., the Akathistos, in honour of the Mother of God.


The chapel where the hymn took place is dedicated to the Protection of the Mother of God, hence the reason why she is holding a robe in her hands ... something I was wondering nearly the entire hymn:



In the Jubilee year 2000, this hymn was celebrated in the church of S. Maria Maggiore by Pope John Paul II on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, where it was sung in all the languages of the Eastern church (Greek, Old Slavonic, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Romanian and Arabic).

This item from the Vatican news service has more:

In the Byzantine liturgy from which it is taken, the Akathistos was originally celebrated on the fifth Saturday of Lent, which was therefore called "Saturday of the Akathistos": and this not only because of its proximity to the feast of the Annunciation, in which a passage from the Akathistos still appears, but also because this Hymn, a matchless gem of Marian theology and spirituality, links the mystery of Christmas to the mystery of Easter, the birth of the Word made flesh to the Passover of his Death and Resurrection and our rebirth through the sacraments of regeneration, the motherhood of Mary at Bethlehem to her maternal presence at the baptismal font. [...]

It sets forth in song the mystery of the Incarnation (stanzas 1-4), the outpouring of grace upon Elizabeth and John (stanza 5), the revelation to Joseph (stanza 6), the adoration of the shepherds (stanza 7), the arrival and adoration of the Magi (stanzas 8-10), the flight into Egypt (stanza 11), the meeting with Simeon (stanza 12). These are events which transcend the historical facts and become a symbolic reading of grace poured out, of the creature receiving grace, of the shepherds proclaiming the Gospel, of those from distant lands who come to faith, of the People of God which, rising from the baptismal font, goes forth on its light-filled way towards the Promised Land and comes to a profound knowledge of Christ.

The second part (stanzas 13-24) sets forth and sings of what the Church at the time of Ephesus and Chalcedon professed concerning Mary, within the context of the mystery of her Son the Saviour and of the Church which gathers all who are saved.


This hymn is truly a gem of poetry and Marian theology. I asked an Eastern friend of mine recently about the Western tradition of the rosary. He said that whilst many Eastern Catholics recite the rosary, it is not a part of their tradition. He then described this Akathistos hymn as "our rosary".

And if you can't get enough of those Ukranian melodies, here is some kind of Slavic Marian hymn sung after the Akathistos. I don't know what it is or what it means, but I love the harmonies.

Слава Ісусу Христу!
posted by Lauren, 10:30 PM

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