Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Presentation of the Virgin Mary 2023

Hear, o maiden and pure virgin: let Gabriel now of the true ancient counsel of the Most High. Make thou ready to receive God; for through thee the Infinite shall dwell among mortals; wherefore, I also rejoicing cry out, “Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!”

nna as once she led the immaculate temple to the house of God, crying out, said in faith unto the priest, “Now accept thou this Child, given also to me by God, and lead her into the Temple of thy Creator; and, rejoicing, chant unto Him, “Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!”

eeing this, then, Zachariah in the Spirit said to Anna, “Thou dost bring the true Mother of Life, whom the prophets of God clearly foretold as the Mother of God! And how shall the Temple hold her? wherefore, marveling do I cry out, ‘Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!’ ”
“I stood as a suppliant of the Lord,” answered Anna to him, “calling upon Him in faith and prayer to accept the fruit of my birth-pangs, that after childbirth, I might bring her that was born unto Him that bestowed her. Wherefore, dancing, I cry aloud, ‘Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!’ ”
A Cretan icon of the Entrance of the Virgin into the Temple, 17th century.
“Truly this is a matter of the Law,” the priest said to her, “and strange in every way doth this matter seem to me, seeing her being led into the house of God who gloriously surpasseth the holy ones in grace. Wherefore, I also rejoicing cry out, ‘Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!’ ”
“I am strengthened,” said Ann to him, “by hearing what thou sayest, for having understood these things by the Spirit of God, thou didst clearly proclaim what should come to pass with the Virgin. Receive, then, the Immaculate One in the temple of thy Creator, and chant to Him rejoicing, ‘Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!’ ”
“A lamp that gives light has been kindled for us,” cried the priest, “that maketh the greatest joy shine in the temple. Let the souls of the prophets be gladdened, as they see wondrous things being accomplished in the house of God, and let them now cry out, ‘Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!’ ”

I have previously described a prominent feature of Orthros, the Byzantine equivalent of Matins and Lauds, known as a Canon. This is a long (and sometimes extremely long) set of compositions which, as a genre, were originally designed to be sung between the verses of the Odes, a group of eight canticles from the Old Testament, and one from the New. In practice, the Odes themselves are nowadays almost always omitted, except for the Magnificat, which forms the second half of the ninth Ode, and the term “ode” (“ᾠδή” in Greek, “пѣснъ” in Church Slavonic) usually now refers to the relevant section of the Canon.

On the feast of the Annunciation, most of the texts in the first eight Odes of the Canon consist of a dialogue between the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary. In the Canon quoted above for today’s feast, the eighth Ode imitates this by repeating the first chant from the eighth Ode of the Annunciation, but then continuing with a dialogue between St Anne and the priest who received the Virgin into the temple at the time of Her Presentation. (In the East, he is traditionally said to be St Zachariah, the father of St John the Baptist.) This borrowing reflects the tradition that Gabriel was also the angel sent to announce the Virgin’s conception to her parents, and that during the years when she lived in the temple, the angel daily brought her food from heaven, as seen in the upper left of the icon above. The refrain “cry(ing) out, ‘Bless the Lord, all ye works of the Lord!’ ” comes from the ode with which the Canon is theoretically sung, Daniel 3, 57-88, the Song of the Three Children, known in the West as the Benedicite from its first word in Latin.
In the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, after the consecration and the epiclesis, the choir sings a hymn, while the priest silently reads a prayer of which the second part is as follows. “Moreover, we offer unto Thee this rational service for them that have reposed in faith: the forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and for every righteous spirit in faith made perfect.” He then sings out loud “Especially for our most holy, most pure and most blessed Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-virgin Mary”; at this, the choir sings a hymn to the Virgin, while the priest continues the anaphora in silence. The default hymn, “It is truly worthy to bless Thee”, is replaced on many major feasts, including today’s, with the ninth ode of its Canon. “The angels, on seeing the entrance of the All-holy One, were amazed that the Virgin entered into the Holy of Holies. Since she is a living Ark of God, let profane hands in no way touch Her, but let the lips of believers unceasingly sing to the Mother of God, raising up a song with the angel’s voice, and cry out in rejoicing, ‘Truly, thou art exalted above all, O pure Virgin!’ ”
Ἄγγελοι, τὴν Εἴσοδον τῆς Πανάγνου ὁρῶντες, ἐξεπλήττοντο πῶς ἡ Παρθένος εἰσῆλθεν, εἰς τὰ Ἅγια τῶν Ἁγίων. Ὡς ἐμψύχῳ Θεοῦ κιβωτῷ, ψαυέτω μηδαμῶς χεὶρ ἀμυήτων, χείλη δὲ πιστῶν τῇ Θεοτόκῳ ἀσιγήτως φωνὴν τοῦ Ἀγγέλου ἀναμέλποντα, ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει βοάτω· Ὄντως ἀνωτέρα πάντων ὑπάρχεις, Παρθένε ἁγνή.
Аггели вхожденїе Пречистыѧ зрѧще, оудивишасѧ, какω Дѣва вниде во свѧтаѧ свѧтыхъ. ꙗкω ωдушевленному Божїю кївωту, да никакоже коснетсѧ рука скверныхъ, оустнѣ же вѣрныхъ Богородицѣ немолчнω, гласъ Аггела воспѣвающе, съ радостїю да вопїютъ: истинно выши всѣхъ еси, Дѣво Чистаѧ.

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