St. Romanos the Melodist

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Romanos the Melodist (late 5th-century — after 555) was a Byzantine hymnographer and composer who is a central early figure in the history of Byzantine music. Called “the Pindar of rhythmic poetry”.  He was born to a Jewish family in Damascus in Syria. He was baptized as a young boy (though whether or not his parents also converted is uncertain). Having moved to Berytus (Beirut), he was ordained a deacon in the Church of the Resurrection there.  He later moved to Constantinople during the reign of the emperor Anastasius and served as sacristan (charged with care of the sacristy where priests don their vestments) in the “Great Church” (Hagia Sophia).  He is said to have composed more than 1,000 hymns or kontakia celebrating various festivals of the ecclesiastical year, the lives of the saints and other sacred subjects, 60 to 80 of which survive .  His Kontakion of the Nativity is still considered to be his masterpiece, and up until the twelfth century it was sung every year at the imperial banquet on that feast by the joint choirs of Hagia Sophia and of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.  Romanos has been credited with composing the famous Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, which is still sung during Great Lent (the most important fasting season for the Eastern Orthodox Church , Oriental Orthodox, and the Eastern Catholic Churches in preparation for Pascha / Easter).  


  • The Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos
  • The Nativity of Christ
  • The Martyrdom of St Stephen
  • The Death of a Monk
  • The Last Judgment
  • The Prodigal Son
  • The Raising of Lazarus
  • Adam’s Lament (for Palm Sunday)
  • The Treachery of Judas

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Quotes and Excerpts:

Cease your laments; I will make myself your advocate in my Son’s presence. Meanwhile, no more sadness, because I have brought joy to the world. For it is to destroy the kingdom of sorrow that I have come into the world: I, full of grace.
Then curb your tears; accept me as your mediatrix in the presence of him who was born from me, because the author of joy is the God generated before all ages. Remain calm; be troubled no longer: I come from him, full of grace.
-On Christmas 2, IO-II.

The prayers of Joachim and Anna and the weeping of sterility reached the ears of God and were well received. Thus they gave a life-giving fruit to the world. For while he [Joachim] was praying on the mountain, she [Anna] hid her mortification in the garden. But the barren woman then joyfully brings to light the Mother of God, the nourisher of our life.
-On the Birth of Mary I

Then the tribes of Israel heard that Anna had conceived the immaculate one. So everyone took part in the rejoicing. Joachim gave a banquet, and great was the merriment in the garden. He invited the priests and Levites to prayer; then he called Mary into the center of the crowd, that she might be magnified.
-On the Birth of Mary 4

This mystery will be the object of contradicting ideas, so that doubt will arise in your mind. Yes, when you see your Son nailed to the Cross, Immaculate Virgin, and recall the words of the angel, his divine conception, and his ineffable miracles, at that moment you will doubt: for you, this hesitation will be a sword of pain. But later God will bring ready healing to your heart.
-On the Presentation I3

Kontakion 47: “The Plea of the Foolish Virgins” Source: Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica: Cantica Genuina, ed. Paul Maas and C.A. Trypanis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), 401-403.

As they took the empty road, the five came to the end
and found the bridal chamber closed by Christ,
then all cry with anguished voice and sighs and tears:
“Your mankind-loving door, Immortal, open
to us too, who serve Your might in virginity.”
Then the King calls out to them:
“The Kingdom is not opened unto you;
I know you not; depart, then, from My midst,
for you don’t bear
the incorruptible crown.”
Hearing Christ, the King of all, calling to the five,
“I know not who you are,” they’re filled with all trouble;
weeping, they cry out: “Justest Judge, poverty we’ve kept,
we’ve exercised all self-control, with eagerness,
we’ve kept the fasts; we’ve made firm non-acquisition;[1]
the flame of fire of lechery
we’ve conquered, and the appetites;
we’ve ever kept a faultless way of life,
so that we’d gain
the incorruptible crown.
“But with virtues and virginity’s grace and the trampling
of the fire of lust and flame of pleasures,
with many toils, when the life of those in heaven we’ve zealed for—
and eager have we been to have the bodiless'[2] way of life—
these and such, as it so seems, are found honorless,
for we’ve shown the toil of many a virtue
and all hope’s been shown as vain;
why, then, show You ignorance, Who bestow
on all You will,
the incorruptible crown?
“Nod, Savior, to us too, only Just Judge; open Your door.
Bring into the bridal chamber Your virgins, Ransomer,
and do not turn Your face, O Christ, from those calling You,
that we be not deprived of Your immortal grace,
nor become shame and reproach before the angels;
do not, then, forever leave us
standing, Christ, outside Your bridal chamber:
for those before us did not practice purity,
to whom You grant
the incorruptible crown.”
The fools thus saying to the Judge of All, Christ said to them:
“Now a just and truthful judgment is set forth:
the mankind-loving season has been closed, now there is no sympathy;
no longer will compassion’s door be open unto men,
since occasion for repentance is not then given them;
no longer sympathetic, the One Compassionate of late,
but the Merciful is a relentless Judge;
compassionless you showed yourselves within the world;
how then seek you
the incorruptible crown?”

Mary at the Cross,
trans. Constantine A. Trypanis,
in The Penguin Book of Greek Verse
(Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd., 1971)

Come, let us all celebrate him who was crucified for us: for Mary
looked on him upon the cross and said: “Though you endure crucifixion, yet you are my son, my God.”
Worn out with grief, Mary, the ewe, seeing her own lamb taken to the slaughter, followed with the other women and cried: “Where are you going, my child? For whose sake are you finishing this swift race? Is there yet another marriage in Cana, and are you hastening there now to change the water into wine for them? Shall I go with you, child, or shall I rather wait for you? Speak to me, O Word; do not pass me by in silence: for you kept me in my purity, my son, my God.”
“I never thought that I would see you, my child, in such necessity
nor did I ever believe that the lawless would rage so, and unjustly
stretch out their hands against you; for still their infants cry
“Hosanna” to you; still the road is strewn with palm-branches proclaiming to all how the lawless had sung your praises. And now a worse deed is done, and for whose sake? Alas; how is my light snuffed out, how to a cross is nailed my son, my God.
You are going to unjust slaughter, my child, and no one is suffering with you. Peter does not go with you, Peter who had said to you: ‘Never shall I deny you even though I die.’
Thomas deserted you, Thomas who cried, ‘Let us all die with him.’ The others too, the friends and companions who were to judge the tribes of Israel, where are they now? None of them is here; but one, alone, for the sake of them all, you are dying, my child; because instead of them you have saved all, because instead of them you have loved all, my son, my God.” Mary cried thus, from her heavy grief; and as she wailed and wept in her very deep sorrow, her son turned to her and said:
“Why, mother, do you weep? Why do you grieve with the other women? Lest I suffer? Lest I die? How then should I save Adam? Lest I dwell in the tomb? How then should I draw to life those in Hades? And yet, as you know, I am crucified most unjustly. Why do you weep, my mother? Rather cry out thus, that willingly I suffered, your son,your God.
“Put aside your grief, mother, put it aside; mourning is not right
for you who have been called the All-favoured. Do not conceal the title with weeping; do not liken yourself, wise maid, to those with no understanding. You are in the centre of my bridal chamber; do not consume your soul as though you were standing outside. Address those within the bridal chamber as your servants; for all, when they Where is my rush in terror, will hear you, holy one, when you say: “My son, my God?’
“Do not make the day of my suffering a bitter day; it is for this day that I, the compassionate, (now) descended from heaven as manna, not upon Mount Sinai but in your womb; for within it I was conceived, David once foretold. Recognize, holy one, the ‘mountain God delighted to dwell in’; I now exist, I, the Word, who in you became flesh. This day I suffer and this day I save; do not therefore Weep, mother. Rather cry out in joy: ‘Willingly he suffered, my son, my God.” »
“See, my child,” she said, “I wipe the tears from my eyes, though
my heart I wear down still more; but my thoughts cannot be silent. Why, offspring, do you say to me: If I do not die, Adam will not be healed’? And yet, without suffering yourself, you have healed many. You made the leper clean and have felt no pain, for so you will it. You bound the paralytic together, yet you yourself were not undone. Again, when by your word you gave sight to the blind, you yourself, good one, remained unharmed, my son, my God.
You raised the dead but did not yourself die, nor, my son and my
life, were you laid within the grave. How then can you say:
Unless I suffer Adam will not be healed? Command, my saviour, and he will rise at once and take up his bed. And even if Adam is covered by a tomb, call him forth, as you called Lazarus from the grave; for all things serve you; you are the creator of all. Why then do you hasten, my child? Do not rush to the slaughter, do not embrace death, my son, my God.”
“You do not know, mother, you do not know what I say. There-
fore open your mind and take in the words you hear, and consider on your own what I say. This miserable Adam, of whom I spoke before, who is sick not only in body but yet more so in his soul, is sick of his own will; for he did not obey me, and is in danger. You know what I say- therefore do not weep, mother; rather cry out: “Take pity on Adam, and show compassion to Eve, my son, my God.’
“Adam, sick through debauchery, through gluttony, was led
down to deepest Hell, and there he weeps for the suffering of his
soul; and Eve, who once taught him disobedience, grieves with him and languishes with him, that together they may learn to heed the Healer’s word. Now, do you see? Do you understand what I have said? Cry out again, mother: “If you forgive Adam, forgive also Eve, my son, my God.’”
And when the blameless ewe heard this, she answered to her
lamb: “My Lord, if I speak yet once more, do not be angry with
me. I shall tell you what is on my mind, so that I may learn from
you all I wish to know. If you suffer, if you die, will you come back to me? If you heal Adam, and Eve with him, shall I see you again? For my fear is that from the tomb you may hasten to Heaven, my child; and I, searching to see you, shall weep and cry out: “Where is my son, my God?”
When he who knows of all things before their birth heard this, he
answered Mary: “Take courage, mother, for you shall be the first to see me (risen) from the tomb; and I shall come to show you from what suffering I liberated Adam and how much I sweated for his sake. I shall reveal it to my friends and show them the tokens in my hands; and then, mother, you shall see Eve living as before, and you shall cry out for joy: ‘He saved my parents, my son, my God.’
“Endure a little, mother, and you shall see how I, like a healer,
divest myself and come to where they lie, and how I heal their
wounds, cutting their callouses and scabs with the lance; and I shall take the vinegar and with it bathe their wounds; I shall open the wound with the chisel (made) of the nails and dress it with the cloak, and my cross I shall use, mother, as a splint, that you may sing with understanding: ‘By suffering he freed us from suffering, my son, my God.’
“Put aside your grief, mother, put it aside, and go in joy; for now I hasten to fulfill that for which I came, the will of him who sent me. For from the first this was resolved by me and by my Father, and it was never displeasing to my spirit; that I become man and suffer for him who had fallen. Hasten then, mother, and announce to all that “By suffering he lays low the hater of Adam, and comes as a conqueror, my son, my God.’ “
“I am overcome, my child, overcome by love, and truly I cannot
bear it, that I am to be in my room while you are on the cross, I
within my house, you within the tomb. Therefore let me go with
you, for it heals me to look upon you, I shall look upon the outra-
geous daring of those who honour Moses: for these blind men, pretending to be his avengers, have come here to kill you. But what Moses said to Israel was this: You will see life hanging on the cross” And what is life? “My son and my God.”
“If you come with me, mother, do not weep, and do not tremble if
you see the elements shaken. For this outrage will make all creation tremble; the sky will be blinded and not open its eyes until I speak; then the earth and the sea together will hasten to disappear, and the temple will rend its veil against the perpetrators of this outrage. The mountains will be shaken, the graves emptied. If, like a woman, you are seized by fear when you see this, cry out to me: “Spare me, my son, my God,” »
Son of the Virgin, God of the Virgin, and creator of the world:
yours is the suffering, yours the depths of wisdom. You know what you were and what you became; because you were willing to suffer, you deigned to come and save mankind. Like a lamb you have lifted our sins from us, and you have abolished them by your sacrifice, my Saviour, and saved every man. You exist both in suffering and in not suffering; by dying you save, and you have given to the holy lady
freedom to cry to you: “My son and my God.”

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