Words wear out. Even the deep ones, like love, or Christmas, or God. It takes a poet to awake us from the slumber of those oft-repeated phrases and re-open our eyes to the breath-taking beauty of the mysteries hidden behind them. That is why last Wednesday, instead of explaining once again the theological concepts of Incarnation and Redemption to the participants of our Advent Vigil of Prayer, I decided to use poetry, the 6th century Byzantine hymn called the Akathist to the God-bearing Mary. Written by St. Romanos Melodos, the Akathist tells the story of the coming of the Son of God from Annunciation to the Flee to Egypt. For those of you who didn’t have a chance to hear it chanted then, here is a short passage, the words of the Angel Gabriel addressing the Virgin:
Rejoice, o hidden Sense of the ineffable plan,
Rejoice, o Belief in silence that must be!
Rejoice, o Forecast of the marvels of Christ,
Rejoice, o Fountainhead of truths concerning him!
Rejoice, celestial Ladder by whom God came down,
Rejoice, o Bridge leading earthly ones to heaven!
Rejoice, o Wonder ever-thrilling to the angels,
Rejoice, o Wound ever-hurting to the demons!
Rejoice, o you who gave birth to light ineffably,
Rejoice, o you who told no one how it was done!
Rejoice, o you who surpass the wisdom of the wise,
Rejoice, o you who enlighten the faithful minds!
Rejoice, o Bride and Maiden ever-pure!
This, followed by many other astonishing imageries (Rejoice, o Gardener of the Gardener of life!, or, Rejoice, o Sea who drowned the symbolic Pharaoh!), took our little congregation on a theological rollercoaster ride that lasted 45 minutes, all chanting! The most rewarding compliment I heard from the participants, though, was that it did not feel like 45 minutes: the quality of true poetry and of true prayer is that one loses the sense of time, contemplating the Timeless One.
I wish you for this Advent that you may find your own way of losing the sense of time while contemplating the beauty of the One who so loved the world that he sent us his only Son!