Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Lamentations for the Feast of the Dormition

In many churches, especially Greek churches dedicated to the Theotokos, it has been custom to sing the  Lamentations of the Theotokos on the feast commemorating her Dormition on August 15.  These hymns are modeled after and are sung to the same melodies as the Lamentations we chant on Great Friday during Orthros.  Studies suggest that the Lamentations for the Dormition came out of Jerusalem but were never really codified in Greece until maybe the 16th century.  In the past 25 years, these Lamentations have become increasingly popular, though it should be noted that neither Mt. Athos nor the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople have added these hymns in their celebrations of this feast.

It is important to note that on this day, we commemorate the reality that "one of our own" died and has experienced the Death's Destruction through the death and Resurrection of her Son and our Lord.  We do not commemorate the embellishments of Byzantine Hymnographers so going over these hymns literally will avail you nothing.  The following are from the first stasis.  There are there stases total; the first two chanted in plagal tone 1 and the last chanted in tone 3.

1. In a grave they laid you
yet, O Christ, you are life
and they now have laid the Mother of Life as well:
both to angels and to men a sight most strange!

2. We exalt you greatly,
Theotokos most pure,
and we glorify your holy dormition now,
as we bow before your honored precious tomb.

3. In your womb you held him
who cannot be contained;
you are life to all the faithful: how can you die,
and your body be contained within a tomb?

4. You brought forth, Pure Maiden,
God the heavenly King,
and today in manner royal are carried forth
to the Kingdom of the Heavens as a Queen.

5. Holy Theotokos,
You have passed from this world,
in departing not forsaking those left on earth,
but delivering this world from every ill.

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