Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cycles of Grace: Hymns from the Great Feasts

This is the last of the albums by Fr. Apostolos Hill that I received as complimentary copies from Liturgica. It's just as beautiful and there is enough variance between them to warrant buying all the albums. This one is a 2-CD set. The numbering of the tracks is a little confusing because rather than starting over at the number "1," the CD case simply continues numbering at "20" which means you have to brush up on your math skills and subtract 19 to figure out what track you are on. The liturgical texts span the liturgical year.

The first two tracks are not liturgical texts about the Nativity of Christ, but the Nativity of Mary--the Theotokos. The tracks rely upon church tradition.

Tracks 3-6 cover the Exaltation of the Cross which commemorates the finding of the cross that Christ was crucified on. These are some of my favorite texts on the album. The first ode from track 5 says:
Moses marked a straight line before him with his staff and divided the Red Sea, opening a path for Israel who went over dry-shod. Then marking a second line across the waters thus inscribing the invincible weapon of the Cross, united them in one overwhelming the chariots of Pharaoh. Therefore to Christ let us sing, for He has been glorified.

The second ode finds the cross in Aaron's rod. The fifth ode says:

O thrice blessed Tree where on Christ the King and Lord was hung. The foe who tempted mankind with a Tree was caught in the trap set by He who in the flesh was nailed to You, granting peace unto our souls.

The sixth ode finds the cross in the figure of Jonah stretching out his hands to God in prayer while inside the fish. The seventh ode tells how Christ was present with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. The ninth ode refers to Mary as a "mystical paradise" and I have no idea what that means. Track 6 says:

The Cross is the guardian of the whole earth; the cross is the beauty of the Church. The Cross is the strength of kings; the Cross is the support of the faithful. The Cross is the glory of angels and the wonder of demons.

Today the Cross is exalted and the world is sanctified. For Thou who art enthroned with the Father and the Holy Spirit hast spread Thine arms upon it, and drawn the world to knowledge of Thee, O Christ. Make worthy of divine glory those that have put their trust in Thee.

Tracks 7 and 8 are for "The Entry of the Theotokos Into the Temple." She is seen as the fulfillment of such Old Testament imagery as the jar of manna, Aaron's rod, and the tablet of the Law.

Tracks 9-13 are some excellent liturgical texts on the "Nativity of Christ." Track 9 reads:

Today is born of the Virgin Him who holdest all creation in the hollow of His hand.
He whose essence is untouchable is wrapped in swaddling clothes as a babe.
The God who from of Old established the heavens lieth in a manger.
He who showered the people with manna in the wilderness feedeth on milk from the breasts...

Tracks 14-19 are for the "Theophany of Our Lord." Track 14 ties the passing of the Israelites through the Red Sea to the baptism of Christ.

Tracks 20-23 are for "The Meeting of Our Lord." They contain portions of the Nunc Dimittis and I kept wanting to hear the whole thing.

Tracks 24-27 are for the "Annunciation of the Theotokos." I had some problems with some of the theology in these tracks.

Tracks 28-29 are for Pascha. I would have liked to hear more Pascha texts.

Tracks 30-31 are for the Ascension.

Tracks 32-34 are for Pentecost.

Tracks 35-38 are for the Transfiguration.

Tracks 39-40 are for the "Dormition of the Theotokos." The texts seem to be based mostly on church tradition. The texts are not my favorite but musically they are very interesting.

If you are at all interested in Byzantine Chant I would highly recommend this album.

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