Sacred Song from the Byzantine Pulpit: Romanos the Melodist

By R. J. Schork | Go to book overview

"Mary at the Cross" (19)

Seventeen stanzas with the acrostic TOY TAII[E]INOY PὍMANOY ("of/by the humble Romanos"). Following the editors of the Greek text, I have bracketed the "E" stanza (6a) as a spurious addition. (Romanos sometimes spells his acrostic phonetically and omits the "E" in TAIIEINOY.)


Good Friday

Luke 23:27-32 records the laments of the women of Jerusalem who encounter Christ on the way to Calvary. John 19:25-28 is the only gospel that mentions the Virgin Mother as a witness to the crucifixion. In this kontakion, however, the Passion plot is not defined by a specific scriptural site; rather, the dramatic scene of the dialogue between Mother and Son is left designedly vague, in keeping with its extracanonical status.

The only two direct references to the Bible are acknowledgments of an echo of a psalm at stanza 6.4 and of an allusion to an incident from the Old Testament at 15.7-8. The latter serves as the basis for a somewhat bizarre example of typology. When the Jews were wandering through Sinai, they were attacked by venomous serpents. Yahweh instructed Moses, "Make a fiery serpent [out of bronze] and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live" (Numbers 21:8). The Greek word for "standard" (simeion) is interpreted by Romanos as the equivalent of "wood," "tree" (xulon). Thus a lifesaving cure during the Exodus becomes a "model" of life-giving redemption on the cross.

Another psalmodic phrase is worked into the plot of the kontakion in an equally odd fashion. Christ reminds Mary of his heavenly origin. He quotes King David as having sung that the mountain of God is a "solid

-106-

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Sacred Song from the Byzantine Pulpit: Romanos the Melodist
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Citations and Abbreviation xv
  • Concordance of Kontakion Numbers xvii
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • Notes 36
  • Part 2 - The Sung Sermons 41
  • "The First Humans" 43
  • Notes 44
  • "The Nativity I" (1) 49
  • Notes 50
  • "The Presentation in the Temple" (4) 60
  • Note 61
  • Healing the Leper" (8) 69
  • Notes 70
  • "The Sinful Woman" (10) 77
  • "The Man Possessed by Demons" (11) 86
  • Notes 87
  • "Judas" (17) 96
  • Notes 97
  • "Mary at the Cross" (19) 106
  • Note 107
  • "The Passion of Christ" (20) 115
  • Note 116
  • "The Victory of the Cross (22)" 125
  • Notes 126
  • "The Resurrection Vi" (29) 135
  • "Abraham and Isaac" (41) 148
  • Notes 149
  • "The Temptation of Joseph" (44) 158
  • Notes 162
  • "Repentance: Jonah and Nineveh" (52) 176
  • Note 177
  • "Earthquakes and Fires" (54) 184
  • Notes 185
  • "The Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia I" (57) 196
  • Notes 198
  • "The Akathistos Hymn" 207
  • Notes 208
  • Bibliography 221
  • Index 227
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