CANTICLES ON THE PERSON OF CHRIST
by St. Romanos Melodos (c. 550 A.D.)
Translated from Greek to English by Michael Covington
The Nativity (Canticle 1)
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Heavenly One
And today the earth shelters the Unapproachable One.
Angels and shepherds sing His praise;
Led by the star, wise men make their way.
For unto us is born
A newborn boy, from before all time God.
The Annunciation (Canticle 2)
Begotten, motherless, of the Father before the morning star,
Incarnate, fatherless, in Mary's womb today,
Proclaimed by a star to the Wise Men
And praised by shepherds and angels,
Your Son is too glorious for words,
Mary, full of grace.
The Resurrection, I (Canticle 24)
Death is swallowed up in victory
By your rising from the dead, O Christ our God;
We whom your suffering has made bold
Shall always keep the feast, lift up our hearts,
And shout for joy: "The Lord is risen!"
The Resurrection, II (Canticle 25)
I bow before your cross, O Christ our God
And I glorify your tomb, Immortal One.
Your Resurrection I proclaim with all my voice.
The Lord is risen!
The Resurrection, III (Canticle 26)
"By your sufferings, Saviour, we who suffer are set free."
Thus Adam spoke, and Hell's foundations shook
Because the Lord is risen.
The Resurrection, IV (Canticle 27)
We who are bound to Christ by baptism
And raised with Him from death
Shall sing and shout:
"Where, Death, is now your victory?
Where, O grave, your sting?
For the Lord is risen,
Our life and resurrection."
The Resurrection, V (Canticle 28)
In your voluntary death we found eternal life,
Almighty, unique, and universal God:
In your holy resurrection, you raised us all,
Who disarmed the devil, the grave, and death.
The Resurrection, VI (Canticle 29)
Yes, you went to your grave, Immortal One,
But when you were there, you destroyed the power of Hell
And rose again as victor, Christ our God,
Happily greeting the women who came to embalm you
And delivering to your apostles the gift of peace.
To fallen people you give resurrection.
Each of the verses above is the prologue (opening verse) of one of the canticles (Kontakia) of St. Romanos Melodos (c. 550 A.D.). Each complete canticle is several pages long. Some of them are still used (in Greek) as hymns in the Greek Orthodox Church.
This is not always a literal translation; I have tried to preserve the "feel" of the original, especially the parallelism and some of the rhythm, rather than translate word for word. At the same time, although rhythmical, these translations do not follow a strict meter. Neither do the originals when read with modern Greek pronunciation, although in their own time they followed a metrical system that is no longer entirely understood.
The symbol at the top of this page is common in Eastern iconography. It is a cross with the letters IC XC NIKA, abbreviating the Greek for "Jesus Christ is victorious." C is a form of the letter sigma, and the horizontal bars indicate abbreviations.
Copyright 2000 Michael A. Covington. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to reprint or redistribute. Links to this web page are encouraged.
Minor revision 2000 April 23 (Western Easter)
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