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Paraklesis: hymns of supplication

Liner Notes

Paraklesis CD small cover

By the time of the writing of the Gospel of Luke towards the end of the first Christian century already a special status can be detected toward Mary, the Mother of God—“for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). In time miracles and appearances of the Virgin are witnessed to in homilies such as that peached by Saint Gregory the Theologian at the Anastasia Church in Constantinople, the first church recorded as being dedicated to the Mother of God, the Theotokos kyriou built in the late fifth century. Romanus Melodus, the Pindar of Byzantine hymnography, would received the gift of writing kontakia from a vision of the Virgin in the sixth century.

The tipping point for the veneration of the Virgin Theotokos and Mother of God in the worship life of the Church, however, comes in conjunction with the Œcumenical Synods of Ephesus and Chalcedon. The Empress Pulcheria (d. 453) would commission three very important churches eventually completed by Leo I (emperor from 457 - 474) and Verina, namely the Blachernae, Chalkoprateia and Hodegoi. Each would also be endowed with unique “relics” of the Virgin Mary: the Blachernae with the maphorian, the Chalkoprateia with the zone and the monastery of the Hodegoi with the icon attributed to the Evangelist Luke, eventually to be known as the Hodegetria, taking its name from its location. The long and short of this development is that these three locations and the Marian relics they hosted would give rise to a fervent devotion to the Theotokos manifesting itself in weekly processions through the streets of Constantinople and subsequent vigils, on Tuesdays, Mondays and Fridays of each week.

Another historical point of convergence for the veneration of the Theotokos would come when the presence of the Mother of God at Blacherae would be intricately associated with the protection of the City during the AD 625-626 Avar siege. The anonymous Chronicon paschale associates the area of the Blachernae with the appearance of the Virgin Mary seen by Avar Chagan, bringing substance to the recognition of the Mother of God as systrategos to the Emperor and teichos akatamacheton, aportheton teichos and skepe krataia. This veneration was strong enough to have brought about the composition of one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical hymns of the Christian era known as the Akathistos, a kontakion that was recited without sitting, thus attaining its name (a = not + kathistos = sitting).

Some time during the seventh century the names of Andreas Cretensis (circa 660 - circa 740) and Germanus Patriarch of Constantinople (circa 634 - circa 733) would be associated with the origin of a new type of Byzantine ecclesiastical hymn, the kanōn; eventually though, eighth-century Jerusalem would be considered home to some of the its most prominent composers, Iohannes Damascenus (circa 645 or 676 - 749) and Cosmas Melodus (VIIth - VIIIth C).

In its structure the kanōn takes its thematic content and liturgical application from the Biblical Canticles, referred to as Odea in Greek. Each Ode begins with a model heirmos strophe with subsequent strophes called troparia, chanted to the same melody as the initial heirmos for each Ode. The music for these heirmoi were recorded in hymnbooks known as heirmologia, the oldest coming down to us being from the tenth century. It is to this genre of Byzantine hymn that the contents of the CD Paraklesis: hymns of supplication belong.

The special veneration to the Mother of God referred to above would find expression in the new hymn-form. The oldest extant monastic Typikon (book of rubrics) from the year AD 1131 (Messina manuscript gr. 115) records a unique name for the office of Compline for Friday evenings, πρεσβείαν, that is, intercession. We read, “on Friday evening we do not chant apodeipnon in the Church, but presbeian, and not only in this Great Fast, but on all Fridays throughout the year, unless a fest of the Lord impedes.” The rubric calls for the use of two, unnamed, specific kanōnes, one in mode IV and the other in mode IV plagal. The famous Typikon of the Evergetis monastery in Constantinople would call their special supplication on Friday evening of the first week of the Great Fast paraklesis! The word paraklesis in Greek means a summoning or calling to one’s aid, imploring or appealing with regards to some request.

This indication for the use of two alternating kanōnes immediately conjures the suspicion of possible reference to the anonymous kanōn of the Small Paraklesis in mode IV plagal, Πολλοῖς συνεχόμενος πειρασμοῖς and the canon of the feast of the Annunciation (25 March) in mode IV attributed to Ioseph Hymnographus and also used today in the Akathistos, the ἀνοίξω τὸ στόμα μου. Although there is no archaeological evidence to this point, the similarity with the alternating Small and Great kanōnes of supplication (presbeia, paraklesis) used in the Orthodox Church today during the fifteen-day fast of August which leads up to the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God is at the very least some type of descendant of this special Byzantine veneration toward the Theotokos.

This rich liturgical history of special veneration to the Mother of God, Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary is the context for the release of the Small and Great kanōnes, hymns of supplication in English and Greek, according to the contemporary practice of the Greek Orthodox Church in the present CD. While the small kanōn often carries an attribution to Theosterictus, a monk of the ninth century, and the great kanōn to the Emperor Theodorus Ducas Lascaris (XIIIth C), there is no direct evidence. Nevertheless, the present Greek practice makes use of these two kanōnes during the first fourteen days of the month of August, a period of fasting and prayer in preparation for the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos celebrated on the fifteen. Specifically, in the context of the Vespers, directly after the Canticle of Symeon before the dismissal the supplication begins each evening except for Saturday and the eves of the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (6 August) and the Dormition of the Theotokos (15 August). The Small and Great kanōnes are alternated each evening, beginning with the Small; the Great kanōn is always used on Sunday evening. Appended to the end of each kanōn are troparia called megalynaria, Greek for magnification or exaltation, velichaniye in Slavonic.

Contents

I. Small Paraklesis in GreekII. Small Paraklesis in English
Odes i, iii-ix and Megalynaria in Greek and English
III. Great Paraklesis in Greek IV. Great Paraklesis in English
Odes i, iii-ix

This CD is lovingly dedicated by Anastasia Chehak of Oklahoma City to her great grandfather, Nikolaos G Louizos, protopsaltes and teacher of ecclesiastical music at St Nicolaus Church in Karlovassi on the Island of Samos (1851 - December 29, 1923). Born in the town of Karlovassi on the Island of Samos in Greece, Nikolaos G Loizos was the teacher of Byzantine Chant (mousikodidaskalos) in the local music conservatory. He chanted for many years as the first chanter (protopsaltes) in the St Nicolaus Church. In this way he perpetuated the Psaltic Art by enriching Karlovassi with numerous students continuing in the sacred Byzantine chant tradition as a vibrant, living art form.

Mr Georgios K. Nagelinaras, a retied Samian chanter, shares how evidence exists to suggest that a certain Joannes K. Loizos of Neon Karlovassi is listed among the contributors to Byzantine Chant publications (Panagiotes Keltzanides’ Apanthisma (Constantinople 1861); Joannes is listed under the contributors in Alexandria, Egypt; also, a second publication is by D. Joannes Protopsaltis, Neon Mousikon Encheiridion (Constantinople 1884); by this time Joannes is back in Karlovassi) and was related to Nikolaos. This supports the fact that Nikolaos inherited a family tradition of dedication to the Psaltic Art.

The Psaltiki chanters are
Paul Bilson (Atlanta), Thomas Carroll (St Louis), Peter Elgohary (Houston) and Konstantinos Terzopoulos (Aegina Island).

Paraklesis: hymns of supplication was recorded by Psaltiki at Benton Park and Red Pill Studios in St Louis, Missouri and AlKal Studios, Lake Jackson, Texas and Aegina Island, Greece at various session during the years 2010 - 2012.

The Greek kanōnes were chanted directly from the Anastasimatarion of Konastantinos Byzantios (Constantinople 1863). The text for the kanōnes in English was taken from the translation by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston; the melos of the Great kanōn was adapted and arranged by Peter Elgohary and the Small by K Terzopoulos.

Paraklesis was produced by Psaltiki and K Terzopoulos. Copyright by Psaltiki, Inc. © 2012. All proceeds are received by Psaltiki, Inc., a 501©(3) in the State of Florida (www.psaltiki.org). Final mastering by Jacob Detering (www.redpillonline.com).

The front cover photo of the Mother of God in Hagia Sophia, Constantinople was taken by Heidi Jonker (www.hjfotoatelier.nl), who graciously gave us permission for its use. [KT]

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ISSN: 1946-7540   Copyright © 2009-2011, Psaltiki, Inc. and the Authors.

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