The Angel Cried
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:49 AM [+]
Everybody loves the hymn - at least everyone I know. And Kh. Frederica has recently posted a podcast about the hymn that is quite good, but I kinda felt like she didn't emphasize enough what makes the song a favorite, at least to an old softy like me. And that stems from the extent to which the Hymns of the Church speak to us from the perspective of our Lady on Holy Friday and on Great and Holy Saturday. The powerful emotions that they convey to us in the context of her obviously unique relationship to Christ, almost always chokes me up and also moves me to more deeply marvel at the mystery of the Incarnation.
Throughout those powerful services we move around from various perspectives to witness the events of those days "Today." Sometimes from a mystical perspective, other times from the eyes and thoughts (as deemed by tradition) of those actually present. For the Theotokos, they are often songs of tragedy and mourning than any parent can understand and any mother can relate to...painfully. But they often also end with a plea of faithful expectation. Here is but a small sample taken from the Matins of Holy Friday:
BEHOLDING HER OWN LAMB LED TO THE SLAUGHTER,
MARY FOLLOWED WITH THE OTHER WOMEN,
IN DISTRESS AND CRYING OUT: WHERE DO YOU GO, MY CHILD?
WHY DO YOU RUN SO SWIFT A COURSE?
SURELY THERE IS NOT ANOTHER WEDDING IN CANA TO WHICH YOU NOW HASTEN TO CHANGE WATER INTO WINE?
SHALL I COME WITH YOU, MY CHILD, OR SHALL I WAIT FOR YOU?
GIVE ME A WORD, FOR YOU ARE THE WORD.
DO NOT PASS ME BY IN SILENCE, FOR YOU KEPT ME PURE.
TODAY THE UNDEFILED VIRGIN SEES YOU SUSPENDED UPON THE CROSS, O WORD.
SHE LAMENTS WITHIN HERSELF AND IS SORELY PIERCED IN HER HEART.
SHE GROANS IN AGONY FROM THE DEPTH OF HER SOUL.
SHE PULLS HER HAIR AND CHEEKS, BEATING HER CHEST AND CRYING PITIFULLY:
WOE IS ME, MY DIVINE SON!
WOE IS ME, LIGHT OF THE WORLD, LAMB OF GOD!
WHY HAVE YOU DEPARTED FROM BEFORE MY EYES?
THE BODILESS HOSTS WERE SEIZED WITH TREMBLING AND CRIED:
INCOMPREHENSIBLE LORD, GLORY TO YOU!
WHEN SHE WHO BORE YOU WITHOUT SEED
SAW YOU SUSPENDED UPON THE TREE,
CHRIST, THE CREATOR AND GOD OF ALL,
SHE CRIED BITTERLY: WHERE IS THE BEAUTY OF YOUR COUNTENANCE, MY SON?
I CANNOT BEAR TO SEE YOU UNJUSTLY CRUCIFIED.
HASTEN AND ARISE,
THAT I TOO MAY SEE YOUR RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD ON THE THIRD DAY!
And then on Great and Holy Saturday, Lamenting over Death marks the beginning:
TEARS OF LAMENTATION
THE PURE VIRGIN SHED FOR YOU.
WITH A MOTHER'S GRIEF, O JESUS, SHE CRIED OUT:
HOW CAN I LAY YOU IN THE GRAVE, O MY SON?
THE EWE SAW HER LAMB SLAUGHTERED
AND CRIED ALOUD IN GRIEF.
SHE WAS PIERCED, WITH ANGUISH, AND THE FLOCK OF CHRIST
ASSEMBLED TO JOIN HER LAMENT.
MY HEART'S DESIRE, O JESUS!
WOE TO ME, MY LIGHT!
WOE TO ME, O LIGHT OF THE WORLD!
CRIED THE VIRGIN IN HER BITTER GRIEF.
But as most of you know, the services of Holy Saturday shift during their course and we hear in some melodies hints of Pascha and then in the words we see the light of Pascha rising such as when Christ Himself speaks to His Mother:
THE VIRGIN'S HEART WAS PIERCED;
SHE SHED HOT TEARS FOR YOU,
AND CRIED OUT LAMENTING.
LIGHT OF MY EYES,
O MY BELOVED SUN,
HOW ARE YOU NOW HIDDEN IN A TOMB?
DO NOT WEEP, O MOTHER!
I SUFFERED ALL THESE THINGS
TO GIVE FREEDOM TO ADAM AND EVE.
O MY SON, I PRAISE YOU!
FOR YOUR GREAT COMPASSION
THAT LED YOU TO THIS SUFFERING.
I ESCAPED SUFFERINGS AND WAS BLESSED
BEYOND NATURE AT YOUR STRANGE BIRTH,
SON WITHOUT BEGINNING.
BUT NOW, BEHOLDING YOU, MY GOD, DEAD AND WITHOUT BREATH,
I AM SORELY PIERCED BY THE SWORD OF SORROW.
BUT ARISE, THAT I MAY BE MAGNIFIED.
BY MY OWN WILL, THE EARTH COVERS ME, O MOTHER,
BUT THE GATEKEEPERS OF HELL TREMBLE AT SEEING ME
CLOTHED IN THE BLOOD-STAINED GARMENTS OF VENGEANCE;
FOR WHEN I HAVE VANQUISHED MY ENEMIES ON THE CROSS,
I SHALL ARISE AS GOD AND MAGNIFY YOU.
Followed shortly thereafter by that wonderful hymn of promise:
Do not lament Me, O Mother, seeing Me in the tomb, the Son conceived in the womb without seed; for I shall arise, and be glorified; and, as God, I shall unceasingly exalt all who extol Thee in faith and in love.
And then, at last, at Holy Pascha and indeed throughout the Paschal season with The Angel [who] Cried we heap melodies of joy upon our Mother, the Theotokos. A glorious song because in a way we are able to relate to how much she suffered herself in being witness to Her Son's and our Lord's Passion and we can only imagine her joy at seeing his Holy Resurrection. It is altogether "meet and right" that an Angel should proclaim to her: "Rejoice!" And that we do so as well...while doubly blessed to be sharing in that joy with her!
The Angel cried to the Lady full of grace
Rejoice! Rejoice! O pure Virgin!
Again, I say rejoice!
Thy son is risen from His three days in the tomb!
With Himself He has raised all the dead.
Rejoice, rejoice, O ye people!
Shine! Shine! Shine, O new Jerusalem!
The glory of the Lord has shown on thee.
Exult now, exult and be glad, O Zion.
Be radiant, O pure Theotokos,
In the Resurrection, the Resurrection of thy Son!