Friday, August 26, 2016

An 11th Cent. Georgian Hymn to Saint Joasaph

"A Hymn to the Blessed Iodasaph" was composed by Saint George the Hagiorite (1009-1065), the biographer of Saint Euthymius the Athonite, who made the original translation of The Balavariani into Greek and introduced Barlaam and Joasaph to the Greek speaking world. The hymn was based on material deriving from the Georgian long version of the text, the "Life of the Blessed Iodasaph." He also drew up the Georgian ecclesiastical calendar, according to the Roman models, and in it he entered Barlaam and Joasaph’s names (on 19th May). When Joasaph entered into Greek calendars his day was the 26th of August, and both Barlaam and Joasaph are celebrated in the Slavic calendars on the 19th of November. The hymn is taken from Manuscript No. 42 of the Georgian collection in the Greek Patriarchal Library in Jerusalem, which was copied not later than A.D. 1065.


May 19. Commemoration of the Noble and Meritorious Saint Iodasaph, King of the Indians.

Intercede with Christ our God before whom you stand, O God-enlightened worthy monarch, O Iodasaph illustrious in merit, that He may inspire us worthily to adorn your holy anniversary and fashion for you a diadem of praise to the utmost of our powers.

Most exalted, blessed one, wisdom was granted to you from heaven, and you were made worthy of apostolic grace; for you released the race of the Indians by God's power from their benighted devil-worship and brought them into the service of the God of all mankind, O blessed one.

Although this tongue in its impotence is incapable of portraying the multitude of your feats of piety, whereby you dedicated yourself from your youth to the love of God our Saviour who granted you the crown of holiness, yet it must offer at least some trifling meed of tribute from these unworthy lips in unison with the choir.

By the invincible power of God you put to shame, O worthy one, enemies both visible and invisible and trampled their cohorts entirely under foot. For you had as your guide the life-giving and invincible might of the Cross and thereby put hideous Belial to flight.

You are a candle shining bright upon a lofty candlestick, nor could the sinister frenzy of the loathsome idolaters hide you, O worthy one! Rather did you shine forth the more brightly by the light of the Holy Trinity, and you dispelled the murk and lit up the land.

You have been exalted, O righteous one, like a planet brilliant in virtues, and soared aloft on the wings of the spirit and rose above the level of mortal nature; for you offered up countless fruit as a sacrifice to God in sweet savour, and you extirpated the temples of the idols and established churches instead.

From the broad way which leads to perdition you departed afar, O blessed one, and you clung fast to the narrow road which leads to salvation. Therefore Christ our God exalted you with glory everlasting, set upon you the imperishable crown, and assigned you a place among the immortal souls. Therefore the Church today adorns your festival with brilliant panoply and rejoices with its children; for the children of the barren are multiplied and the prolific womb is exhausted.

You were filled with divine wisdom, O blessed one, and did valiantly withstand that fearsome king, your father Abeneser,1 and you quelled his strength by the unconquerable power of God which abode in you, O blessed one. Thus you became a parent to your own father, O God-clad one, and enlightened him by divine wisdom, and made him worthy to be born again by baptism of water and the Holy Spirit, and brought him renewed into God's presence like a sweet-scented offering on to the heavenly altar.

When your God-clad and blessed teacher Balahvar was informed by the Holy Spirit of the problems which beset you, O blessed one, he cast out all human fear and dread of death, and like a valiant knight of Christ he came and filled you with spiritual wisdom, and exposed clearly to you the vanity and transitory nature of this world. And your heart and mind were illumined, O blessed one; and he filled you with spiritual joy.

You are united with the ranks of the apostles, O worthy one, divinely exalted king: for you also strove as they did, preached the gospel of salvation, and brought beneath the authority of God countless peoples who were held captive by the foe. You became a son of the Church by baptism and brilliantly irradiated the assembly of the Christians by the light of God, and darkened the eyes of the evil and infernal apostates; and you preached aloud the single essence of the Trinity, being one God and indivisible.

O come, ye faithful, and sing an anthem to him!

The Lord of the planets, Lucifer, who first established his throne upon the clouds and vied with God the Creator of all — he now was trampled underfoot by Iodasaph with God's aid, like some humble sparrow, together with all his host.

Who can enumerate the feats which you undertook for the sake of Christ our God, O valiant warrior, blessed one of illustrious deeds, or utter them aloud? For they excel the nature of mortals! But we shall not hold back from praising them to the extent of our powers.

The evil foe of mankind, ever eager for our destruction, strove to strip from you the mantle of purity, and incited the king to tempt you by means of women's wiles. But you, like some incorporeal being, crushed his power by your own weak flesh.

The commemoration of the pious Iodasaph resembles a white rose imparting fragrance to the faithful throng and perfuming all who approach to adorn his festival day brilliantly fair and worthy of our anthems.

Rejoice, O blessed one, elect of God, supreme among all kings, most worthy Iodasaph, pride of the Christians and fair ornament of the Churches.

With the bright-toned organ we adorn with praise that worthy treasure of wisdom, that wondrous man, the God-clad Iodasaph, pride and bastion of Christian folk.

Rejoice then, God-clad one, together with the holy King David, called the father of God; for you followed on his tracks without wavering and were glorified with him by Christ, O righteous one, for all eternity.

For you have earned the grace of the apostles, the martyrs and the iust, O worthy one, and now you are united with that incorporeal throng and radiantly lit up by the beacon of the Trinity.

You rejected the glory of kingship, O blessed one, and put on the sweet yoke of monastic life; and you crucified yourself unto the world for God's sake, and the world was crucified unto you, according to the words of the Apostle.2

Your deeds excel the nature of mortal man, O blessed king; for like some disembodied being you withstood the invisible foe in those impassable desert places.

You made haste like a deer towards the well-spring and wan- dered from place to place, O blessed one, seeking for your good teacher Balahvar; and when you had found him, you glorified God.

In place of transitory kingship, O blessed one, you chose the glory which is permanent and unending, and you rejoice in unspeakable and eternal happiness.

Golden rivers flowed from your body, O God-clad one, wherewith you watered the parched earth, fertilized its furrows, and made the young grass of God's service to sprout by the stream of your tears.

You were filled with the Holy Spirit and strongly opposed the multitude of the foe; and you put to naught all their devices by the power of God and cut out their tongues with the sword of the spirit, O wise one.

You bravely denounced the godlessness of your opponents, declaring: 'Those idols which you serve are loathsome devils and deceivers of men. How is it that you are so devoid of understanding?'

You kindled a divine spark within your father's heart, and the darkness of his mind's eyes was illumined by the light of the knowledge of God, and the soul-destroying murk was dissipated.

O Trinity all in One, God by nature inaccessible, it was by Thy help that Thy blessed and virtuous servant, the worthy Iodasaph, was given strength to trample on the power of the foe.

That promise which Thou didst make by those lips that lie not to those that place their hope in Thee, O Christ our God, Thou hast performed towards those who have fearlessly confessed Thy divine nature before the tyrant's face.

Immortal king, God the Creator of all, look down upon us with the eye of mercy as we celebrate the commemoration of Iodasaph the Christian hero.

You did confess the Holy Trinity, O blessed one, illustrious in one essence and indivisible, the Father who knows no beginning, the Son who shares His dominion, the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, One single Godhead.

With the wing of a holy dove, O blessed one, you soared aloft and made haste into the wilderness and awaited the salvation of God, according to the words of the Prophet; and you acted like John and emulated the zeal of Elias, crying aloud to our fathers: 'Blessed art Thou, O God!'

You abandoned countless nations, riches beyond description, and the many-hued adornments of royalty, and you took up your cross upon your shoulders and followed Christ our God, according to His words; and you suffered with Him and were glorified with Him for evermore. Intercede for us also, O worthy one!

The groaning, tears and unspeakable lamentation of the people you left behind — how can human tongue express this? They were as a herd of sheep which have no shepherd, stumbling in the wilderness now that their virtuous pastor has forsaken them, and piteously mourning their grievous lot!

You mounted the chariot of God's service, O righteous one, and armed yourself with the invincible power of Christ. As your shield you had firm faith, and you donned the helmet of truth. With the sword of holiness you wounded Belial and his myrmidons. Wreathed in victory, you cried out to our fathers: 'Blessed art Thou, O God!'

Rejoice, O worthy one, chosen of God, pure offspring of a woman's womb, abode of the most Holy Spirit, dissipator of the obscure murk and spreader of the light of God which shines for all eternity!

Procure us relief from our countless sins by your bold intercession; for you stand before the throne of God, wearing a diadem befitting the multitude of deeds and pious acts which you undertook for the sake of Christ, our God.

Sprinkle my heart, O blessed one, with the dew of divine grace when it is parched by sin; sow in my mind the seed of righteousness; and make fertile the spiritual pasture by the spring of life-giving water.

You did confess the image and glory of the Father who knew no beginning, the Son equal in divine nature, and the Holy Spirit, which shares in the work of creation, O righteous one, and you proclaimed aloud the divine unity of the Holy Trinity and destroyed the error of polytheism.

Neither luxury nor ease nor countless riches could prevail upon you, O blessed one, to forsake the love of Christ our Saviour; nor could the king's fierce wrath shake your resolve, O God-clad one!

The beacons of your words light up the far corners of the land and proclaim your deeds aloud; therefore the Church today with all its sons beautifies your festival day with joy and radiance and exalts those who render honour to you.

When you caught sight, O blessed one, of the crowns indescribably bright which were to he given you as a reward for your deeds, glowing resplendent in the sun of light divine — then your heart was filled with joy and you offered up thanks to God.

Accept now this wreath of praise woven by our feeble lips, O God-crowned monarch Iodasaph, even though it cannot match your sacred nature; for human tongue is incapable of glorifying you fittingly.

Your illustrious festival delights with joy divine the hearts of those who intone their hymn to you with faith; they sound a new trumpet, and with the harp of the spirit as with the psaltery they chant in unison with the sweet voice of the triumphal organ.

You destroyed the error of polytheism, O God-clad one, and proclaimed the divine unity of the Holy Trinity, and the Word born of the Father before all ages, equal with Him in divine power, the offspring of a virgin's womb.

Now boldly beseech God before whose presence you stand, O righteous one, to preserve the churches inviolate, and grant the nation of true believers and their orthodox sovereign victory over the infidel foe, for the exaltation of Christendom.

By the power of your prayers, O worthy one, you drove out of your country the foul devils and all their host, overturned the filthy tabernacles of the idols, and entirely dispelled their reeking fumes which darkened the atmosphere, O blessed one; and you tore away the veil of obscurity from the eyes of men's reason.

Your arms dealt mortal wounds to that wicked deceiver when you raised up the wood of the life-giving Cross and put on the invincible armour of its might; and you shattered his fangs and dragged from his poisonous jaws countless souls and presented them victorious before God.

You burnt up the evil thorns of godlessness, O worthy one, with the fire of the spirit, and extirpated idolatry root and branch; and you ploughed men's hearts with your God-enlightened tongue and sowed the good seed of the knowledge of God, O blessed one; and those who were drowning in the depths of the sea you steered to safety with the rudder of the cross.

You were aflame with godly zeal, O righteous one, like a fiery furnace, and you burnt up all those that blasphemed the Holy Trinity; and with the lance of the Cross you pierced the hearts of those unseen and evil foes of ours; like Christ Himself you were crowned with victory, and by the arrow of your God-enlightened words you utterly vanquished them.

On this holy festival day, made resplendent by the light of the Trinity, we must commemorate Iodasaph the gallant champion, clapping our hands as we rejoice and sing with spiritual gladness to Christ our God who grants us salvation and has given us so ardent an intercessor.

Filled with the Holy Spirit you fearlessly preached God the Creator of all amid the assembly of the idolaters; for God's grace abode within you from the moment of your birth, O worthy one, and your heart was ablaze with the flame of the love of God which utterly consumed those invisible enemies.

You walked, O blessed one, along the paths of Christ's precepts, guiding the orphans, dispensing justice to the widows and help to the poor and.downtrodden, generously enriching the needy, caring for all men as a fond parent, like our Father on high who mercifully protects those whom He has created.

Your mouth is filled, O blessed one, with the divine fragrance of myrrh and spreads spiritual sweetness among the faithful throng; for it flows inexhaustible like the river of Eden and effaces the nauseous smell of sin from the souls of Christ's faithful orthodox believers.

Procure for me, miserable sinner that I am, pardon for my faults and deliverance from eternal torments, that I may escape those dread flames, the impenetrable darkness, the worm that sleeps not, and the many kinds of savage tortures, by your bold intercession with Christ our God.

Heal my soul's wound, O blessed one, wipe away the scar of my sins, rescue me from the poisoned fangs of the devil, and efface pernicious and corrupt instincts from my mind; and unite me with the flock of those that stand on God's right hand by your prayers and intercession, O God-clad, glorious Iodasaph!


1. As pointed out by Professor Abuladze in his Introduction, this form of the king's name is important, since it provides a link between the Arabic form, Janaisar, and the Greek, Abenner. In the Georgian Balavariani manuscripts, a more usual form is Abenes, this being a later, shortened variant.

2. Galatians 6:14: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."


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