October 1, 2010

Three Chanters Gifted By the Theotokos

Saints John Koukouzelis, Gregory Domestikos and Romanos the Melodist are all celebrated on October 1st.

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The Most-Holy Theotokos has often appeared to holy men in need: sometimes to encourage them in asceticism, or to heal them from sickness, or to reveal a certain mystery to them.

Two similar, wonderful events took place in the Great Lavra on the Holy Mountain.

In Great Lent, during the chanting of the Great Akathist, St. John Koukouzelis was tired and sat down, facing the icon of the Theotokos. As he sat, he fell asleep. Just then, the Holy Most-Pure One appeared to him in heavenly light and said: "Rejoice, O John! Chant and do not stop chanting, and for this I will not abandon you." With this, she placed a gold coin in John's hand. When he awoke from sleep, the gold coin was still in his hand. After this, many wonderful miracles were worked from the icon of the Theotokos, as well as from the gold coin.

The second incident involved St. Gregory the monk, who, like John Koukouzelis, was a church chanter. Patriarch Kallistos had established that in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, "All Creation Rejoices in Thee" be sung in place of "It Is Truly Meet". His successor, Patriarch Philotheus, rescinded this, reinstating "It Is Truly Meet" because of its brevity. But then, on the eve of the Theophany, and in the presence of Patriarch Gregory of Alexandria, St. Gregory sang "All Creation Rejoices in Thee" instead. Immediately after this, the Holy Most-Pure One appeared to him, and, as she had done to John Koukouzelis, placed a gold coin in his hand. She said: "I am very grateful for your singing in my honor." Because of this, it was instituted that all Liturgies of St. Basil would thereafter include "All Creation Rejoices in Thee".

The Venerable Romanos the Melodist

Romanos was born in the Syrian town of Emesa. He was, at first, a sexton in Beirut, and later served in the cathedral church in Constantinople in the time of Patriarch Euthymius (490-504). Romanos was not well educated and was untrained in chanting, for which he was ridiculed by some of the more educated clergy. St. Romanos tearfully prayed to the Most-Holy Theotokos, and she appeared to him in a dream, gave him a scroll, and told him to swallow it. The following day was the Feast of the Nativity. Romanos took his place as a chanter at the ambo, and with an angelic voice sang the hymn "Today the Virgin". All were amazed at both the content of this hymn and at the magnificent singing of the chanter. Having received the poetic gift from the Theotokos, Romanos composed over a thousand Kontakia. Romanos entered into rest as a deacon of the Great Church, Hagia Sophia, in Constantinople. He joined the angelic choirs in the year 510.

HYMN OF PRAISE: The Venerable Romanos the Melodist

St. Romanos, in mid-service,
Appeared on the ambo
And sang a wondrous hymn
In a sweet angelic voice:

"Today, the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One.
Angels and Shepherds glorify Him,
And the wise men journey with the star-
For unto us the Eternal God is born
As a little Child."

Hearing this hymn,
All were filled with gladness;
And on the faces of all the people
Was great astonishment.

Glory to the Mother of God!
Who hearkens to tearful prayers,
And gloriously fulfills
The prayerful supplications of the devout!