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April 15, 2014

On the Troparion of Kassiani (P.B. Paschou)

By P.B. Paschou

Let us now come to the famous poetic masterpiece of Kassiani, which is chanted on Great Tuesday evening and is part of Matins for Great Wednesday, that begins "Lord, 
sins". This troparion is chanted in plagal of the fourth tone, and is a poetic lyrically clear elaboration of a scene from the Gospel, that is very dramatic: the scene is of the prostitute who came weeping to Christ, when He was in the house of Simon the Pharisee, and she began to pour precious myrrh and hot tears on His feet, and then wiped them off with her loosened hair, which until then was a net with which she fished young men into sin.

One must not have the slightest idea and knowledge of literature in general, and poetry in particular, to ascribe the sins of the woman of the poem to the woman who wrote the poem, and so equate the prostitute of the Gospel with the venerable nun Kassiani, who wrote this famous poem.

That the poem was made for the prostitute of the Gospel is shown a) from internal testimony ("offering Thee myrrh before Thy burial") and b) from external testimony, given by the Tradition of the Church, which has put this troparion to be chanted on that day of Holy and Great Week, when repentance is spoken about with the public confession of "the prostitute woman who anointed the Lord with myrrh".

Finally, it would not be improper to give a rough translation of the troparion, even though if delivered well with Byzantine music it has no need of an interpretation - for those Christians of the Orthodox Church, of course, who love to follow the services. Therefore, this troparion of Kassiani is as follows:

Lord, the woman who strayed from Your path and fell into many sins, as soon as she realized how close she was to authentic love, the Lord of all, God, she sold everything to buy precious myrrh, and like another myrrhbearer, she comes with sighs and tears, bringing to You shortly before Your burial, the myrrh of her love. Woe to me, groans the sinful woman, having within me night of complete darkness, and the only thing churning inside my thick darkness, is the inspiration for debauchery and the eternal passionate love for sin, that makes my life like a gloomy night, without a moon.

But You, my Lord, accept the tears that run like a faucet from my eyes, You, who makes the water of the sea into a cloud, that gently falls back to earth. Bend down and hear the heavy sighs of my pained heart, You, who lowered the heavens by Your inexpressible incarnation. Let me kiss all over and wash with my tears Your immaculate feet, and then wipe them with the hair of my head; those feet which, one evening, when Eve heard the steps of in Paradise, she ran to hide out of fear. I am very sinful, Lord. For, just as one cannot count the multitude of sins that I have committed so far, so also can no one count the abyss of Your just judgement and Your love, by which you save our souls, my Savior and my God. Do not now overlook and be in contempt of Your servant, who is repentant and pleads with You for Your compassion, You who are of immeasurable and infinite compassion.

The "love of sin", which blinds the wise and shreds the powerful, has mounted all of us and holds us by our passions and weaknesses, as if holding the mane of a horse, and the inspiration of debauchery pushes us to fall into the abyss of loss. Hopefully we can all shake off, these days, the inspiration of debauchery and the passionate love of sin, that governs us, to burn away all our loves for sin, and with the myrrh of our tears wipe the immaculate feet of Christ, that journey along the road of martyrdom, for our sake.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.