“An akathist (Greek, akathistos) is a hymn dedicated to a saint, holy event, or one of the persons of the Holy Trinity. The word akathist itself means “not sitting.” The akathist par excellence is that written in the 6th century to the Theotokos. In its use as part of the Salutations to the Theotokos service (used in the Byzantine tradition during Great Lent), it is often known by its Greek or Arabic names, Chairetismoi and Madayeh, respectively.”
That’s quite the concise definition. But I ‘d like to expand a bit and share some of my experience with Akathist. As I’ve said before, one of my personal Lenten goals every year is to attend at least one service I never have before. Usually, I manage to make more than one. This year, so far, I have attended Forgiveness Vespers, which I think I would like to do every year. Father Alban is right, it is a wonderful way to begin Lent. The other service I attended for the first time is Akathist. Now, this isn’t actually a Lenten Service (Father told me this, so I know it’s true). Here’s the deal; The Feast of the Annunciation falls during Lent every year. The Annunciation is when the Archangel Gabriel came and told Mary she would give birth to Jesus. So it became tradition to have Akathist services the first five Fridays of Great Lent. Bu the way, Theotokos is the Greek name for the Virgin Mary, literally meaning “the one who gives birth to God.” The services are organized as follows:
“This hymn is often split into four parts and sung at the “Salutations to the Theotokos” service on the first four Friday evenings in Great Lent; the entire Akathist is then sung on the fifth Friday evening.”
The hymn is SO beautiful! Our priest has such a beautiful voice and it was just lovely to stand there in the church with my eyes closed letting the words of the hymn wash over me! I love how calm and peaceful I so often feel in church, but there’s something magical about the evening services. The lights are dimmed, I feel relaxed but really attentive. Maybe because these services are less familiar, I rarely find my mind wandering. I feel like the words, the sound of the chanting, pierces me, no, penetrates. I feel like I can feel it moving inside of me. It’s really quite a profound experience!
This is from youtube, obviously, and it’s chanted by a female choir called Eikona. The first part is in Greek, then the rest is in English. I have to say, this doesn’t give you any idea of how it sounds when Father Alban chants it. This is beautiful, but I love the way it’s done in our church. It’s slower and sounds very much more reverent.
Ok. Now. In Arabic. And sorry to all who may disagree, but my general opinion is that anything in Arabic is more beautiful, more everything really, than in any other language. And so it is with the Akathist hymn.
The first two minutes are spoken prayer, then the chanting begins. As I type this, I’m listening to the recording, because once I started listening, I didn’t want to turn it off. But as I’m listening, it occurred to me that this may not sound beautiful to other people. It is definitely a unique sound, and maybe it appeals to me because I’ve listened to Arabic music my whole life.
I’ll be going to the third Akathist service tomorrow (it’s on Thursday because this Friday is the Feast of the Annunciation), and I have the great pleasure of taking my dear friend, Lisa. I asked her to come with me because I think she will really love the service. I’m so excited to share it with her! Wow! I think I feel excited right now, sharing it with all of you!
“Lord, thank You for the renewal in our lives. Thank You for continually showing and teaching me things about You that I never knew before. Thank You for the fullness of Your gifts.”