The Akathist is a hymn / prayer of devotion, thanksgiving and petition – a profound devotional poem or chant – which sings the praises of a Saint, Holy Event, or one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. It has thirteen parts, each with a Kontakion ( a hymn in verse) and an Ekos (an earnest request) ending in a repeated refrain such as “Rejoice… “
As the word Akathist means “standing” the hymn is prayed standing. Akathists are chanted in Orthodox and in other Eastern Churches, though chanting is not necessary if prayed individually or in a small group.
There is a beautiful akathist of praise and supplication sung to our Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. We sometimes sing this hymn to our patron when we are looking for direction in our local parish. ( See below for video! )
The akathist par excellence is that written in the 6th century to the Holy Mother and Ever-Virgin Mary (Theotokos). It is the first and model (prototype) for all other hymns of this kind. In its use as part of the Salutations to the Theotokos service (used in the Byzantine tradition during Great Lent), it is chanted in all Orthodox Churches throughout the world during the five Fridays in the Great Lent, and constitutes a very concrete spiritual preparation for the Holy Week and Easter Services.
On January 1 the Orthodox Church commemorates Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. In its services, the Church calls St Basil a “bee of the Church of Christ”: bringing the honey of divinely-inspired wisdom to the faithful & stinging the uprisings of heresy.
Basil was born in Cappadocia to a wealthy and prominent family. Their worldly wealth, however, is as nothing compared to the wealth of Saints that they have given to the Church: his parents St Basil the Elder and St Emmelia; his sister St Macrina (July 19), the spiritual head of the family; and his brothers St Gregory of Nyssa (January 10), and St Peter, future bishop of Sebaste (January 9).
Inspired and tutored by his father, a renowned professor of rhetoric, the brilliant Basil set out to master the secular learning and arts of his day under the sophist Libanius in Constantinople. Then he travelled to Athens, where he studied alongside his life-long friend St Gregory the Theologian of Nazianzus. When he returned from his studies in 356, he found that his mother and his sister Macrina had turned the family home into a convent, and that his brothers had also taken up the monastic life nearby. Puffed up by his secular accomplishments, he at first resisted his sister’s pleas to take up a life devoted to God, but at last, through her prayers and admonition, entered upon the ascetical life.
After travelling among the monks of Egypt, Palestine and Syria, he settled in Cappadocia as a hermit, living in utter poverty and writing his ascetical homilies. A monastic community steadily gathered around him, and for its good order St Basil wrote his Rule, which is regarded as the charter of monasticism. (St Benedict in the West was familiar with this Rule, and his own is modelled on it.)
In about 370 he was consecrated Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. Even as bishop, he continued to live without any possessions save a worn garment to cover himself. At this time the Arian heresy was rending the Church, and it became St Basil’s lot to defend Orthodoxy in Sermons and writings, a task which he fulfilled with such erudition and wisdom that he is called “Basil the Great.”
Basil reposed in peace in 379, at the age of forty-nine.
Your proclamation has gone out into all the earth Which was divinely taught by hearing your voice Expounding the nature of creatures, Ennobling the manners of men. O holy father of a royal priesthood, Entreat Christ God that our souls may be saved.
Troparion (Tone 1)
You were revealed as the sure foundation of the Church, Granting all men a lordship which cannot be taken away, Sealing it with your precepts, O Venerable and Heavenly Father Basil.
Theophany is the Feast which reveals the Most Holy Trinity to the world through the Baptism of the Lord (Mt.3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). God the Father spoke from Heaven about the Son, the Son was baptized by the St John the Forerunner, and the Holy Spirit descended upon the Son in the form of a dove. From ancient times this Feast was called the Day of Illumination and the Feast of Lights, since God is Light and has appeared to illumine “those who sat in darkness,” and “in the region of the shadow of death” (Mt.4:16), and to save the fallen race of mankind by grace.
In the ancient Church it was the custom to baptize catechumens at the Vespers of Theophany, so that Baptism also is revealed as the spiritual illumination of mankind.
The origin of the Feast of Theophany goes back to Apostolic times, and it is mentioned in The Apostolic Constitutions (Book V:13). From the second century we have the testimony of St Clement of Alexandria concerning the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, and the night vigil before this Feast.
There is a third century dialogue about the services for Theophany between the holy martyr Hippolytus and St Gregory the Wonderworker. In the following centuries, from the fourth to ninth century, all the great Fathers of the Church (i.e. Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, John of Damascus) commented on the Feast of Theophany.
The monks Joseph the Studite, Theophanes and Byzantios composed much liturgical music for this Feast, which is sung at Orthodox services even today. St John of Damascus said that the Lord was baptized, not because He Himself had need for cleansing, but “to bury human sin by water,” to fulfill the Law, to reveal the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and finally, to sanctify “the nature of water” and to offer us the form and example of Baptism.
On the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, the Holy Church proclaims our faith in the most sublime mystery, incomprehensible to human intellect, of one God in three Persons. It teaches us to confess and glorify the Holy Trinity, one in Essence and Indivisible. It exposes and overthrows the errors of ancient teachings which attempted to explain the Creator of the world by reason, and in human terms.
The Church shows the necessity of Baptism for believers in Christ, and it inspires us with a sense of deep gratitude for the illumination and purification of our sinful nature. The Church teaches that our salvation and cleansing from sin is possible only by the power of the grace of the Holy Spirit, therefore it is necessary to preserve worthily these gifts of the grace of holy Baptism, keeping clean this priceless garb, for “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” (Gal 3:27).
On the day of Theophany, all foods are permitted, even if the Feast falls on a Wednesday or Friday.
When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan The worship of the Trinity was made manifest For the voice of the Father bore witness to You And called You His beloved Son. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove, Confirmed the truthfulness of His word. O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself And have enlightened the world, glory to You!
Troparion – Tone 1
Today You have shown forth to the world, O Lord, and the light of Your countenance has been marked on us. Knowing You, we sing Your praises. You have come and revealed Yourself, O unapproachable Light.
We invite you to come celebrate our Patronal Feast Day us! We will have an evening Divine Liturgy on Wednesday, December 5th 2018, at 6pm followed by a fasting potluck meal.
Bring the kids! St Nick will fill their shoes with goodies during the Liturgy, and may stay for photos!
On December 6, we remember St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the fourth-century archbishop of Myra in Lycia (on the southern coast of modern-day Turkey). None of his writings are extant, but his example of Christian generosity, virtue and love endure to this day. St. Nicholas is the living embodiment of the words “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). In addition to being the patron and protector of our own parish, he is also the patron of two cathedrals in our Archdiocese – Brooklyn and Los Angeles.
Everlasting King, Thy will for our salvation is full of power. Thy right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give Thee thanks for all Thy mercies, seen and unseen. For eternal life, for the heavenly Joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Thy praise, both now and in the time to come. Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.
His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH asks that parishes try to offer divine services in thanksgiving to God for all of His abundant blessings. On Wednesday November 21, 2018, St Nicholas Church will say the Akathist of Thanksgiving in the evening (6 pm). We hope that you will join us at St Nicholas Church in giving thanks to our loving God or with your loved ones elsewhere. Happy and blessed Thanksgiving! Texts from the Department of Liturgics in the Online Liturgical Guide are available.