The youth club of our community was not able to meet during the last lock down. But that didn’t stop them from getting together for high drama: recording a Kontakion of one the Church’s greatest poets of all time, St Romanos the Melodist.
Presvytera Catherine has long been inspired by the dramatical Kontakia of Saint Romanos the Melodist. She said ” I have had a vision to make a make dramatisation of the kontakia of the cross to help deepen the children’s understanding of the victory of the cross over death and suffering for ages. So when lockdown II happened it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do this with the children”.
Saint Romanos the melodist is well known for many of the hymns of the liturgical year particularly kontakia. The most famous of the many kontakia composed by Saint Romanos, was the one now known as the Nativity Kontakion. A pious tradition relates that the Mother of God appeared to him in a dream and gave him a scroll to swallow (see Ezekiel 2:8-3:3; Revelation 9:10-11). This was on Christmas Eve, and when he awoke he went to the church and chanted his famous kontakion in honor of the feast. What we sing in church to this day for the Great Feast of the Nativity is merely the Prelude that introduces a poetically structured hymn of 24 stanzas! Yet, brief as it may be, this is truly one of the greatest “Christmas hymns” ever to be composed for its theological depth:
Today the Virgin gives birth the Transcendent One,Christmas Kontakion
And the earth offers a cave to the unapproachable One!
Angels, with shepherds, glorify Him!
The wise men journey with the star!
Since for our sake the eternal God was born as a little Child!
In the midst of a pandemic with lent approaching with the victory of the cross marking the half way point in Lent Presvytera decided that the Kontakion of the Cross was the most fitting pedagogical subject. The Kontakion takes the form of a dramatic diaalogue between Hades and Satan below the earth as they comment on the drama taking place on earth. The wood of the cross is driven down into Hades and it cries out:
Who has fixed a nail in my heart?
A wooden lance has suddenly pierced me and I am being torn apart.
My insides are in pain, my belly in agony.
My senses make my spirit tremble,4
And I am compelled to disgorge
Adam and Adam’s race, given me by a tree,
A tree is bringing them back
Again to Paradise’
As Hades explains to the Devil what is happening it refuses to believe it and scoffs at Hades:
“Who gave you such an idea, Hades?
Whence now this cowardly fear, where once there was no fear,
Of a worthless tree, dry and barren
Made for the removal
Of malefactors and those who welcome bloodshed?”
As the dialogue unfolds both Hades and the Devil start to understand that the cross was prefigured in the Old Testament and they cry:
“O how did we not remember the types of this tree!
For of old they were shown forth in many and various ways
In the saved and in the lost.”
And finally they both admit their defeat and destruction:
“With words like these the wholly wicked one
Grudgingly admitted that he had fallen along with Hades.
And so, of course, together they bewail their fall,
‘What’, he says, ‘is this to which we have brought ourselves?
How have we fallen by this tree?
For our destruction its stock was rooted in the earth.
We grafted to it bitter shoots.
The sweetness in it we did not transform’.
‘Alas, my comrade’. ‘Alas, my companion’.
‘As we have fallen together. So let us grieve,
For Adam is going back
Again to Paradise.’“
The youth club very much enjoyed making the dramatisation and look forward to the next Kontakion. Special thanks goes to Eddie who did the post production edits and stitched all of the individual recordings together. Click here for the full text of the Kontakion translated by Father Ephraim Lash. The dramatisation starts with a recording of the Archdiocese Summer Youth Camp singing the Pious Thief set
You can listen to the drama below: