Akathist

The Akathist Hymn in Church Slavonic language. Oikos One.

An Akathist Hymn (Greek: Ἀκάθιστος Ὕμνος, "unseated hymn") is a type of hymn usually recited by Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic Christians, dedicated to a saint, holy event, or one of the persons of the Holy Trinity. The name derives from the fact that during the chanting of the hymn, or sometimes the whole service, the congregation is expected to remain standing in reverence, without sitting down (ἀ-, a-, "without, not" and κάθισις, káthisis, "sitting"), except for the aged or infirm. During Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christian religious services in general, sitting, standing, bowing and the making of prostrations are set by an intricate set of rules, as well as individual discretion. Only during readings of the Gospel and the singing of Akathists is standing considered mandatory for all.

The akathist par excellence is that written in the seventh century to the Theotokos. This kontakion was traditionally attributed to Romanos the Melodist, though recent scholarship tends to reject this authorship. It is used as part of the service of the Salutations to the Theotokos (used in the Byzantine tradition during Great Lent). It is often known by its Greek or Arabic names, Chairetismoi (Χαιρετισμοί, "Rejoicings") and Madayeh, respectively; in the Slavic tradition it is known as Akafist. This Akathist is also known by the first three words of its prooimion (preamble), Te upermacho stratego (Τῇ ὑπερμάχῳ στρατηγῷ, "To you, invincible champion").

The writing of akathists (occasionally spelled acathist) continues today as part of the general composition of an akolouthia, particularly in the Slavic tradition, although not all are widely known nor translated beyond the original language. Reader Isaac E. Lambertsen has done a large amount of translation work, including many different akathists. Most of the newer akathists are pastiche, that is, a generic form imitating the original 6th-century akathist to the Theotokos into which a particular saint's name is inserted. In the Greek, Arabic, and Russian Old Rite traditions, the only akathist permitted in formal liturgical use is the original akathist.

Origin

The origin of the feast is assigned by the Synaxarion to the year 626, when Constantinople, in the reign of Heraclius, was attacked by the Persians and [[Pannonian Avars |Avars]] but saved through the intervention of the Most Holy Theotokos. A sudden hurricane dispersed the fleet of the enemy, casting the vessels on the shore near the Great church of the Theotokos at Blachernae, a quarter of Constantinople inside the Golden Horn. The people spent the whole night, says the account, thanking her for the unexpected deliverance. "From that time, therefore, the Church, in memory of so great and so divine a miracle, desired this day to be a feast in honour of the Mother of God ... and called it Acathistus" (Synaxarion). This origin is disputed by Sophocles ( Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods, s. v.) on the ground that the hymn could not have been composed in one day, while on the other hand its twenty-four oikoi contain no allusion to such an event and therefore could scarcely have been originally composed to commemorate it. Perhaps the kontakion, which might seem to be allusive, was originally composed for the celebration on the night of the victory. However the feast may have originated, the Synaxarion commemorates two other victories, under Leo III the Isaurian, and Constantine Pogonatus, similarly ascribed to the intervention of the Theotokos.

No certain ascription of its authorship can be made. It has been attributed to Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople, whose pious activities the Synaxarion commemorates in great detail. Quercius (P.G., XCII, 1333 sqq.) assigns it to George Pisida, deacon, archivist, and sacristan of Hagia Sophia whose poems find an echo both in style and in theme in the Akathist; the elegance, antithetic and balanced style, the vividness of the narrative, the flowers of poetic imagery being all very suggestive of his work. His position as sacristan would naturally suggest such a tribute to the Theotokos, as the hymn only gives more elaborately the sentiments condensed into two epigrams of Pisida found in her church at Blachernae. Quercius also argues that words, phrases, and sentences of the hymn are to be found in the poetry of Pisida. Leclercq (in Cabrol, Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, s.v. "Acathistus") finds nothing absolutely demonstrative in such a comparison and offers a suggestion which may possibly help to a solution of the problem.

Other Languages
беларуская: Акафіст
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Акафіст
български: Акатист
čeština: Akafist
Deutsch: Akathistos
español: Acatisto
français: Acathiste
italiano: Akathistos
ქართული: დაუჯდომელი
Kiswahili: Akatistos
polski: Akatyst
română: Acatist
русский: Акафист
slovenčina: Akatist
српски / srpski: Акатист
suomi: Akatistos
svenska: Akathistos
Türkçe: Akathist
українська: Акафіст
Tiếng Việt: Akathist