Synaxis of the Theotokos
Among the services of our Church there is a Small Vespers assigned for the Sunday cycle. This would be served on Saturday evening, before the Great Vespers, and in monasteries the evening meal would take place between these two. Today it is rare for this to be practiced. Some of the most beautiful hymns for the Incarnation of our Lord and for the Theotokos are found at the “Lord I call” Dogmatic (otherwise known as Theotokion) of Small Vespers. As today is the Synaxis of the Theotokos for her glorification, an English translation of these hymns are being offered here.
Today, O Brethren, is the vigil of the Virgin, let creation leap for joy, let the nature of man exult in song; for the holy Theotokos, the undefiled treasury of virginity hath called us together. She is the reason-endowed paradise of the second Adam, the workshop of the union of the two natures, the festival of the saving reconciliation. She is the chamber in which the Word truly espoused flesh, the light cloud who bore within her body Him Who is over the Cherubim. O Christ God through her prayers do Thou save our souls.
O most great mystery! I behold wonders! I proclaim that which is divine: Emmanuel hath opened the gates of nature as man, and as God He hath not broken the keys of virginity. But as He entered by hearing, so He came forth from the womb in like manner. As was His Incarnation, so was His conception. He entered dispassionately and issued forth ineffably, according to the prophet who said: This gate shall remain shut, no man shall enter through it, save only the Lord God of Israel, Who hath great mercy.
O marvel, most great! A Virgin gives birth and the Offspring is God before the ages; the birth which was foreshadowed and accomplished beyond nature. O awesome mystery! Being contemplated, it remaineth ineffable, and being perceived it is incomprehensible. Blessed art thou, O most pure Maiden, daughter of the earthly Adam, and revealed as the Mother of God the Most High. Do thou entreat Him that our souls be saved.
Thou hast conceived without seed, and given birth inexpressibly, to Him Who putteth down the mighty from their thrones and exalteth the humble. Christ hath raised up the horn of His faithful, who glorify His Cross and burial, and His glorious resurrection. Therefore with never-silent songs we bless thee, O Theotokos the Mediatress of so many good things, as she who doth ever pray that our souls be saved.
Let us honor the precious Maiden who is worthy of God, and exceedingly more honorable than the Cherubim. For the Creator of all, desiring to become man, inexpressibly dwelt within her. O astonishing occurrences, and most glorious mysteries! Who would not marvel at hearing such; that God became man and there was no alteration in Him. He passed through the gate of virginity and no lessening was left therein, as the prophet said: No man shall ever pass through her, save only the God of Israel Who hath great mercy.
It is truly meet to bless thee O Theotokos, for The Creator of all entered thy most pure womb and became flesh, and neither was there a change in nature, nor was the dispensation illusory. But He received flesh from thee, with a reason-endowed soul in a union according to The Person, therefore we piously make a distinction in the two manifest natures. Him do thou pray, O pure and most holy one, to send down upon us peace and great mercy.
Truly awesome and ineffable is the mystery which hath come to pass in thee, O undefiled One. For the Word Who is the cause of all, beyond cause and recounting, wast incarnate by the Holy Spirit receiving flesh from thee, and His nature underwent no change. For in coming together both natures were self-existing, while single according to Person, He proceeded forth twofold in nature. Fully God and fully man, perfect in both, and each expressing their characteristic energies. For while suffering on the Cross in the flesh, He remained beyond suffering in Divinity. As man He died, again as God He hath shown Himself to be alive on the third day, laying low the might of death and delivering mankind from corruption. As the Deliverer and Saviour of our race, do thou pray Him, O Mother of God, to send down His pity upon us and great mercy.
How can we not call thee blessed, O Theotokos? How can we exalt in song the inaccessible mystery of thy childbearing, O most-blessed One? For the Creator of the ages and Fashioner of our nature, in pitying His own image lowered Himself through an incomprehensible self-emptying. While being incorporeally in the bosom of the Father, He dwelt within thy womb O pure One. Without change He became flesh from thee, O unwedded One, remaining God Whom He was by nature. Therefore we worship Him as perfect God and perfect man, One in twofold form, for nature was truly dual in Him. Let us all proclaim twofold natures with their own characteristics, and according to both substances we honor two energies and wills. For being of one essence with God the Father, He acts and wills of His own authority as God, and being one essence with us, He acts and wills of His own authority as man. Him do thou pray, O all-blessed One, to save our souls.
Through the prayers of His all-pure Mother may our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us!