Ancient Hymns of Holy Thursday

The Last Supper, by Julia Stankova (Reproduced here with her permission.)

On Holy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper and the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus. Throughout Holy Week some of the most profound meditations are found in the various Kanons that are sung throughout the week, usually in the Matins services done in the evening by anticipation. Thus, the Matins of Holy Thursday is done on Wednesday evening. The Kanon of Holy Thursday is a masterpiece of Byzantine mysticism and typology, where images from the Old Testament are brought into harmony with images of Christ’s life and passion. There are references to Exodus and Genesis, images of Creation and images of Wisdom applied to Jesus himself. Finally, in the 9th Ode we find the theology of Christ’s union with humanity and the deification of human nature that results from that union. There is poetry, mysticism, and high theology in this Kanon. It was composed by St. Kosmas Melodos in the 8th century. Below are several excerpts to give you much to meditate on today on this Holy Thursday. The very last phrase –who saves that of which and in which I am – summarizes the miracle and mystery of what Christ means to us. He is of us, He is in us, He is Christ our beloved Savior, who became poor for us that we may become rich in Him (2 Corinthians 8:9). May these verses be a blessing to you today.

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet, by Julia Stankova (Reproduced here with her permission.)
First Ode
With division the Red Sea is parted,
the wave-nourishing deep is dried up;
it has become at once a passage to the unprotected,
and a tomb to the fully-armed;
and a God-pleasing song was raised:
"Gloriously glorified is Christ our God!"

The Universal Cause and Creator of Life,
the boundless Wisdom of God
has built a house for His pure self
from a Mother who knew no man.
For clothing Himself in a bodily temple,
Gloriously glorified is Christ our God!

Initiating His friends,
He readies the soul-nourishing Table;
the very Wisdom of God mixes
an ambrosial bowl for the faithful.
Let us approach with reverence and cry aloud,
"Gloriously glorified is Christ our God!"

Let us, all the faithful, hear
the uncreated and connatural Wisdom of God
invite with lofty proclamations,
for He calls out to us: "Taste,
and knowing that I am good, cry out,
'Gloriously glorified is Christ our God!'"

Third Ode
Though Lord and Creator of All,
God free from passions,
you became poor, uniting creation to yourself,
and you offered yourself as the passover,
to those for whom you were about to die,
saying: "Eat my body,
and you will be strengthened in faith."

The very Deliverance of all the human race,
 O Good One,
you gave drink to your disciples,
filling the cup of gladness;
for you offer yourself as a sacrifice,
saying: "Drink my blood,
and you will be strengthened in faith."

Fifth Ode
Bound fast by the fetters of love,
the apostles consecrated themselves
to Christ the Lord of All, and
those who proclaim the gospel of peace to all
had their beautiful feet washed.

He who controlled the boundless
and superabounding waters in the firmament,
He who curbed the abysses
and checked the seas,
the Wisdom of God pours water in a basin,
the Master washes the feet of slaves.

The Master shows the disciples
a model of humility;
He who clothes the sky with clouds
girds Himself with a towel,
and bends His knee
to wash the feet of slaves,
He in whose hand is the life of all who are.

Ninth Ode
All you faithful, come, let us enjoy
the Master's hospitality,
the immortal Table
in the Upper Room,
with minds on high,
having learned the transcendent word 
from the Word
whom we magnify.

"Go," said the Word
to the disciples, "and prepare
in an upper room, where the mind is firmly set,
the passover for those whom I initiate
with the unleavened word of truth,
and magnify
the power of grace.

The Father begot me, creative Wisdom,
before the ages;
He established me as the beginning of His ways
for the works now mystically accomplished;
for though I am the uncreated Word by nature,
I make my own the voice
of the nature I have now assumed.

As I am a man
in reality, not a mirage,
so deified is the nature which,
by the manner of the exchange,
is united to me.
Wherefore know that I am one Christ
who saves that of which and in which I am."

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: