Wednesday of Holy Week is called Great and Holy Wednesday in the Orthodox tradition. On the evening of Tuesday, an ancient hymn written by Kassia, a Byzantine nun, poet, and composer is traditionally sung.
The music for the hymn is slow, sorrowful and plaintive. It requires a very wide vocal range, and is considered one of the most demanding, if not the most demanding, pieces of solo Byzantine chant, and cantors take great pride in delivering it well. The faithful make a point of going to church specifically "to listen to Kassiani" that evening:
Sensing Thy divinity, O Lord, a woman of many sins
takes it upon herself to become a myrrh-bearer,
And in deep mourning brings before Thee fragrant oil
in anticipation of Thy burial; crying:
"Woe to me! For night is unto me, oestrus of lechery,
a dark and moonless erod of sin.
Receive the wellsprings of my tears,
O Thou who gatherest the waters of the oceans into clouds.
Bend to me, to the sorrows of my heart,
O Thou who bendedst down the heavens in Thy ineffable self-emptying.
I will kiss Thine immaculate feet
and dry them with the locks of my hair;
Those very feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise
and hid herself in fear.
Who shall reckon the multitude of my sins,
or the abysses of Thy judgment, O Saviour of my soul?
Do not ignore Thy handmaiden,
O Thou whose mercy is endless."
In many places in Greece, the Bridegroom Matins service of Great Tuesday is popular with prostitutes, who may not often be seen in church at other times of the year. They come in great numbers, in order to hear the Hymn of Kassiani, as the hymn is traditionally associated with the woman fallen in many sins. Enjoy this shortened, English translation.
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