Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Salvation
 

THE 24 SALUTATIONS TO THE HOLY MOTHER

( THE AKATHIST HYMN )

This widely known hymn is in fact a timeline highlighting in stages the most important event in the history of mankind and Creation, thanks to the holy Virgin's acceptance to fulfil God's plan: the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, with the flesh of Her immaculate body.

"......And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Your word. And the angel departed from her....".   [Luke 1:38]


The original text of the hymn was created in olden Greek, with 24 stanzas that correspond to the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, where the first word of each stanza begins with the corresponding letter of the Greek alphabet.  Given that the purpose of the present endeavour is to highlight the stages of the timeline -beginning with the Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel- the texts are rendered here in lay English, inasmuch as a verbatim translation with the same syntax and rhyming is definitely for experienced and academic penmanship. 

In place of the Greek alphabetical order, sequential numbers have been used for each of the 24 stanzas, accompanied by a brief title of what stage of the timeline each stanza covers.

We hope this endeavour will serve its purpose - not in lieu of the official prayer, but as a simplified analysis for those who may wonder about the content and the purpose of the Hymn...

 

Prologue

Having secretly received the command, the Incorporeal Angel swftly went to the camp of Joseph, saying to the Bride of the Infinite One: He Who inclined the heavens in His descent is now contained unaltered within You;  on seeing Him inside Your womb having assumed the form of servant, I am beside myself and cry out to You:

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

(1) The Annunciation

A high-ranking Angel was sent from heaven to say “Rejoice!” to the Theotokos; on seeing You in bodily form, Lord, he was astounded, and with his body-less voice stood crying out to Her the following:

Rejoice! For...

through You, joy will shine forth;

through You, the curse will no longer be;

You are the recall of fallen Adam;

You are the redemption of Eve’s tears;

You are the height that cannot be reached by human musings;

You are the depth that cannot be seen, even by angels’ eyes;

You are the seat of a King;

You hold the One who holds everything;

You are the star that highlighted the Sun;

You are the womb of divine incarnation;

through You, Creation is renewed;

through You, the Creator has become an Infant.

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

 
(2)
The Holy Mother’s query

Seeing Herself in the state of chastity, the Holy Mother boldly said to the Angel Gabriel: The paradox thing uttered by your voice is unacceptable to my soul; how can you speak of a pregnancy by seedless conception, while crying out “Hallelujah”?

(3) The Archangel gives explanations

Seeking to learn an unknown knowledge, the Virgin cried out to the officiating Angel: How is it possible from chaste loins to give birth to a son? Tell me! To whom he replied with fear, but nevertheless crying out:

Rejoice! For...

You are the Mystic of a Personal Will;

You are the faith of the silently beseeching;

You are the prelude to the miracles of Christ;

You are the first chapter of His dogmas;

You are heaven’s ladder by which God descended;

You are the bridge that leads from earth to heaven;

You are the miracle most lauded by the Angels;

You are the wound most mourned by the demons;

You ineffably gave birth to the Light;

You taught no-one;

You exceed the knowledge of the wise;

You shed light on the minds of the faithful;

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

(4)  Conception  

Power (= the Holy Spirit) of the One on high (= the Father) then overshadowed the (Virgin) Bride of the Infinite (= God) for conception, rendering Her fruitful womb a sweet meadow for those seeking to reap salvation, by chanting “Hallelujah”:

(5)  Gestation

With Her womb now a divine receptacle, the Virgin went to visit Elizabeth; as soon as her foetus perceived the Virgin’s greeting it rejoiced, and with leaps like songs within Her, it cried out to the Theotokos: 

Rejoice! For...

You are the vine of an unwithering stem;

You are the field of an immutable fruit;

You are cultivating the philanthropist Cultivator;

You are sprouting the Planter of our life;

You are the field sprouting the crop of sympathy;

You are the table holding the bounty of God’s mercy;

You are the flourishing of the meadow of bounty;

You are preparing the harbour for all souls;

You are the welcome incense of supplication;

You are the propitiation for all the world;

You are God’s good will towards mortals;

You are the mortals’ outspokenness towards God;

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

(6)  Joseph’s doubts about Her pregnancy

Dizzy with thoughts of doubt inside him, the prudent Joseph was greatly upset; he had looked upon You as chaste and was now suspecting that You had broken marital vows, o Blameless one! But on learning of Your conception through the Holy Spirit, he exclaimed “Hallelujah”!

(7) Shepherds learn of the Birth, exalt the Mother

The shepherds heard of the incarnated presence of Christ from the Angels that were singing hymns; and, hurrying as if to their own shepherd, they saw Him as a spotless lamb which had grazed within the womb of Mary; and on extolling Her, they said:

Rejoice! For...

You are the Mother of the Lamb and the Shepherd;

You are the courtyard of logical sheep;

You are the defender from invisible enemies;

You are the gate opener of Paradise;

The heavens are rejoicing together with the earth;

The terrestrial are in chorus with the heavens;

You are the Apostles’ unstoppable voice;

You are the invincible braveness of struggling Saints;

You are the sound basis of the Faith;

You are the bright sign of Grace;

Through you was Hades stripped naked;

Through you we have been garbed with Glory.

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

(8)  The 3 Magi follow the Star

On sighting the God-guided Star, the Magi followed its glory; and, holding on to it like a lamp, with it they sought to find the mighty King. After having reached the Unreachable, they rejoiced, crying out “Hallelujah”!

(9)  Veneration of the newborn King by the Magi

When the Chaldean children saw in the arms of the Virgin the One who had fashioned mankind with His hands, they realized that He was the Lord – even though He had assumed the form of a servant – and they hastened to lavish Him with gifts and to cry out to the blessed Mother:

Rejoice! For...

You are the Mother of the never-setting star;

You are the dawn of a mystical day;

You extinguish the furnace of deceit;

You illuminate the Mystics of the Trinity;

You cast out the inhuman tyrant;

You showed Christ as the philanthropist Lord;

You rid us of barbaric religion;

You cleanse us of murky works;

You halt the worship of fire;

You rid us of the flames of passions;

You are the faithfuls’ guide to prudence;

You are the merriment of all generations;

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

(10)  The Magi return to their homelands after proclaiming Christ

Having become God-bearing messengers, the Magi returned to Babylon confirming the oracle pertaining to You and proclaiming You as the Christ to everyone, thus leaving Herod an ignorant prattler, while they chanted “Hallelujah”!

(11)  Truth fells idolatry

Having shone the light of truth in Egypt, You chased away the falsehoods of darkness; for its idols, o Saviour, fell down, unable to tolerate Your might; while those who were rid of them, cried out to the Theotokos:

Rejoice! For...

You are the uplifting of mankind;

You are the downfall of demons;

You have trampled upon the delusions of deceit;

You have obstructed the glory of the idols;

You are the sea that drowned the noetic Pharaoh;

You are the rock that quenched those thirsting for life;

You are the fiery column who leads those in the dark;

You are the roof of the world, far broader than a cloud;

You are the successor of the heaven-sent manna;

You minister to the blessed bounty;

You are the Promised Land;

From You flow forth milk and honey;

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!


(12) 
Righteous Simeon finally sees the Infant Jesus as foreold, before his death

Predestined to depart from the present deceitful age, You were delivered to him as an Infant, but You were also recognized by him as the perfect God; upon which, he was astounded by Your ineffable wisdom and cried out “Hallelujah”!

(13)  The Creator displays a new kind of Creation

A new kind of Creation was displayed by the Creator, to us who were made by Him: by germinating from a seedless womb and preserving it intact – the way it was – and on witnessing the miracle, let us offer hymns to Her, crying out:

Rejoice! For...

You are the incorruptible blossom;

You are the crown of self restraint;

You illuminate the imprint of resurrection;

You portray the lifestyle of Angels;

You are the tree bearing glorious fruits that nourish many;

You are the lush shady forest under which many are sheltered;

You are carrying the Guide for those deluded;

You are giving birth to the Redeemer of those who are captives;

You are the fair Judge’s response to beseeching;

You are the forgiveness of many who are at fault;

You are the robe of outspokenness for the bare;

You are the caring that defeats every passion;  

     Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

(14)  Reasons for the Incarnation

Having seen such a strange birth, let us estrange ourselves from the world by transferring our minds to heaven; it is for this that God on high appeared on earth as a humble human: His desire to  attract to the heights those who cry out to Him: “Hallelujah”!

(15)  Elaborating on the Incarnation

Fully among those below was the indescribable Logos, without being at all absent from the above; for it was a divine condescension, and not a topical transition that took place with the Birth by a God-chosen Virgin who hears the following:

Rejoice! For...

You are the space of the uncontainable God;

You are the gate of a venerable mystery;

You are the doubtful thought of the faithless;

You are the undoubted boast of the faithful;

You are the most holy vehicle atop the Cherubim;

You are the most excellent House atop the Seraphim;

You lead opposites towards the same point;

You coupled virginity with postpartum;

Through You, the transgression was resolved;

Through You Paradise was opened;

You are the key to the realm of Christ;

You are the hope for eternal goods;

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

(16)  Reactions among Angels

Every Angelic nature was astonished by the grand opus of Your Incarnation; for He who is unapproachable as God is seen by everyone as an approachable human who fares along with us, and hears from everyone “Hallelujah”!

(17)  Reactions among humans

Chatterbox orators are seen as voiceless fish because of You, Theotokos; for they wonder how You remained a Virgin and yet were able to give birth. But we who wonder at the mystery, cry out with faith:

Rejoice! For...

You are the vessel of God’s wisdom;

You are the treasury of His Providence;

You have proven wisdom lovers wisdomless;

You have rendered artful speakers speechless;

All awesome conversationists are rendered foolish;

Weavers of myths become withered;

You shatter the Athenians' plots;

You fill the fishers' nets;

You lift out those in the depths of ignorance;

You illuminate many into knowledge;

You are the one who tows those seeking to be saved;

You are the harbour for the ships of  life;

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

(18)  Why God became man

In seeking to save the world, He who had adorned everything in Creation had come for that purpose ex officio; and, being a shepherd as God, He appeared to us as a human like us, thus inviting the like, and as God He hearkens to “Hallelujah”!

(19)  God’s purpose for the Theotokos

You are the protective wall of virgins, o Virgin Theotokos, and of all those who turn to You. For it was the Maker of heaven and earth who had made You, o Flawless one, and by residing in Your womb has taught everyone to address You as follows:

Rejoice! For...

You are the pillar of virginity;

You are the gateway of salvation;

You are the lead towards noetic re-creation;

You are the sponsor for divine benevolence;

You are the renaissance of those conceived shamefully;

You have admonished those with a despoiled mind;

You abolish the one who deteriorates reason;

You gave birth to the Sower of chastity;

You are the bridal chamber of seedless matrimony;

You adapt the faithful to the Lord;

You are the able Protectress of young virgins;

You are the bridal adorner of saintly souls;

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

(20)  Gratitude for God’s mercy

Every hymn is defeated when striving to extend itself through the bounty of Your mercy; for even if we offer You Odes as many as the sands, o holy King, we will have done nothing worthy compared to what You have given us, who cry out to You “Hallelujah”!

(21)  Gratitude for the Theotokos’ role

A Light-bearing candle appearing to those in the dark is how we regard the holy Virgin; for, having touched the immaterial Light, She leads everyone to divine knowledge by illuminating the mind with the daybreak’s light, and with a shout honouring Her as follows:

Rejoice! For...

You are the ray of the noetic Sun;

You are the glow of the never-setting illumination;

You are the lightning bolt that thoroughly brightens souls;

You strike down enemies completely, like a bolt of thunder;

You gave rise to the all-illuminating Light;

From You springs forth the plentifully-flowing River;

You are the portrayal of the baptismal font;

You wash away the filth of sin;

You are the fount that cleanses our conscience;

You are the drinking cup that serves us jubilation;

You are the scent of Christ's fragrance;

You are the life of mystical celebration;

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

(22)  Gods Grace

Per His desire to give pardon for olden debts, the all-pardoning One of mankind had emigrated of His own will to those who had emigrated from His Grace; and, upon tearing up the relative "contract", He hears everyone crying out “Hallelujah”!

(23)  Reasons for lauding the Theotokos

By chanting thanks for Your birth-giving, we all praise You as the living Temple, o Theotokos; for, having resided in Your womb, the Lord who holds together everything by His hand has sanctified and glorified You and has taught us all to cry out to You:

Rejoice! For...

You are the camp of God and Logos;

You are the Saint who is greater than all saints;

You are the ark that was gilded by the Holy Spirit;

You are the unspent treasure of life;

You are the precious diadem of respectful kings;

You are the venerated boast of pious priests;

You are the immovable tower of the Church;

You are the impregnable wall of the Kingdom;

Through You are trophies raised;

Through You are enemies fallen;

You are the healing of my being;

You are the salvation of my soul;

Rejoice, o unwed Bride!

(24)  Supplication to the Theotokos

O all-hallowed Mother, of whom has born the most holy of all saints Logos, by accepting the present offering, we ask You to rid us all of every tribulation, and guard us from the forthcoming punishment - we who cry out to You: “Hallelujah”!

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THE AKATHIST HYMN

Composed as a thanksgiving prayer for when the City of Constantinople was liberated by the Theotokos. In the year 626, during the reign of Heraclius, the City was attacked by the Persians and the Avars, but was saved through the intervention of the Most Holy Theotokos. A sudden hurricane dispersed the fleet of the enemy, casting their ships on the shore near the Great church of the Theotokos at Vlachernae, a quarter of Constantinople on the Golden Horn. The people spent the whole night in standing prayer, according to Tradition, thanking Her for the unexpected deliverance. From that time, the Church to this day -in memory of so great and so divine a miracle- desired this to be a feast in honour of the Mother of God

To the Champion General are ascribed by Your City the victory thanks for deliverance from calamities, o Theotokos;  but, being the one who preserved the State free of battle, likewise free me from all kinds of danger, so that I too may cry out to You: "Rejoice, o unwed Bride!"

 

 

Rendition in simplified English by A.N.