Hymn of Kassiani | Christ the Savior Russian Orthodox Church. Wayne, WV 2019
The Hymn of Kassiani, also known as the Hymn of the Fallen Woman, is a Penitential Hymn that is based on the Gospel reading for Holy Wednesday morning (Matthew 26:6-16), which speaks of a sinful woman who anoints Jesus' feet with costly ointment (distinguished from a similar incident with a different woman, St. Mary of Bethany). This hymn is chanted only once a year and considered a musical high-point of the Holy Week, at the Matins and Presanctified Liturgy of Holy Wednesday, in the Plagal Fourth Tone.
One story, related by Saint Theodora in The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church holds that Abbess Kassiani spent the afternoon in the garden composing this hymn. As she finished writing that verse which says, "I shall kiss Thine immaculate feet, and wipe them again with the tresses of my head," she was informed that Emperor Theophilos had arrived at the convent. She did not wish to see him, and in her haste to conceal herself, left behind the scroll and pen. Theophilos, having entered the garden, found her half-completed poem, and added the phrase, "those feet at whose sound Eve hid herself for fear when she heard Thee walking in Paradise in the afternoon." After he departed, Kassiani came out from hiding. When she took up her composition, she beheld the phrase written in his handwriting. She retained it and went on to complete the poem.
Hymn of Kassiani text
O Lord God, the woman who had fallen into many sins, having perceived Thy divinity received the rank of ointment-bearer, offering Thee spices before Thy burial wailing and crying: "Woe is me, for the love of adultery and sin hath given me a dark and lightless night; accept the fountains of my tears O Thou Who drawest the waters of the sea by the clouds incline Thou to the sigh of my heart O Thou Who didst bend the heavens by Thine inapprehensible condescension; I will kiss Thy pure feet and I will wipe them with my tresses. I will kiss Thy feet Whose tread when it fell on the ears of Eve in Paradise dismayed her so that she did hide herself because of fear. Who then shall examine the multitude of my sin and the depth of Thy judgment? Wherefore, O my Saviour and the Deliverer of my soul turn not away from Thy handmaiden O Thou of boundless mercy".
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