Serbian “Άξιον Εστί” — Достoйно eсть — In the Kyriotissa in C-town

15 Nov

Serbian theology students chant “Axion Esti” — “It is worthy..” — perhaps the Orthodox liturgy’s main chant to the Virgin — in the Panagia Kyriotissa (we think) now the Kalenderhane Camii, a functioning mosque, in İstanbul.  The Church Slavonic transliterated into Greek in the subtitles.

Hard to see who’s singing; is it really just a recording played over the video?  If not, and it’s real, man, it really proves Serbs have balls of steel.  Then again, the Turks, usually older guys who are the keepers of these churches/mosques in the old city, are usually pretty relaxed about this stuff.

But, there go a bunch of Serbian dudes for ya’.

Досто́йно есть, я́ко вои́стину блажи́ти тя Богоро́дице, присноблаже́нную и пренепоро́чную, и Ма́терь Бо́га на́шего. Честне́йшую херуви́м, и сла́внейшую вои́стину серафи́м, без истле́ния Бо́га Сло́ва ро́ждьшую, су́щую Богоро́дицу, Тя велича́ем.

Ἄξιόν ἐστιν ὡς ἀληθῶς,
μακαρίζειν σε τὴν Θεοτόκον,
τὴν ἀειμακάριστον καὶ παναμώμητον
καὶ μητέρα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν.
Τὴν τιμιωτέραν τῶν Χερουβεὶμ
καὶ ἐνδοξοτέραν ἀσυγκρίτως τῶν Σεραφείμ,
τὴν ἀδιαφθόρως Θεὸν Λόγον τεκοῦσαν,
τὴν ὄντως Θεοτόκον,
σὲ μεγαλύνομεν.

(And the always miserable translation…)

It is truly right to bless thee, O Theotokos,
thou the ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
Thou, the more honorable than the cherubim,
and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim,
who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word,
thou the true Theotokos, we magnify thee.

As I was once bitching about the attempted Westernization/harmonization of Greek ecclesiastic music, mostly in Greece and by the Autocephalous abomination known as the Church of Greece…

“But the more central a hymn was considered to a service’s meaning, the more likely it was to have been set, at some point, to a boring, semi-Western, “Mary-had-a-little-lamb” melody” [here  “…απορώ και εξίσταμαι.” ) … in order to encourage, you know, congregational participation along Protestant and Neo-Catholic lines, as if it were more spiritually edifying to sing badly in a group (we’re not Black, you know) than to listen to the technically demanding music of the Church — essentially a branch of the Perso-Ottoman classical tradition — performed by highly trained cantors.  Maybe I’ll remember that next time I’m at the opera.”

…I remembered that Axion Esti is probably one of those hymns that no Greek-American — or Greek, for that matter — churchgoer has ever heard except to that treacly nineteenth-century setting.  But last Sunday, at the Panagia in Pera, I heard the young Syrian cantors there belt out a version to an old Ottoman setting — in the best traditional Constantinopolitan/Patriarchal tradition — that blew me away.  I felt like I had never heard it before…this hymn I’ve heard at every liturgy I’ve attended in my entire life.

Comment:nikobakos@gmail.com

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