Lent, Day 39 (“Simeron Kremate”)

LOOK: Crucifixion by Natalya Rusetska

Rusetska, Natalya_Crucifixion
Natalya Rusetska (Ukrainian, 1984–), Crucifixion, 2013. Egg tempera on gessoed board, 20 × 13.5 cm.

LISTEN: “Σήμερον Κρεμάται” (Simeron Kremate), an antiphon for Great and Holy Friday, in plagal second mode, from the Greek Orthodox Church

>> Chanted in English by Vassilis Hadjinicolaou:

[Greek]
Σήμερον κρεμᾶται ἐπὶ ξύλου, ὁ ἐν ὕδασι τὴν γῆν κρεμάσας.
Στέφανον ἐξ ἀκανθῶν περιτίθεται, ὁ τῶν Ἀγγέλων Βασιλεύς.
Ψευδῆ πορφύραν περιβάλλεται, ὁ περιβάλλων τὸν οὐρανὸν ἐν νεφέλαις.
Ῥάπισμα κατεδέξατο, ὁ ἐν Ἰορδάνῃ ἐλευθερώσας τὸν Ἀδάμ.
Ἥλοις προσηλώθη, ὁ Νυμφίος τῆς Ἐκκλησίας.
Λόγχῃ ἐκεντήθη, ὁ Υἱὸς τῆς Παρθένου.
Προσκυνοῦμέν σου τὰ Πάθη Χριστέ.
Προσκυνοῦμέν σου τὰ Πάθη Χριστέ.
Προσκυνοῦμέν σου τὰ Πάθη Χριστέ.
Δεῖξον ἡμῖν, καὶ τὴν ἔνδοξόν σου Ἀνάστασιν.

[Transliterated Greek]
Símeron kremátai epí xýlou, o en ýdasi tín gín kremásas.
Stéfanon ex akanthón peritíthetai, o tón Angélon Vasiléfs.
Psevdí porfýran periválletai, o perivállon tón ouranón en nefélais.
Rápisma katedéxato, o en Iordáni eleftherósas tón Adám.
Ílois prosilóthi, o Nymfíos tís Ekklisías.
Lónchi ekentíthi, o Yiós tís Parthénou.
Proskynoúmén sou tá Páthi Christé.
Proskynoúmén sou tá Páthi Christé.
Proskynoúmén sou tá Páthi Christé.
Deíxon imín, kaí tín éndoxón sou Anástasin.

[English translation]
Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung on the tree.
The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.
The Bridegroom of the church is affixed to the cross with nails.
The Son of the virgin is pierced by a spear.
We worship thy passion, O Christ.

We worship thy passion, O Christ.
We worship thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also thy glorious resurrection.

This is the fifteenth antiphon (short hymn) from the Matins service of Great and Holy Friday (as the day is called in the Orthodox tradition), celebrated on Thursday evening.

>> Arranged by Fr. Seraphim Dedes, chanted by Paul Barnes, 2019:

(An abbreviated version appears as “Byzantine Chant II: Simeron Kremate” on Barnes’s 2021 album Illumination; see my Holy Week Playlist.)

Paul Barnes is both a pianist and a Greek Orthodox chanter. Here he chants the “Simeron Kremate,” starting out in Greek and then using the following English translation:

Today he who suspended the earth on the waters is suspended on a cross. (×3)
The King of the angels wears a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the sky in clouds is wrapped in a fake purple robe.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan accepts to be slapped.
The Bridegroom of the church is fixed with nails to the cross.
The Son of the virgin is pierced with a spear.
We worship your passion, O Christ. (×3)
Show us also your glorious resurrection.

Seven of his piano majors from the Glenn Korff School of Music provide the ison (drone note).

>> Simeron Kremate, a solo keyboard work by Victoria Bond based on the Greek Orthodox chant, performed by Paul Barnes, 2019:

Paul Barnes and composer Victoria Bond are longtime collaborators. He introduced her to the “Simeron Kremate” chant, and she built a piano composition around its five-note melody. Struck by its similar melodic contour, she incorporated the Jewish Passover chant “Tal” (Dew), a prayer that life-sustaining dew would water the land. This prayer is traditionally chanted on the first morning of Passover (which is tomorrow; the festival begins this evening). Bond, who is Jewish, notes the thematic resonance between the two chants as well: (in my own words) the one a request for fruitfulness and refreshment, the other a lament for the death of the One whose death bears fruit and brings life. She describes the musical elements of the composition as follows:

The work opens with the traditional apichima of the plagal of the second mode which aurally establishes the musical atmosphere of the mode. Victoria follows this with a Jewish style cantillation (based on the cantillation of the great cantor Yosele Rosenblatt) which leads to the first statement of the “Simeron” chant. These opening notes are then developed in multiple ways before the intimate entry of the “Tal” melody. The work concludes with a ‘tranquillo’ passage of rare beauty ingeniously combining both themes. The work ends tentatively and unresolved as the opening notes of the chant dissipate into eternity.

Good Friday, Part 1: Stripped

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him . . .

And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.

—Matthew 27:27–28, 35

LOOK: Denis Sarazhin (Ukrainian, 1982–), Pantomime 6, 2015. Oil on canvas, 130 × 150 cm.

Sarazhin, Denis_Pantomime 6

LISTEN: “They have stripped me of my garments,” Byzantine hymn in plagal second tone, chanted by Vassilis Hadjinicolaou [HT: Global Christian Worship]

This doxastikon (a type of hymn) is sung during the Orthros (Matins) of Great and Holy Friday, which is prayed on the night of Holy Thursday. Note that because they follow the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian, Orthodox Christians celebrate Good Friday on April 30 this year (and Easter on May 2).

If you’re wondering where the (for me, uncomfortably) violent image in the last line comes from, it’s from Psalm 2:9 (cf. Rev. 19:15). Its insertion into the episode of Christ’s being mocked seems to me an odd choice, seeing as the whole passion narrative is about God the Son absorbing violence rather than enacting it, and we know from his issuance of forgiveness from the cross that he did not have a vengeful attitude toward his tormenters. I speak from outside the Orthodox tradition, though.

Otherwise I find this hymn very moving. Its first line is what inspired the image I chose—of numerous hands clawing at cloth. Nakedness is one of the many indignities Jesus faced on Good Friday; he was stripped, dressed parodically in purple, reclothed with his personal garments, and then stripped again before being crucified. As he hung dying, exposed to the public, the Roman soldiers gambled for his clothing, souvenirs from the high-profile execution. Again, the soldiers’ bestiality is reflected in Sarazhin’s painting.

For more songs for Holy Week, see the Art & Theology Holy Week Playlist.

“I Leave You My Peace” (Artful Devotion)

Osborne, Mary Ann_Paths of Peace
Sister Mary Ann Osborne, SSND, Paths of Peace, 2005. Linden wood, glass, brass wire, gold leaf, and paint, 36 × 27 × 1 in.

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.”

—John 14:23–29

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SONG: “I Leave You My Peace” | Music by Maxime Kovalevsky, French Orthodox Church, Paris, 1940s–50s | Arranged by Josef Gulka, Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Medford, NJ | Performed by the St. Symeon Orthodox Church Choir, Birmingham, AL, on Fire and Light (2010)

You can download free sheet music for this song from the Liturgical Music PDF Library of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

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The mixed-media artwork above is by Sister Mary Ann Osborne, a Minnesota nun in the order of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. The Good Shepherd figure references a Christian fresco from the third-century catacomb of St. Callixtus in Rome, where the shepherd carries a sheep over his shoulders, securing it with one hand while carrying a milk pail in the other; it’s an image of care and protection derived from scripture. Sister Mary Ann has added two open-palmed hands rising up behind, or perhaps emerging from, the shepherd, a posture of prayer (orans) but also of benediction (see, e.g., Lev. 9:22; Luke 24:50).

Christ is pronouncing a blessing—it could be the words of peace and promise from his farewell discourse, excerpted in Sunday’s lectionary reading. We, his people, receive it. He has forged “paths of peace” for us to follow, as Sister Mary Ann’s work suggests, with road markings at the bottom left inviting us to set off where Christ has trod. And he goes with us in the Spirit.

He has called the world to a new order, signified by the shofar at the right, which announces Jubilee. As one of seven, the trump also carries connotations of the day of the Lord.

See more of Sister Mary Ann’s wood carvings at http://sistermaryannosborne.com/.


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, cycle C, click here.