« AnteriorContinuar »
to an end. Much might be found among the hymns of the Nestorians and Jacobites which may antedate the Council of Chalcedon. Nay, the presence of acrostics, of alphabetic stanzas, of refrains, alternations, and parallelisms, carries back the work to the very earliest times, as an intellectual outcome of the songs of ancient Israel, which from the beginning were claimed as the inheritance of the Church.
For the first hymns mentioned in the Gospels and Epistles mix themselves with the Psalms of the expiring synagogue. The assurance of a joyous resurrection, which was the animating thought of the early Christians, expressed itself in spiritual songs, doxologies, and acclamations, which sometimes took a rhythmic form. Beside the various strophes which are embalmed in the Epistles, we have early notice of the Carmen Christo, which Pliny mentioned to Trajan, the funeral hymns that were sung at the martyrdom of S. Ignatius, the hymns of the brethren mentioned by Eusebius as disproving the teaching of Paul of Samosata. The Joyful Light,' of S. Athenagenes, preserved by Routh, is too well known for quotation, and to this hour the sons of S. Benedict still daily repeat the ancient refrainσοι πρέπει αίνος,
Te decet laus, σοι πρέπει ύμνος,
Te decet hymnus, σοι δόξα τω Πατρί,
Tibi gloria Deo Patri, και το Υιώ και τω Αγίω Πνεύματι, Et Filio, con Sto. Spirito, εις τους αιώνας των αιώνων. Αμήν. In sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
The curious account of the hymn-singing of the Therapeutæ, which Eusebius illustrates by the practice of the early Church, speaks of the composition of 'songs and hymns, noting them of necessity with measure uncommonly serious, through every • variety of metre and time' (H. E. ii. 17). At the second Council of Nicæa (Mansi, t. xiii. col. 170), we find a legend of hymnody, which, though apocryphal, is a remarkable picture of ancient manners; and in the Banquet of the Virgins,' of Methodius, we find the first indication of the vulgar form of the Eastern hymn, the acrostic, the response, and the troparium.
A vast field opens as we consider the relics of the songs of the Gnostics. That subtle and attractive philosophy, which sprang from a glowing desire after eternal life, a deep sense of human misery and sin, and which, in desiring of its followers the yvôois that they were the sons of the good God, holds out such consolation to the individual feelings, has left us numerous fragments. Origen has preserved strophes of a chant of the Ophites. In the Nazarean Adam there are various songs, and the Philosophoumena has revealed to us psalms attributed to the Naasséneans, chants of Valentinus, an Epiclesis of Marcus, &c.
Besides others, we know, either by mention or by the existence of fragments, of hymns by Basilides, Bardesanes, Harmonius, Marcion, Manes. S. Epiphanius preserves a fragment of Hierax, and S. Augustine a rhythm of the Priscillianists. In spite of the ravages of time, and the discredit brought upon them by ecclesiastical condemnation, enough remains to show the close analogy in form between them and the orthodox hymnography. Of that form it is necessary to say somewhat; but the distinctions are so minute, and the terminology so complex, that it is best to throw it into a note, along with a brief enumeration of the volumes from which the hymns are taken.
A specimen of the work of S. Anatolius, as translated by Dr. Neale, is found in the accompanying . Stichera for a Sunday of the First Tone:
Fierce was the wild billow ;
Dark was the night;
Foam glimmer'd white;
Peril was high;
Peace! It is I!'
Lower thy crest!
Be thou at rest!
Darkness must fly,-
Peace! It is I!'
Come Thou to me :
Over life's sea !
1 The most ancient generic term is the Troparion, which implies a verse peculiar to each day, and of this the stanza which forms the model of those which succeed is called the Hirmus. The perfection of Troparia is in a Canon. Very similar to the Hirmus and Troparion are the Sticheron and the Homerion. A collection of troparia with their Hirmus is an Ode. A Canon consists of nine odes, each ode varying from three to more than twenty troparia. The odes are usually arranged after an acrostic, itself commencing in iambic verse, but sometimes alphabetical. Each ode terminates with a Theotokion, a celebration of the Virgin, and sometimes with a Stauro-Theotokion, a commemoration of her sorrows at the cross. Besides this there is the Cathisma, when the congregation are allowed to sit; the Oikos, or stanza in its strict sense; and the Catacorion, where both choirs stand in the middle of the church singing in common. Idiomelon and contakion are other minute distinctions. The Greek hymns are found principally in the twelve volumes of the Menæa, the Breviary of the East, the Paracleticon, or Great Octoechos, the week-day Office for eight weeks, the Triodion, the Lent volume, and the Pentecostarion, for Easter and Pentecost.
Thou, when the storm of Death
Roars, sweeping by,
Peace! It is I!'
The ascetics of the desert set their faces strongly against the modulated hymns. While they allowed music as a condescendance to the weakness of seculars, they preached the greatest rigour in this respect among themselves. Generally, however, in the Church, from the time of Constantine, there was a great development of psalmody, as of the other branches of Divine worship. Augustine 'fluctuates between the peril of pleasure ' and the approved advantageousness; inclined the rather (though not as pronouncing an irrevocable opinion) to approve the usage of singing in the church.' He quotes, with approbation, the conduct of Athanasius, 'who made the reader of the psalm utter
it with so slight inflection of voice, that it was nearer speaking than singing in the church. S. Chrysostom probably introduced into the imperial city the antiphonal rite of Antioch, and, as the profane exhibitions of the theatre lost credit, the liturgy itself assumed a dramatic form. From Alexandria most probably the eight ancient modes were introduced into the service, and curious analogies are said to be traceable between the disposition of the long Offices of the Greek rite and the ancient drama. The chorus, the semi-chorus, the monostrophes, the parabasis, all find their correlatives in the divine Office; yet it is to be observed that the Church carefully avoided the adoption of any of the terminology of the theatre or orchestra.
Once started, the troparia were received with favour, and emperors and patriarchs vied with each other in their composition. Passing over the almost unknown Anthimus and Timocles, Anatolius, who was raised to the throne of Constantinople on the death of Flavian, in consequence of his ill-usage at the Latrocinium of Ephesus, composed about one hundred and fifty, almost all short, but very spirited. Justinian is the author of a very well-known poem, and Theophilus, the iconoclast emperor, of another. A patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, fitly sings the mysteries of Bethlehem, and S. Cyril composes those for Good Friday.
The troparium came to its perfection in the hands of one Romanus." So great was the sensation that he made, that legend was invoked to account for his success. It was said that in his sleep he had been carried upward, and heard the chorus of angels. When he awoke, he felt himself inspired to write a new melody. It was at Christmas, at Berytus, in Syria. His poem was publicly recited at the Ambo. His success brought him to Constantinople. His chants delighted the city, and the emperor's palace. It became the custom to sing his poem every Christmas at the imperial table.
It is stamped with the dramatic form. In the twenty-five strophes of the Christmas poem, the first is the scene and description of the place, the sacred personages, and the grotto; then the author salutes Bethlehem, the city of bread, the soil in which flourished the rod of Jesse and the fountain of David. Then follows a dialogue between the Son newly-born and His mother; the Magi present themselves, and give the details of their journey; the Virgin asks the Divine Child to permit the kings of the East to be introduced to their poverty. The Word speaks to give the order, the Magi enter and express their wonder at the miraculous birth ; Joseph is present as witness and surety for the miracle ; the wise men describe pagan Persia, and the idolatrous East. The Virgin tells them of Jerusalem, that slew the prophets, and of wicked Herod, advising them to shun him; the Magi tell what has already passed between them; then the gifts of the kings are presented with humble prayers; the Virgin herself intercedes, and asks, in return for the treasures of the kings, and the homage of the shepherds, grace and the salvation of the world.
The Abbé Gerbert asks whether the labours of Gregory the Great on the chant and liturgy of Rome had their echoes in the East. Did the two Churches mutually borrow from and mutually correct each other? It is certain that the movement of reform which that pontificate impressed so strongly on the West extended also to the East. His Cura Pastoralis,'translated into Greek by Anastasius of Antioch, helped the disciplinary laws of John the Faster; while, on the other hand, the ' Liber Responsalis' in more than one place quotes the actual texts of the Greek troparia (Op. Greg. Magn. tom. iii. pp. 664, 786, 788, &c.). It is chiefly at the feast of Easter that these archaic Greek forms are preserved. In the Offices of Milan also there are traces of the existence of Greek translations.
The first epoch of Greek hymnography concludes with the year A.D. 726. The second period is very nearly coincident with the Iconoclastic controversy. The ecclesiastical poets, with scarcely one exception, took an active share in it. That controversy has been much misapprehended. It is generally supposed that it was a re-assertion of true and spiritual religion, in opposition to a coarse manifestation of a sensuous worship. Nothing in the history of the times, however, bears out this notion. The instinct of the good men of the time was in favour of the images. All that was pious and venerable in the Eastern Church took that side, although, very probably, they did not apprehend the principles that underlay the question. Iconoclasm
seems to have been a legitimate and logical development, an open expression of that secret Manichæism which flows as an undercurrent all through the history of religious opinion, and which, from time to time, under the names of Turlupine, Bogomili, and good men, came up to the surface. The second Council of Nicæa (A.D. 787) seemed to put an end to the Iconoclastic opinions, though they prevailed again under Michael the Usurper and his son Theophilus. It also forms the culminating point of the ecclesiastical poetry, which in the twenty-eight years of peace which succeeded the Council became rapidly corrupted and enfeebled. But beyond the evil done to the progress of humanity by the inculcation or suggestion of a false philosophy, Iconoclasm erred also in the injury which it wrought to art. Christianity implies the development of every faculty in man, and no system can be complete which does not touch his sense of the Beautiful. The Æsthetic is as much a part of man's heritage as the Intelligible. Any system that does not appeal to this principle fails to affect the whole man. The Beautiful is only another aspect of the Good and True. However coarse the concrete forms in which they are embalmed, the religious use of Ikons was an assertion of this law of man's well-being. It meant progress. It meant refinement. It meant taste. It meant feeling. No wonder that the best and truest of the sons of Grecia willed to suffer in the cause. As a matter of fact, we know that the temporary triumph of the Iconoclasts was a triumph of barbarism. It is difficult to estimate the ravages it caused during the three-quarters of a century in which it was mistress of the empire. Anticipating the Mussulman invasion; nay, containing within itself sympathies and affinities to the Moslems themselves—it implied the destruction not only of ikons, but of precious MSS., which, adorned with miniatures and illuminations, were sacrificed to indiscriminating zeal. An age of ignorance was inaugurated with such results that the Council of Nicæa had to insist upon a knowledge of the Psalms in the case of those who were advanced to the episcopate. Numbers of hymns, the only remains of which are now to be found in the Hirmus or text of later ones, then sank into oblivion. No one knows what a fund of priceless poetry was then lost for ever.
The triumph of the orthodox party not only led to the development of a school of art, which, stereotyped by tradition, has maintained an immobility of a thousand years, and is now awakening to a new life in Russia, where the modern religious school of design seeks to combine the archaic forms and con
1 Neale's 'Hymns of the Eastern Church,' p. 13. Petavius traces an affinity between the Iconoclasts and the Eutychians. Pet. De Inc. lib. xv. c. ii.