My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 7th of September, our Holy Orthodox Church
commemorates our Venerable Mother among the
Saints, KASSIANE, Abbess (Egoumene) and Hymnographer.
Our holy Mother Kassiane was born in Constantinople some time before A.D. 805. Her father, an aristocrat, held a high position at the imperial court. Kassiane’s parents had her receive an excellent education, which included not only secular knowledge but also the study of the Holy Scripture. From her youth, though an exquisite beauty, she desired to dedicate her life to Christ and the Church and often considered becoming a nun.
The marriage of Emperor Michael II the Amorion (A.D. 820-829) and Thekla produced Theophilos, the future iconoclast ( an enemy of icons). Upon the death of Thekla, Emperor Michael kindled a heated dispute when he decided to marry a nun, Ephrosyne. This highly irregular choice was allowed because Ephrosyne was the offspring of the unhappy marriage between Emperor Constantine VI (A.D. 780-797) and Maria of Amnia. Ephrosyne’s father detested her mother and compelled Maria to enter a convent, so that he might marry Theodote, one of her ladies-in-waiting. This act was denounced by the Orthodox as bigamous.
With the death of Michael of Amorion, Theophilos succeeded him (A.D. 829-842). Theophilos’ step-mother, Ephrosyne, desiring to find a suitable match for him, arranged a "bride show" where she gathered the most beautiful of maidens. Theophilos narrowed the contestants to six semi-finalists, of which Kassiane was one. In the final choice, Ephrosyne wished Theophilos to use a custom that dated back to ancient times; that is, a golden apple was to be given to the future Empress. When all the maidens were lined up, Theophilos was impressed most with Kassiane’s beauty.
Theophilos was also aware of her wisdom and knowledge. He went up to her and said, "From woman flowed corruption" (meaning the fall of Eve). Then the most wise Kassiane, modestly blushing, answered Theophilos, saying, "But also from woman sprang forth what is superior" (meaning that the Theotokos gave birth to God in the flesh). At the boldness and wisdom of Kassiane, he was tongue-tied and withdrew from her the apple, as a symbol of his choice.
Kassiane, far from being upset at being eliminated, had no desire to be Empress. Acknowledging God’s Providence in Theophilos’ rejection, she was now free to pursue the Monastic life and spiritual scholarship as a bride of the King of kings. Therefore, she departed from the palace relieved and excited about her future prospects.
Kassiane then renounced the world and built a Women’s Monastery (a convent) on Xerolophos, the capital’s Seventh Hill. She was afterward tonsured a nun "and led an ascetical and philosophical life," pleasing to God. The energetic foundress presided over the sisterhood, regulating their manner of life and the divine offices in the monastery.
When Theophilos, a harsh enforcer of his religious policy against the veneration of the icons, chose Theodora, he did not know that she venerated the sacred images. Theodora managed for many years to hide her veneration of the holy icons, yet she brought up her five daughters and one son to respect them. Unlike Theodora, Kassiane had strong convictions as an iconophile (a lover of icons) and she openly professed them.
Early in life, Kassiane proved her dedication to their veneration. She publicly defied imperial policy against the holy images. In defending the holy icons, she was subject to persecution and was once scourged with the lash. Undaunted, she persisted in resisting the iconoclasts (enemies of icons). She often visited banished monks in prison and would support and comfort them by her letters and gifts. She was known as a sharp observer of human frailties and expressed her opinion of those that lacked courage and commitment when she said, "I hate silence when it is time to speak!"
During this time when the Church was embattled, Kassiane, inspired by God, pursued her diverse literary and musical interests. Her works may be found under the names, "Kassiane," "Kassias the Nun," or "Ikasias." Even when Kassiane was a young girl, Saint Theodore the Studite was impressed with her learning and literary style, which he found rare at that time in one so young. As a God-gifted composer, she wrote music for her spiritual poems. Egoumeni (Abbess) Kassiane provided many new hymns for the services conducted in her monastery.
In time, Kassiane established herself as a hymnographer. Her ecclesiastical music drew the attention of the Church Fathers, who recognized her unique gift. She was encouraged to compose hymns for the various feasts. Her reputation is such that she is Orthodoxy’s only female hymnographer of distinction. According to many opinions, she was an "exceptional and rare phenomenon" for contemporary poetical competition. She was Byzantine’s best-known woman composer, and twenty-three genuine hymns ascribed to her exhibit her attention to the many facets of Orthodox liturgical cycles.
Among the services she provided to the monastery, her canon for the reposed is her longest hymn. This piece contains thirty-two strophes that were chanted in the monastery cemetery for their weekly Saturday memorial services.
She also composed hymns honoring the Saints in the Menaia, such as Saints Gourias, Samonas, and Habib, Saints Efstratios, Afxentios, Evgenios, Mardarios, and Orestes, and Saint John the Forerunner and Baptist, to mention a few. For the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh, Kassia the nun composed this Vespers hymn in Mode Two: "When Augustus reigned alone upon earth, the many kingdoms of men came to an end: And when Thou was made Man of the pure Virgin, the many gods of idolatry were destroyed. The cities of the world passed under one single rule; and the nations came to believe in one Sovereign Godhead. The peoples were enrolled by the decree of Caesar; and we, the faithful, were enrolled in the name of the Godhead, when Thou, our God, wast made man. Great is Thy mercy: Glory to Thee."
The Egoumene (Abbess) and poetess is also credited with the EIRMOI of the Orthros (Matins) Canon chanted on Great and Holy Thursday, in Mode Plagal Two, which begins: "He Who n ancient times hid the pursuing tyrant beneath the waves of the seas, is hidden beneath the earth by the children of those Whom once He saved. But as did the maidens, let us sing unto the Lord, for He is greatly glorified."
The most famous poem and musical composition of the Saint from the Triodion, is the Doxastikon idiomelon of the Aposticha of Great and Holy Wednesday, also known as the TROPARION OF KASSIANE, based on the account of the sinful woman who is introduced by the Evangelist Luke in his Gospel [7:36-50]. Kassiane will also contrast the sinful woman with Eve’s fall [Genesis 3:8-11]. With characteristic feminine insight and sympathy, Kassia the nun embellishes this familiar story. This compunctionate and moving hymn, in Mode Plagal Four, is chanted by anticipation on the evening of Holy Tuesday: "O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Thy Divinity, took upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer; with lamentation she bringeth Thee myrrh oils before Thine entombment. ‘Woe unto me,’ she said, ‘for night is become for me a frenzy of licentiousness, a gloomy and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountains of my tear, O Thou Who dost gather into clouds the water of the sea. Incline unto the sighings of my heart, O Thou Who didst, bow the heavens by Thine ineffable kenosis (self-emptying). "I shall kiss Thine immaculate feet, and wipe them again, with the tresses of my head, those feet at whose sound Eve hid herself for fear when she heard Thee walking in Paradise in the afternoon. The multitude of my sins and the abyss of Thy judgments, who can search them out, O my Savior of souls? Do not disdain me, Thy handmaiden, O Thou Whose mercy is measureless."
One story relates that Egoumene (Abbess) Kassiane 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 monastery. Not wishing to see him, in her haste to conceal herself, she 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 Paradise in the afternoon." After he departed, Kassiane 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.
Thus we are told in this hymn that the sinful woman approached Christ in love, whereas Eve hid from Christ in fear. In many Lenten sermons and hymns, Eve, the archetypal sinful woman, and the repentant harlot appear together. The unrestrained vision and desire of the first woman are to be avoided, whereas, the repentance of the second woman is to be emulated.
One biographer comments, "She (Kassiane) lived only for God, to the end of her life. Thus, after dedicating her life to Christ and the Church, and adorned with the chaplet of virginity, and the crowns of a confessor, an ascetic, and a hymnographer, our holy Mother Kassiane reposed in the Lord.
Theophilos, on his deathbed in A.D. 842, designated Theodora as a Regent to their son Michael III. With the Emperor’s death, the iconoclastic madness ended. Empress Theoroda restored the veneration of the holy icons. In the well-known icon of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, commemorating THE RESTORATION OF THE HOLY ICONS, we see Saint Methodios the Patriarch. Garbed in bishop’s robes, he is depicted holding either a crozier or Gospel book. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George