Thursday, September 14, 2006

Holy Cross and the Balance of Western Orthodox Piety


The Hymn of First Vespers (Vexilla Regis prodeunt)

The royal banners forward go;
The Cross shines forth in mystic glow;
Where He in flesh, our flesh Who made,
Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.

Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life's torrent rushing from His side,
To wash us in that precious flood
Where mingled Water flowed and Blood.

Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old:
Amidst the nations, God, saith he,
Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.

O Tree of beauty! Tree of light!
O Tree with royal purple dight!
Elect won whose triumphal breat
Those holy limbs should find their rest:

On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world's ransom hung,
The price of humankind to pay,
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.

O Cross, our one reliance, hail!
On this triumphant feast, avail
To give fresh merit to the saint
And pardon to the penitent.

To Thee, eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done:
Whom by the Cross Thou does restore,
Preserve them and govern evermore. Amen.

This beautiful hymn represents the balance found in the Western Rite. Yes, the Cross recalls the Passion of Christ but also His triumph "from the Tree" inspiring a "triumphant feast." Despite the persistent caricatures (which seem to originate from those with no experience of traditional Western worship), genuine Western Orthodox praxis is not overly gory, literal, or substitutionary but a restatement of the Orthodox-Catholic faith in another beautiful arrangement, a different tongue speaking the same words: Abba, Alleluia! Amen.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Aristibule said...

And, the beautiful Christus Rex crucifix - known from Syria to Ireland; being the normative/majority depiction in the Churches of the British Isles and their missionary daughters.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Vexilla Regis prodeunt
Fulget Crucis Mysterium....

I still hear it in my head, so beautiful, lamenting, haunting.....

"Regnavit a logno Deus."

7:33 PM  
Blogger Eric John said...

Written by St. Venantius Fortunatus, BC and Hymnographer. And a favorite saint of mine.

May his blessing be with us all.

10:39 PM  

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