Monday, April 15, 2013

Byzantine Music during the Triodion Period

The Lenten period or the period of the Triodion (according to the Orthodox Church), is characterised by its hymnological celebration, that leads us slowly but gradually towards Easter, the Feast of Feasts. The objective of this period is to prepare us with fasting and repentance, in order for us to greet the Holy Passion of Christ and His Resurrection. That is why the solemnity and the joyful mourning are pointed out through the services and hymns of the Triodion.   
Why do we name the period before Pascha as the period of Triodion? The terminology derives from two words, the Greek word for the number ‘3’ and the word ‘ode’, which derives from the ancient Greek word ‘ado’, meaning to chant (according to the ecclesiastical language), that are metrical hymns, recited melodically. The Canon, going through its evolutionary period, ended up being made up of 9 odes; however, during the period of Lent some Canons have only 3 odes. That is why the book we mostly use during Lent is called Triodion.
The economy of the Church, for the purpose of the catholic exercise and concurrence in prayer and fasting, introduces several stages that we must reach in order to be successful, spiritually and physically, during the period of Lent, leading to Easter and the Resurrection of our Lord. Therefore, we have the first weeks which prepare the ground, as did John the Baptist before the coming of Jesus Christ to the world. This first period prepares us and introduces us gradually to Lent, in order for us to understand the deeper meaning and the particular spirituality of the period of Triodion. After of course we experience the Holy and Great Lent, full of meaning, symbolism, theology, history, music, colours and poetry, which all together complete the Christian life by showing not only events and persons of our life time but also remembering other epochs beginning from Adam and Eve and ending at the Second Coming of Christ. Thus we identify that all of these events are part of the Ecclesia.

I believe it is important to emphasize the value and significance of Byzantine music, especially during the Triodion that is the art of prayer, being an ecclesiastical component. We could even claim that it is the salt of ecclesiastical life that cleanses and heals the soul of man, or as mentioned by the great chanter Thrasivoulos Stanitsas, “the language of Byzantine music is an eternal chant, by which our people come to a dialogue with God”. This music calms the faithful and brings them in communion with the Creator. As Basil the Great stated towards the youth, when comparing secular music and Byzantine music, “we need to seek the other (i.e. Byzantine and ecclesiastical music) which is superior and leads higher”.  Also we can identify the different sound from mode to mode, confirming that each sound of the ecclesiastical music affects the faithful in a characteristic way, highlighting thus the educational and therapeutic role of music within the church life of the Christian, which many times during this period has a sense of doxology, supplication, mourning and joyful sadness. The objective, however, is prayer and communion with God, which is also reached through Byzantine music, pointing out the purification and serenity of the believer. The ecclesiastical music of the Orthodox Church, as explained by the Protopsaltis Chrysanthos Theodosopoulos has “unmatched lyricism, inexhaustible wealth of ideas and an original and wonderful technique, combining in a wonderful way the structure, content and melody, creating seamless harmonic conjunction with the text”. That is why it is a necessary part of the divine worship within Orthodoxy.
Through this laconic description of Byzantine music, especially during the period of Lent, depicted here, we comprehend the importance of music and ecclesiastical art in general within Orthodoxy, leading all of us towards salvation. Despite the beauty of Byzantine music, we need to understand the hymns, which are full of theology, dogmatics, spirituality, church history. By reading and comprehending the hymns we are able to understand and live the period of Lent, leading towards the ultimate climax, i.e. the Resurrection that is the confirmation of the Old and New Testament, because without the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our faith would be in vain (1 Corinthians, 15:14).

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