Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I guess I'm not as smart as the Pope...

... in today's Wednesday audience (held indoors due to the unseasonable rain), the Holy Father spoke about St Romanus the Melodist. I must confess, I'd never heard of this guy before.
Anyway, what does Wikipedia have to say about him?
Romanos (or Romanus), also known as Saint Romanos the Melodist or Roman the Hymnographer, was one of the greatest of Greek hymnographers, called "the Pindar of rhythmic poetry". He flourished during the sixth century, which is considered to be the "Golden Age" of Byzantine hymnography.
The main source of information about the life of Romanos comes from the Menaion for October. Beyond this, his name is mentioned by only two other ancient sources. One in the eighth-century poet St. Germanos, and once in the Souda (s. v. anaklomenon), where he is called "Romanos the melodist". From this scanty evidence we learn that he was born to a Jewish family in either Emesa (modern-day Homs) or Damascus in Syria. He was baptized as a young boy (though whether or not his parents also converted is uncertain). Having moved to Berytus (Beirut), he was ordained a deacon in the Church of the Resurrection there.
He later moved to Constantinople during the reign of the emperor Anastasius—on the question whether Anastasius I (491-518) or Anastasius II (713-716) is meant, the renowed byzantinologist, Prof. Karl Krumbacher favours the earlier date.[1] There he served as sacristan in the "Great Church" (Hagia Sophia), residing to the end of his life at the Monastery of Kyros, where he was buried along with his disciple St. Ananias.
There's also the wonderful account of how he started off:
According to legend, Romanus was not at first considered to be either a talented reader or singer. He was, however, loved by the Patriarch of Constantinople because of his great humility. Once, around the year 518, while serving in the Church of the Panagia at Blachernae, during the All-Night Vigil for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, he was assigned to read the kathisma verses from the Psalter. He read so poorly that another reader had to take his place. Some of the lesser clergy ridiculed Romanus for this, and being humilitated he sat down in one of the choir stalls. Overcome by weariness and sorrow, he soon fell asleep. As he slept, the Theotokos (Mother of God) appeared to him with a scroll in her hand. She commanded him to eat the scroll, and as soon as he did so, he awoke. He immediately received a blessing from the Patriarch, mounted the ambo (pulpit), and chanted extemporaneously his famous Kontakion of the Nativity, "Today the Virgin gives birth to Him Who is above all being…." The emperor, the patriarch, the clergy, and the entire congregation were amazed at both the profound theology of the hymn and Romanos' clear, sonorous voice as he sang. According to tradition, this was the very first kontakion ever sung. The Greek word "kontakion" (κοντάκιον) refers to the shaft on which a scroll is wound, hence the significance of the Theotokos' command for him to swallow a scroll, indicating that his compositions were by divine inspiration.

2 comments:

Castor said...

St. Roman is well known in the Byzantine Churches. Typically, the Latin Church(es) know very little about all of the other Churches, Catholic or otherwise. Pope Benedict shows us that theological ecumenism begins with the East.

Anonymous said...

Very like St. Caedmon.