“Rejoice, O Wood and Tree of Life, the Fount of Immortality”

“Rejoice, O Wood and Tree of Life, the Fount of Immortality” November 11, 2019

“Rejoice, O wood and tree of life, the fount of immortality.” In light of recent controversy over the Amazon Synod, this particular verse from the Agni Parthene stood out as I listened to it tonight. Today is Remembrance Day in Canada, when we remember the service and sacrifice of our fallen veterans. I was taking a moment to reflect upon Heaven and the eternal peace that can only be achieved by Our Lord Jesus Christ through the intercession of His (Our!) Blessed Mother.

The title “Agni Parthene” is commonly translated into English as “O Virgin Pure”. Many Byzantine Christians–myself included–consider it one of the most beautiful hymns ever composed to the Blessed Mother of God.

It is certainly one of the most popular.

The hymn was composed by Greek Orthodox bishop, mystic, and miracle worker St Nectarios of Aegina sometime in the late 19th Century. Reportedly after the Blessed Mother surrounded by heavenly angels appeared to him at a monastery during a period of intense fasting and prayer. It is said that the Blessed Theotokos herself dictated the words to him, which she ask be set to the music with which this hymn became popular.

As an aside, St Nectarios is known to have consecrated deaconesses for a women’s monastery that he founded, and the liturgy among Eastern Orthodox Churches by which female monastics become deaconesses is now known among Eastern Orthodox as “the ritual of St Nektarios”. Although the ritual itself predates the saint. His feast day is November 9, which is coming up soon in the Julian Calendar.

What struck me tonight is the reference to Our Blessed Mother as “the tree of life”. Within the Byzantine Christian tradition, the term “tree of life” usually refers to Our Lord’s cross. Yet here it refers to the Blessed Mother. I should not be surprised by this given that “Mary, Tree of Life” is a very popular and traditional icon among Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics.

I am blessed by this connection given its reminder that it is from the Blessed Theokos that Our Lord Jesus Christ received His humanity. Not just His human flesh but His whole human person. Without Mary as the Tree of Life, there would have been no hypostatic union between God and man at the Incarnation. It is through Mary, the Tree of Life, that Our Lord Jesus Christ made salvation possible.

Here are the complete lyrics, with a link to youtube recital.

******************
AGNI PARTHENE

O virgin pure, Immaculate lady Theotokus
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

O Virgin Mother, Queen of all/ and fleece which is all dewy

Rejoice, O unwedded bride

More radiant than the rays of sun/ and higher than the heavens
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

Delight of virgin choruses/ superior to Angels.
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

Much brighter than the firmament/ and purer than the sun’s light
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

More holy than the multitude/ of all the heav’nly armies.
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

O Ever Virgin Mary/ of all the world, the Lady
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

O bride all pure, immaculate/ O Lady Panagia
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

O Mary bride and Queen of all/ our cause of jubilation
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

Majestic maiden, Queen of all/ O our most holy Mother
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

More hon’rable than Cherubim/ beyond compare more glorious
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

than immaterial Seraphim/ and greater than angelic thrones.
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

Rejoice, O song of Cherubim/ Rejoice, O hymn of angels
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

Rejoice, O ode of Seraphim/ the joy of the archangels
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

Rejoice, O peace and happiness/ the harbor of salvation
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

O sacred chamber of the Word/ flow’r of incorruption
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

Rejoice, delightful paradise/ of blessed life eternal
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

Rejoice, O wood and tree of life/ the fount of immortality.
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

I supplicate you, Lady/ now do I call upon you
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

And I beseech you, Queen of all/ I beg of you your favor
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

Majestic maiden, spotless one/ O Lady Panagia
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

I call upon you fervently/ O sacred, hallowed temple
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

Assist me and deliver me/ protect me from the enemy
Rejoice, O unwedded bride

And make me an inheritor/ of blessed life eternal.
Rejoice, O unwedded bride


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