Above: Bass Clef
Image in the Public Domain
SAINT ROMANOS THE MELODIST (CIRCA 490-CIRCA 556)
Priest and Hymn Writer
I, unlike many people around whom I grew up in rural South Georgia, USA, have a finely-honed sense of history. In certain United Methodist congregations during the 1980s I heard many people speak of “old” songs. “Old,” for them, indicated authorship in the late 1800s through the middle 1900s. They had as much of a sense of history as a character from a 1980s low-budget film about an expert on early music. In one scene the music historian identified himself as such when a young woman asked him what he did for a living. When she heard “early music,” she asked,
Do you mean Elvis?
I, with my sense of history in full gear, introduce you, O reader, to St. Romanos the Melodist (circa 490-circa 556). He was born at Emesa (now Homs), Syria. The saint became deacon at Beirut before moving to Constantinople and serving as a priest there, beginning during the reign of Emperor Anastasius I (491-518). (For an account of church-state politics during the reign of Anastasius I, follow this link: https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/feast-of-sts-flavian-ii-of-antioch-and-elias-of-jerusalem-july-20/.) The saint composed over a thousand hymns, about eighty of which survive. Among these is the Kontakion, a dialogue between St. Mary of Nazareth (the Theotokos) and the Magi. The Orthodox Church, which has a strong sense of history, continues to use his works in its liturgies.
St. Romanos used a talent–hymn writing–for the glory of God in the beauty of worship, an orthodox specialty. What beauty will you, O reader, contribute for the edification of others and the glory of God?
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
AUGUST 17, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY CUTLER AND THOMAS BRADBURY CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIESTS
St. Romanos the Melodist Society:
Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:
We bless your name for inspiring Saint Romanos the Melodist and all those who with words
have filled us with desire and love for you;
through Jesus Christ our Savior,
who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Chronicles 29:14b-19
2 Corinthians 3:1-3
John 21:15-17, 24-25
–modified slightly from the Proper for Artists and Writers,
Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728