Hymn of St. Kassiani (Cassiani)

The hymn of St Kassiani was written by the nun Kassiani in the 9th century. At a yound age she was placed in a contest for bride to Emperor Theophilus. He was to select the winner by the gift of an apple. Tradition tells us that when Theophilus, astonished by her beauty, selected her, he said “through a woman sin came to the world” St Kassiani responded “and by a woman, salvation came to the world”

She is responsible for the composition of many hymns of the church. One of her most notable ones is the one we sing Tuesday night which recalls the woman who anointed Christ’s feet.

Learn more about Kassiani as hymnographer here

Tradition says that in his later years the Emperor Theophilus, still in love with Kassiani, wished to see her one more time before he died, so he rode to the monastery where she resided. Kassiani was alone in her cell, writing her Hymn when she realized that the commotion she heard was because the imperial retinue had arrived. She was still in love with him but was now devoted to God and hid away because she did not want to let her old passion overcome her monastic vow.

She left the unfinished hymn on the table. Theophilus found her cell and entered it alone. He looked for her but she was not there; she was hiding in a closet, watching him. Theophilus felt very sad, cried, and regretted that for a moment of pride he rejected such a beautiful and intellectual woman; then he noticed the papers on the table and read them. When he was done reading, he sat and added one line to the hymn; then he left. The line attributed to the Emperor is the line “those very feet whose sound Eve heard at the dusk in Paradise and hid herself in fear”. Kassiani emerged when the emperor was gone, read what he had written and finished the hymn.

Learn more about Kassiani as hymnographer here

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