St. Kassiani (Cassiani) the Hymnographer (Sept 7)

St. Kassiani the Hymnographer

Commemorated September 7th.

St. Kassiani is best-known for the composition of her hymn of the sinful woman which is sung on Holy Tuesday. You may read a summary of her life here on another post on this blog.

Kassiani was known to be outspoken, and even wrote “I hate silence, when its time to speak” She was also a defiant activist against the the policies which prevented the veneration of icons and received punishment for it.

After refusing the hand of emperor Theophilius, Kassiani founded a convent on Xerolophos, Constantinople’s seventh hill.

She continued as a sacred and secular poet. She had strong convictions and dislikes. She expressed these in several statements, all beginning with the Greek word μισω (I hate)

I hate the fool who acts like a philosopher
I hate the rich man who groans that he is poor
I hate the person who is forever changing his ways
I hate the judge who is a respecter of persons
I hate silence when it is time to speak

Kassiani is noted as one of the world’s most renowned Byzantine liturgical poets in several lists from as far back as the 14th century, which was quite a feat given that most women were discriminated against singing or writing int he church in Constantinople during her time.

We currently have 23 genuine hymns of Kassiani which survive, which include hymns to the saints, and her cannon to the dead which is 32 strophes long.

Her hymn which is sung on Holy Tuesday evening is considered to be one of the elite masterpieces of byzantine hymnography. The structure and style of the troparion is influenced by the seven Penetintial Psalms (6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, 142) three of which as also chanted on that evening. The hymn introduces the woman, recognizing God as Lord, and expresses her extreme humility and repentance.

The woman who had fallen into many sins recognizes Thy Godhead, O Lord. She takes upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer and makes ready the myrrh of mourning, before Thy entombment. Woe to me! saith she, for my night is an ecstasy of excess, gloomy and moonless, and full of sinful desire. Receive the sources of my tears, O Thou Who dost gather into clouds the water of the sea; in Thine ineffable condescension, deign to bend down Thyself to me and to the lamentations of my heart, O Thou Who didst spread out the Heavens. I will fervently embrace Thy sacred feet, and wipe them again with the tresses of the hair of my head, Thy feet at whose sound Eve hid herself for fear when she heard Thee walking in Paradise in the cool of the day. O my Saviour and soul-Saver who can trace out the multitude of my sins, and the abysses of Thy judgement? Do not disregard me Thy servant, O Thou Whose mercy is boundless.