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Hail! ray of the spiritual Sun.
Hail! Ray-flash of never-waning light.
Hail! lightening flash illumining souls.
Hail! thunder-clap frightening foes.…
Hail! scent of Christ’s sweetness.
Hail! life of mystical feasting.
Hail! Bride and Virgin ever pure.

On the fifth Friday of Lent the entire Akathist is chanted. It usually happens that his occurs near the feast of the Annunciation. The faithful stand during the entire hymn. Anyone who has ever attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah will recall the moment when the fanfare announcing the Hallelujah Chorus blazes forth. Following the custom of King George at its world premiere, all stand. The music is so stirring that none can remain seated. So too with the Akathist whose very name means “hymn during which no one sits.”

At the service’s conclusion the faithful approach the icon of the Virgin Mary; making a holy kiss. As they do so, the choir intones a beautiful melody:

At the magnificence of your virginity and the exceeding splendor of your purity Gabriel stood amazed and cried out to you, O Mother of God, “What hymn of praise can I offer that is fitting for you. By what name call upon you? I am lost in an ecstacy. But I shall do as I was commanded and cry out to You: Hail! O you made perfect in grace!

The pope, too, seems to have experienced delight in the Akathist. Later he expressed his gratitude for so great a blessing and enriched the Akathist with a plenary indulgence to encourage its practice throughout the universal church. The church breathes with both lungs once more!

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Father Romanos is a priest of the Melkite-Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton, Mass.

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