Greek Orthodox Religious Hymns Music Playlist

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THIS GREEK ORTHODOX RELIGIOUS HYMNS MUSIC PLAYLIST WAS PUT TOGETHER BY AGES INITIATIVES:

For more information about the hymns of the Greek Orthodox Church, as well as complete bilingual services in a digital service book format optimized for mobile devices, visit the Digital Chant Stand website, and look for the free Digital Chant Stand app for iPhone and iPad in the Apple App Store, or the free AGES Service Book app for Android in the Google Play store. The Digital Chant Stand is produced by AGES Initiatives, an independent tax-exempt nonprofit (501c3) that provides free bilingual service texts and music to Greek Orthodox parishes all around the world. Consider supporting our ministry with a tax-deductible gift via PayPal; you can also reach our Executive Director Richard Barrett with any questions or feedback. Thank you!

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The hymns that we sing are one of the most distinctive elements of Greek Orthodox church services. Whether it’s the entire congregation singing Χριστὸς ἀνέστη at Easter, ἡ γέννησή σου Χριστέ at Christmas, or the psaltis or choir singing Αίνεῖτε τὸν Κύριον on Sundays, our sacred singing has the power to bring joy to our worship. As St. Basil the Great wrote in the fourth century, “[God] blended the delight of melody with doctrine… according to the practice of wise physicians who, when they give the more bitter draughts to the sick, often smear the rim of the cup with honey.”

What are we singing and where do these hymns come from? Some non-scriptural hymns, like the lamplighting hymn Φῶς ἱλαρόν we chant during Vespers, were there in the early days — we even have a letter from a second-century Roman provincial governor to the emperor in which he describes hymn-singing as one of the defining characteristics of Christian worship. However, the vast majority of what Christians sang in worship in the first few centuries were the Psalms. In fact, when we talk about “chanting” in church, we’re talking about something originally referred to in Greek as ψαλμῳδία, the singing of Psalms. Many newly-composed hymns were originally intended to be sung either as antiphons, or responses, to psalms, or to be interspersed with psalm verses, and we still sing many hymns now that accompany psalm verses.

In the fourth century, St. Ephraim the Syrian wrote many hymns for his congregation that functioned as musical homilies that expounded on the scriptures and theology. Different elements of the form and style of hymnography St. Ephraim used were adopted in Constantinople and in Rome; St. Ambrose of Milan taught his congregations responsorial psalmody “after the manner of the Eastern church” (according to St. Augustine’s Confessions), and St. John Chrysostom used antiphonal hymn-singing to fight processions of heretics in Constantinople.

In the fifth century, the approach to hymnography as musical homily flourished in the form known as the kontakion, a long poetic work would have been sung during cathedral vigils; the so-called Akathistos hymn that is sung during the Salutations services of Great Lent is an example of a kontakion that has been in continuous use through the present. In the sixth century, St. Romanos the Melodist wrote hundreds of kontakia for different seasons and saints, parts of which we still sing during the Divine Liturgy today.

Perhaps starting in the seventh century, Palestinian monks began to use the nine Biblical Canticles — hymns found in the text of Scripture itself outside of the Psalms, such as the Song of Moses, the Song of the Three Youths, the Magnificat of the Mother of God, and so on — as the basis for a type of hymn called a canon. Sung during Orthros, a canon inserts short hymns called troparia that have to do with the church season or feast day, using the theme of the Canticle as a starting point. Hymnographers such as St. Andrew of Crete, St. John of Damascus, St. Theophanes the Branded, and others composed a large repertory of canons that we still sing in our modern services, like the Canon of the Akathistos (Ἀνοίξω τὸ στόμα μου), the Easter Canon (Άναστάσεως ἡμέρα), the Christmas Canon (Χριστὸς γεννᾶται, δοξάσατε), and others.

Hymnographers from many different walks of life have continued to write hymns over the centuries, including the ninth century St. Kassia the Nun, whose hymn “Κύριε, ἡ ἐν πολλαῖς ἁμαρτίαις, περιπεσοῦσα γυνή” is one of the highlights of Holy Week every year. Hymnography is also still very much a living tradition in our own time; every time a new saint is recognized, such as the recently-glorified St. Elder Paisios, somebody has to write the hymns for that saint’s feast day so that we can all sing in their honor.

The hymns that we sing and hear in our worship connect us to the past while focusing us on our worship of God in the present and preparing us for the age to come. As we sing in the words of the Cherubic Hymn every Sunday, through the sung worship of the Greek Orthodox Church, we “lay aside every care of this life, for we are about to receive the King of All.”

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