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Contemplations on the Melismatic Praxis Response – Part 1.
Hail to you, Mary, The fair dove,Who has borne unto usGod the Logos. Blessed are You in truth, With Your Good Father, And the Holy Spirit, For You have come and saved us.
The melismatic Praxis Response begins with the words “Hail to you, Mary.” The length of the hymn itself is helpful in allowing us to have time to speak with our mother, the Virgin Mary, pray to God, and contemplate on the mysteries of salvation that was accomplished because the fair dove accepted to bear God the Logos for nine months in her womb. The hymn then continues with the annual tune. May Christ our Lord hear us and have mercy on us, through the intercessions of the fair dove, Saint Mary, the mother of God and Savior. Amen.
O holy and blessed mother! I have much to tell you, and I cry before you, seeking answers and aid in all the sufferings and afflictions that my soul goes through. You are the heavenly mother, and I trust in your sweet and tender care. Overshadow me with the warm blanket of love; as you did with our newborn Savior and at the last moment under His life-giving Cross. You did not leave His side and cared for Him as a bird over her children in the nest. You are the special and chosen vessel that bore the Savior of my life. You are also seen in the Scriptures as one who would be a tool in the salvation of all peoples: “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (Is.7:14). We sing to you this hymn before the reading of the Acts of the Apostle in the hope that has been granted to us. We acknowledge that you are the first among the apostles and the saints of the Church. Therefore, the generations who have passed, the generations today, and the generations to come, glorify you and sing praises unto you. You are the “Ark of Noah,” the “ladder of Jacob,” the “burning bush,” the “rational mountain,” the “city of God,” the “new Jerusalem,” the “tabernacle of meeting,” the “ark of the Covenant,” the “cover of the ark,” the “pot of manna,” the “rod of Aaron,” the “golden lampstand,” the “golden censer,” the “swift cloud” and, finally, the “gate of Ezekiel.”
At that moment, St. Mary answered the archangel, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38).
“In her belly came and dwelt He who is uncontainable. By her breasts was nourished God Who sustains the whole creation. On her hand she carried God who is carried by the Seraphim. And her knees became His Throne. Her hands steadied the first steps of Him who for us steadied the earth to walk upright, and her lips helped the Word of God to His first human words” (Saint John of Damascus).
”Hail to you, Mary, the fair dove,” who became the chosen vessel in which God the Logos was borne. “Hail to you, Mary, the fair dove,” who because of the spirit of the Lord became a living example of a life of perfection. It was through you that Peace was restored once again to all things. We honor and glorify you along with all the saints in joy. Hence we call you the “pure dove,” a symbol of true peace. An example of purity, an example of unquestionable obedience, an example of unwavering faith, and an example of dedicated service. Lord, give us the strength to follow the examples of your saints in honesty. Let us follow their examples as ones who closely follow the lines of a book, that we may become living examples of You, and that we may preach good tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captive.
To be the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. To comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. That we may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, and that He may be glorified (cf. Is. 61).
Looking at the life and virtues of our pure mother, the Virgin, St. Mary is a very humbling experience. It is to St. Mary that we chant this hymn in the hope of achieving similar virtues. We chant this hymn of deep beauty and strength as a reflection of your beauty and your strength in God, with very few low variations and few unique parts; this hymn is very soothing and comforting to the soul, as it rejoices in your life, for it was you who bore to us the Savior of the whole world. The theme of the hymn is very consistent with very few suttle changes. The focus is clearly on St. Mary and nothing else. Yes, we raise our voices to you, seeking your love and tender care, for you truly gave your all to Christ your Son and God. Yes, we raise our voices to you, imploring you to remember us before the throne of the King of kings and God of gods. Indeed, she submitted her own will and accepted to become part of the plan. She never questioned or made any suggestions. It is my hope that I may learn the same in my own life. You see, we also have an important role to play in God’s plan but it is up to us to understand it by asking: what is it? And how would God work with us? God’s way of doing things and our way is never more acute. We focus on specific actions; God focuses on us. We work from the outside-in; God works from the inside-out. We try; God transforms. When looking at the sheer humility of St. Mary, I am brought to my knees. I suddenly knew what I was doing wrong: I had been using my “natural self” as the starting point. Christ was merely an addition to my life…. After much thought, I resolved to live each day consistently listening to the voice of Christ and letting the new self – the one that Christ gives me –come to life. Christ, please grant me the strength to live a pure and holy life, blameless in Your eyes. Give me the spirit of humility, submission, love, chastity, and obedience, so that I may be a living reflection of You, without any variation, as one standing in front of a mirror. Blessed are You in truth, with Your Good Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“When the mother saw the Lamb, the Shepherd, Savior of the world, hanging on the cross, she spoke weeping, ‘The world will indeed rejoice; it has received salvation, while my heart burns as I behold Your crucifixion, You who has endured it for all, O my Son and my God!’” (Agpeya, Ninth Hour litanies).
How awesome is your love, O pure Virgin! I can’t imagine how difficult it really was to behold your own Son on the wood of the Cross. To see His arms stretched out wide, and to stand in His shadow under the cross. How intense it must have been to be in His presence at that moment, and to pray by His side. Although, you knew that He was indeed “the Lamb and the Shepherd, Savior of the world,” you sensed the pain of a mother. For this reason, you spoke weeping, “The world will indeed rejoice; it has received salvation.” O what a selfless statement of pure and unquestionable obedience. Even though you were in deep agony, you thought of the bigger picture: you thought of Him. For it was He who “endured it for all.” Great is your wisdom, O Mary. O Mother of God, care for us your children, as you did with Christ, your beloved son.
Intercede for us, O Virgin Mary, the fair dove, for abundant is your intercession, strong and acceptable with our Savior. Amen.