Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hirmos of Pascha

"The angel cried out to the one who is full of grace: 'Hail, O Immaculate Virgin! Hail again! For your Son is risen from the tomb on the third day!' Shine! Shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has shown upon you. Rejoice and be glad, O Sion, and you O Pure One, O Mother of God, exalt in the resurrection of your Son."
The Hirmos, sung after the consecration in the Byzantine rite from Pascha until Pentecost, is rendered above. The second line refers to our Lady as the "New Jerusalem." What could this mean?

Jerusalem was the sight of God's covenant with the people of Israel and the location of His temple. Many a historian have remarked that Jerusalem was not a city with a temple, but rather a large temple surrounded by a city. The Jews worshiped within the outer walls of this temple regularly, but only on the Day of Atonement did the appointed priest enter the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of sacrificed animals in reparation for the sins of the people of that city. Of course there was no true remission of sins until Christ's death on the Cross, yet we see typology of the forgiveness of sins within the walls of God's dwelling place.

The Virgin Mary's unique role in the process of our salvation is that she provided a place for this final remission of sins to commence. Within her bounds dwelt God in a way far more vivid than He did for the inhabitants of Jerusalem in 900 B.C. In this dwelling of God the remission of sins was no longer a petition but an eventual reality.

Typology aside, this has consequences for us. The temple and urban inhabitants comprised the city of Jerusalem. Our Lord would correspond to the Holy of Holies, the dwelling of God in His covenant with men, so who parallels the people of the holy city? We do. The Church fulfills this ancient type of God's "chosen people." From the Cross our Lord gave mankind to His Mother as her child and asked mankind to honor His Mother as his own (John 19:26-27). From this imparting of man to Mary inestimable devotion and theology arose, yet we can also apply this Johannine passage to the Paschal Hirmos. Mary, as the "New Jerusalem " is both the location of our habitat and God's dwelling place. Far from alienating our Lady from the human race, Christ's imparting of her to us solidifies His presence among us through her. She is a marker for the unity of the Church of Christ.

This is just a private reflection and one that I do not think conflicts with any great theological tradition, East or West. I wrote this modest passage to make a plain illustration of how doctrine and theology can spring from the germination of liturgy, in which we express and profess our belief to God. Liturgical prayer preserves statements of faith during times when those formulae might fall into disuse, and also builds upon other existing conceptions of faith. Above all the liturgies of the Church provide the basis for how we as human beings speak to God in heaven. If He grants us His graces then we should assume He is pleased with what we have said to Him.

A blessed Easter season to all!

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