The Sublime in the Form of Music – Russian Liturgy

Achieving a sublime state is a result of witnessing something  so great, so awe-inspiring, so delightful or conversely so terrifying that it escapes the ability of mortal man to describe the true essence of the magnificence of the state. I find such a state of sublimity with much of the Russian Liturgical tradition. Chief amongst my life bucket list is attending a liturgical service in the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow with a performance by their wonderful choir.

As made evident by one of my favorite songs, “The Angel Cried,” Russian liturgy is deeply and spiritually rich in the power of its tone, vocal range, Orthodox lyrics, and often weaving in Russian icons and imagery. I am drawn to the traditional Russian proclivity for basing songs off of the Bass and Alto ranges as opposed to the more typical preference in romantic societies for a tenor/soprano locus. Have a listen and see if you agree.

Translated into English, the lyrics are:

The Angel cried to the Lady Full of Grace:
Rejoice, O Pure Virgin!
Again I say: Rejoice!
Your Son is risen from His three days in the tomb.
With Himself He has raised all the dead.
Rejoice, all ye people!
Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem,
The glory of the Lord has shone on you.
Exult now and be glad, O Zion,
Be radiant, O Pure Theotokos,
In the Resurrection of your Son!

Theotokus is the Greek name for Mary, mother of Jesus that is common parlance in Greek and Russian Orthodox liturgy.


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