Post date: Mar 18, 2014 4:43:55 PM
Several of our most beloved saints and theologians have also been poets. St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Symeon the New Theologian, and, closer to our days, St. Nicolai (Velimirovic) of Zica and Ohrid and just several examples of this. These saints expressed their faith through the poems, and their poems often took the form of a prayer. The Psalter itself, which is the most used prayer book of the Church, is poetry.
It is not accidental that poetry plays such an important role in the faith. Dogmatic definitions are important, but they are simply guideposts for our understanding of God: beyond these we should not pass. However, they do not say anything about our day-to-day experience of God. The actual encounter with God, as these saints show us, cannot be described by simple statements. God’s presence goes beyond our ability to rationally and orderly describe, and for this reason the best way, perhaps the only way, to attempt to describe that presence is through poetry.
This brings me to the service of the Salutations to the Theotokos. This is a beautiful example of Orthodox poetry that brings us to a closer understanding of the Incarnation and of the role the Theotokos plays in our faith. If we listen to the hymns with both mind and heart, we can be transformed by the poetry of the Church. And this is not true of only the Akathist hymn, but of so many of the hymns and prayers which express our faith in a poetic manner.
This is part of the reason why it is essential that our experience of the Church be more than a Sunday Liturgy experience. The prayers and hymns of the Liturgy are beautiful and important, but if that is all we know of Orthodoxy, then we are missing out on the vast majority of her richness and beauty. To remedy that, let us take this Lenten season as an opportunity to begin to deepen our faith by nourishing our hearts with the hymns and prayers of our weekday services: Compline, Presanctified Liturgy, and Salutations.
With love in Christ,