The Hymn of Cassiane the Nun

“O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins perceived Thy divinity, and taking upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer, with lamentation she bringeth Thee myrrh-oils before Thine entombment. Woe unto me! saith she, for night is become for me a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountains of my tears, O Thou Who gatherest into clouds the water of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O Thou Who didst bow the Heavens by Thine ineffable condescension. I will kiss Thine immaculate feet and wipe them again with the tresses of my head; those feet, at whose sound Eve hid herself for fear when she heard Thee walking in Paradise in the cool of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Thy judgments, who can search them out, O Saviour of souls, my Saviour? Do not disdain me, Thy handmaiden, O Thou Who art boundless in mercy.”

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This most compunctionate hymn is the Doxastikon (the hymn chanted at the Glory) chanted at the end of Matins for Holy and Great Wednesday. St. Cassiane authored many hymns, most famous is the hymn presented here, which is chanted in the Matins service for Holy Wednesday, on the subject of the sinning woman. Based on the story from St. Luke’s Gospel (7:36-50), this hymn blends dramatic and narrative elements to create a masterpiece of hymnography which manages, in a few short lines, to present the essential Christian drama of sin and salvation.

In this most-moving hymn is the summation of our hope, that is, in the boundless and unfathomable mercy of our great God! What shall I render unto Thee for all that Thou hast done for me, O Lord! To the Orthodox Christian, this is not a philosophical principle but it is reality. This hope in God’s mercy propels us toward deification.