Cherubic Hymn – Holy Liturgy of Holy Saturday morning
This ancient, alternate Cherubic Hymn is believed to have originated from the Church of Jerusalem. It is also chanted during the Liturgy of St James (Αγ. Ιακώβου). It bears some similarities to the usual Cherubic Hymn in its exhortation to abandon any earthly thought as Christ is presented to us as “divine food” (“now lay aside all earthly care” the Cherubic Hymn) and the mention of the angelic hierarchies.
Silence is a necessary prerequisite to contemplate what is about to take place not only in the Liturgy but also in preparation for the Resurrection. St Diadochos of Photiki writes that, “spiritual knowledge comes through prayer, deep stillness and complete detachment.” 1 Often our attachment to the work of the world can hinder our ability to find peace and contemplation in the approach to Pascha. We can easily become distracted during the Holy Week services, as our churches fill with multitudes of people. There is constant movement at home as we prepare the Paschal Table. It can become easy for us to lose focus on the “one thing needful” (Lk 10:42), which is Christ Himself.
The angels themselves are in a continuous state of contemplation and communion with the Risen Christ. In explaining who the Cherubim and Seraphim are, St Dionysios the Areopagite writes that this “first rank of heavenly beings… is filled with divine nourishment which is abundant, because it comes from the initial stream and nevertheless single, because the nourishing gifts of God bring oneness in a unity without diversity.” 2 He also writes that Seraphim means:“the capacity to push aside and to do away with every obscuring shadow.” 3
The period of Holy Week and Pascha is an expansion and recapitulation of what we live during every Holy Liturgy. Christ defeated the “obscuring shadow” of death and corruption so we can participate in true Life. It is time for us also to “do away with every obscuring shadow” of our earthly existence, “giving no thought to things of the earth.”
- St Diadochos of Photiki, “On Spiritual Knowledge” Volume 1, The Philokalia, London, Faber and Faber, 1979
trans. by G.E.H Palmer, P. Sherrard & Kallistos Ware p. 255
- St Dionysius the Areopagite, “The Celestial Hierarchy” , Pseudo-Dionysius, The Complete Works, CWS, New Jersey, Paulist Press, 1987, trans. by Colm Luibheid, p. 165, 212A
- ibid. p.162, 205C
Source: April-May 2015 Lychnos Edition