The Monk Romanos the Melodist

Commemorated on October 1

      The Monk Romanos the Melodist was born in the V Century in the Syrian city of Emessa. Having moved on to Constantinople, he became a church-attendant in the temple of Saint Sophia. The monk spent his nights alone at prayer in a field or in the Blakhernae church out beyond the city.
      Saint Romanos did not initially have the talent for reading and song. One time, on the eve of the Nativity of Christ, he read the kathisma verses, but so poorly, that another reader had to take his place, and the clergy made fun of Romanos. The youth for a long while in grief prayed before an icon of the MostHoly Mother of God. The Mother of God appeared at night in a dream-vision to the saint, and haven given him a scroll (in Greek "kondakion" or "khontakhion"), commanded him to eat it. Thus did the Monk Romanos receive the gift of book understanding, compostion and the making of churchly song. This was on the day of the Nativity of Christ. For the all-night vigil Saint Romanos in a wondrous voice sang forth in church his first kondak: "Today the Virgin giveth birth to the Transcendent One...". From this scroll ("kondakion") all the songs of the monk became known as kondakions or kondaks. Saint Romanos was also the first to write in the form of the "ikos", – a song-form which he incorporated into the all-night vigil at his places of domicile (in Greek "oikos").

      For his zealous service Saint Romanos was ordained to the dignity of deacon and became a teacher of song. Up until his death, which occurred in about the year 556, the Monk-deacon Romanos the Melodist composed nearly a thousand church-songs, many of which Christians still use to glorify the Lord.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.