Who is St. Kassiani?
St. Kassiani the Hymnographer is the patron of our archdiocese choir- The St. Kassiani Antiochian Orthodox Choir (follow the link to learn more).
St Kassiani was born in Constantinople around 805AD. Part of an aristocratic family, she received an excellent education, both secular and sacred. Kassiani was not only intelligent but was also renowned for her beauty. She was invited to take part in a bride-show aimed at finding a wife for the emperor Theophilus. Impressed with her beauty, Theophilus approached Kassiani, and said: “From woman came corruption” (referring to Eve, who initiated the fall of man). To which the most-wise Kassiani responded: “And from woman came the most excellent” (referring to the Theotokos who gave birth to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ). His pride wounded by her wisdom and boldness, Theophilus withdrew from her and chose another maiden as his bride. Kassiani, who had no desire to be Empress, now felt free to pursue a higher calling as a bride of God. Renouncing the world, she built a convent in Constantinople and becoming a nun, she led an ascetical and philosophical life, pleasing to God.
She pursued her literary and musical interests, becoming the Orthodox Church’s first and only female hymnographer, with at least twenty-three hymns ascribed to her in our Orthodox service books. Her most famous hymn bears her name “The Hymn of Kassiani” and is chanted in Holy Week at the Bridegroom Service on Holy Tuesday evening as well as Holy Wednesday Morning. It is a highly anticipated piece, often considered the most beautiful of all hymns, about the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet before His passion.
After a life dedicated to Christ and the Church, Saint Kassiani reposed in the Lord. Her Feast Day is celebrated on September 7th.
Why St. Kassiani?
Every choir needs a name; a Patron Saint to guide and inspire it. There are so many choirs in the Orthodox World already named after amazing hymnographers such as St. Romanos the Melodist and St. John of Damascus.
Our Archdiocese Choir is a young and unique choir, and thus it needed a unique name. Taking a look at the choir, we instantly see that half of its members are female. Better yet, taking a look at our Antiochian Churches, we can see the amazing contribution that women – our mothers, sisters, and wives – make in our Archdiocese. What better way to pay tribute to women in the Antiochian Orthodox Church, and to our only treasured female hymnographer? She was passionate for her Church; passionate for the truth and passionate about her music.
As one of her biographer’s comments:
“She lived only for God, to the end of her life.”
May we all one day be able to say the same of ourselves.