By St. Romanos the Melodist
Today you have appeared to the whole world, and your light, O Lord, has made a sign upon us who, with knowledge, sing your praise, “You have come, you have appeared, the unapproachable Light.”
In Galilee of the Gentiles, in the country of Zebulon and the land of Nepthali, as the prophet said, a great light has shone—Christ Himself. For the darkened, a shining beam has appeared, blazing out of Bethlehem, or rather, out of Mary—the Lord, the sun of justice, has made his rays dawn on the whole inhabited world. Therefore let us all, Adam’s naked children, put him on that we may be kept warm; for as a covering for the naked and a light for the darkened your have come, you have appeared, the unapproachable Light.
God did not despise the one who was robbed by trickery in Paradise and lost the garment woven by God, for he came towards him calling with his holy voice once again to the disobedient one, “Adam, where are you?” From now on, do not hide from me; I want to see you. Though you are naked, though you are poor, do not be ashamed, for I have become like you. Though you desired it you did not become a god, but now, by my own will, I have become flesh. Draw near me then and recognize me, that you may say, “You have come, you have appeared, the unapproachable Light.
“In my mercy, I was overcome by my compassion and came to my creature, stretching out my hands to embrace you. So do not be ashamed in front of me; for your sake, naked as you are, I am stripped naked and baptized. Already the Jordan opens for me, and John prepares my ways in the waters and in minds.” The Savior spoke thus to humanity, not in words, but in deeds, and came, as he said, drawing near to the river on foot, but to the Forerunner as the unapproachable Light.
These selections are a prose rendition of the first three stanzas of St. Romanos’ Kontakion for the Baptism of Christ of Holy Theophany. Originally from Syria, St Romanos spent most of his life in Constantinople during the sixth century, the “Golden Age” of Greek hymnography. He established the kontakion, a kind “chanted sermon” well known to the Orthodox faithful, as the poetic voice of the Byzantine Church. He is said to have written more than 1000 kontakia and is widely considered to be “the greatest poet of the Greek middles ages.”
You can hear another selection from St Romanos’ Konatkion for the Holy Theophany chanted in Greek by Cappella Romana here: