A Light in the Darkness
The underlined text refers to the fulfillment of the prophecy in that it references Christ, the True Light, going to Galilee. The italicized text references the ministry of our Savior, and specifically what he preached to the Gentiles.
|}galilea `nte nie;noc @ nyethemci qen `p,aki @ nem `tqyibi `m`vmou @ ounis] `nouwini afsai nwou.||
Galilee of the nations | those who were sitting in darkness | and the shadow of death | had great light shine upon them.
The first verse of this hymn is taken directly from a prophecy in the Old Testament.
From the Book of Isaiah the Prophet
“In Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2
The prophecy then continues on,
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7
We notice that this prophecy from the book of Isaiah attributes the great light to the incarnation of our Lord, and then continues to speak of His kingdom. This Child, who is born to us, is in fact Christ the King, who comes to enlighten all peoples, the Jews and Gentiles, and lead them into His eternal kingdom. Justice has been established for all mankind through the coming of the Governor, Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God. These words are fulfilled in the gospel accounts of the New Testament.
From the Gospel of St. Matthew the Evangelist
“Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’.” Matthew 4:12-17
From the Gospel of St. Mark the Beholder of God
“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’.” Mark 1:14-15
From the Gospel of St. Luke the Physician
“To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:79
“Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.” Luke 4:14-15
St. John Chrysostom connects the words of the prophet Isaiah to the actions of Christ. He explains that man’s condition before Christ’s coming was entirely dreadful. Our Lord came, of His own will and compassion, to change the course of the human race: to give hope to the hopeless and to lift those who are unable to stand.
St. John Chrysostom
“Mark how the prophet distinguishes that place, saying ‘The land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people which sat in darkness, saw great light’: by darkness here not meaning that which is sensible, but men’s errors and ungodliness. Wherefore he also added, “They which sat in the region and shadow of death, to them light is sprung up.” For that thou mightest learn that neither the light nor the darkness which he speaks of are sensible, in discoursing of the light, he called it not merely light, but ‘a great light’ which elsewhere he expresses by the word, True: and in describing the darkness, he termed it, ‘a shadow of death.’ Then implying that they did not of themselves seek and find, but that God showed Himself to them from above, he saith to them, ‘Light is sprung up;’ that is, the light of itself sprang up and shone forth: it was not that they first ran to the light. For in truth the condition of men was at the worst before Christ’s coming. Since they more than ‘walked in darkness;’ they ‘sat in darkness;’ a kind of sign that they did not even hope to be delivered. For as persons not even knowing where to put a step forward, so they sat, overtaken by the darkness, not being able so much as to stand any more.” Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew, 14.1
Our teacher St. Paul also speaks of the light, that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. He then elaborates on the power of this gospel, to raise even the dead to life!
From the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians
“Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.“ II Corinthians 4:1-6
From the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”” Ephesians 5:8-14
Verse 1 Summary
- This hymn is about the mystery of Christ’s incarnation and ministry to the world.
- The first verse is rooted in a prophecy from the book of Isaiah.
- The prophecy was fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament.
- The Apostles and the early Church Fathers understood this prophecy as man’s revival from sin and death.
Verses 2 – 3
|Vnou] vye;moten `mmof @ qen nye;ouab `ntaf @ af[icarx qen }par;enoc @ e;be vyete vwn `noujai.||God who rests | in his holy places | took flesh from the Virgin | for our salvation.|
|Amwini anau arisvyri @ hwc ;elyl qen ouslyloui @ hijen paimuctyrion @ etafouwnh nan ebol.||Come behold and be amazed | praise and sing with joy | on account of this mystery | which has been revealed to us.|
These two verses reiterate the concepts expressed in the introductory verse, and then prepare us for what is to come in the latter verses. The mention of God’s place of rest leads us to several biblical passages. Of these passages, Psalm 132 comes to mind quickly.
The psalm speaks of the temple that David sought to build as a house for the Lord to dwell in. David says:
“Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength.” (Psalms 132:8) It then continues, “For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: ‘This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it’.” (Psalms 132:8,13-14)
The Virgin Mary is Zion, the Lord’s place of rest, in whom He desired to dwell for the sake of our salvation. This is the mystery that has been revealed to us: the incarnation of the Savior of the world, from the Virgin Mary. There is much more to this mystery, however, than the virginal conception and birth. The coming portion of this hymn expands on the true significance of what God has done in order to save us.
Verses 4 – 5
|Je Piatcarx af[icarx @ ouoh Pilogoc af`q;ai @ Piatar,y aferhytc @ Piatcyou afswpi qa ou,ronoc.||For the One without flesh took flesh | and the Word became bodily | the One without beginning began | the Eternal One came into time.|
|Piat`stahof aujemjwmf @ Pia;nau erof cenau erof @ Psyri `m`Vnou] etonq @ afswpi `nsyri `nrwmi qen oume;myi.||The Incomprehensible has been touched | the Invisible has been seen | the Son of the living God | has become the Son of Man in truth.|
How magnificent! The Eternal and Omnipotent, God completely emptied Himself in order to save mankind. What wonder it is, that all these paradoxes occur in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is just as profound that these verses are taken directly from the writings of St. Cyril of Alexandria! They are an excerpt from his letter to the Egyptian monks, a diplomatic discourse against the teachings of the Nestorian heresy, without ever mentioning the heretic’s name. The following photo is taken from a book by Dr. Youhanna Nessim Youssef, about the Psalmody of the Coptic Church.
These two verses, specifically, are used numerous times in Coptic rites because of the sheer importance of the dogma expressed in them. Let’s not forget that the author is known as Pictulloc `nte pinah], the Pillar of the Faith.
|Iycouc Pi,rictoc `ncaf nem voou@ `n;of `n;of pe nem sa eneh @ qen ouhupoctacic `nouwt @ tenouwst `mmof ten]wou naf.||Jesus Christ is the same | yesterday, today and forever | in one hypostasis | we worship Him and glorify Him.|
The beginning half of this verse is taken directly from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.” Hebrews 13:8-9
It is as if the author of this work of art is declaring to us the faith of the Church. This is the dogma that Christ himself has handed down to us. Do not believe anything else that comes about at any point in time. As St. Athanasius so eloquently puts it:
“But, beyond these sayings, let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers kept. Upon this the Church is founded, and he who should fall away from it would not be a Christian, and should no longer be so called.” Letter to Serapion, 1.28
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became the Son of Man from the Virgin Mary, through the great mystery of the incarnation. He came to save all of mankind, the Jew and the Gentile alike, and to raise them from death to life!
|A Viwt joust ebolqen `tve @ `mpefjem vyetoni `mmo @ afouwrp `mpefmonogenyc @ i af[icarx ebol `nqy].||The Father looked from heaven | He found no one like you | He sent his Only Begotten | who came and took flesh from you.|
This final verse is the refrain of each piece of the Wednesday Tadakia. It is attributed to Pope Celestine of Rome, taken from a sermon regarding the Archangel Gabriel. Currently, there is a manuscript in a New York museum that contains this homily, written in Sahidic Coptic. This information was taken from the comparison done by the well known scholar, Dr. Youhanna Nessim Youssef.
It is a well placed conclusion that relays the beauty of the Virgin Mother of God as the best of the human race. She is pivotal to our life in Christ.
Now that we’ve seen just how thorough each of the verses is, we can move on to the placement and use of this masterpiece in the Coptic Orthodox Rite…