A Light in the Darkness
}galilea is chanted as a processional hymn on a various occasions. The first two instances are the Feasts of our Lord’s Entry into the Temple and Entry into Egypt. This rite is a very important one, although it is almost entirely forgotten. On these two feasts, after the reading of the holy gospel, the priests wrap the euaggelion, which is the gospel, or bishara, in white linen and process inside the sanctuary, around the altar, three times. After they complete the three rounds, the priest stands at the door of the sanctuary and all of the congregants go up and kiss the euaggelion. What is the purpose of this procession? What is the connection between the two feasts, and why this hymn?
In some manuscripts, there is a contemplation that the priest holds the gospel in his hand as a symbol of Simeon the elder bearing Christ in his hands. However, this contemplation falls short because the procession is also done for the Feast of the Lord’s Entry into Egypt. Also, the understanding of symbolism during the centuries in which these manuscripts were written was drastically different from the understanding of the fathers who developed these rites hundreds of years prior. This indicates that there is a much more powerful reasoning for this rite and it pertains to }galilea.
Salvation for all people! The coming of the Lord and his ministry was not for one nation alone, but for the entire human race. This hymn reiterates the reality of Christ’s (1) birth from the Virgin, (2) fulfilling the prophecies, (3) going to both the Jews and the Gentiles, and (4) preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Hence, the hymn and procession take place on the feasts of the Entry into the Temple, the dwelling of God with Israel, and on the feast of Entry into Egypt, Christ’s dwelling with the Gentiles. All members of the Church, both men and women, are drawn to kiss the Gospel, to be enlightened by the living Word of God, Christ Himself. He is the True Light that has come into the world to enlighten every man, without discrimination or favoritism.
There is one other mention of a procession using this hymn. It comes in the Rite of Holy Matrimony as is written by Pope Gabriel the 88th patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church. In his book, Order of Liturgical Prayers, he says that }galilea is also chanted as a processional hymn for the bridegroom when he reaches the place of the wedding/writing of the contract inside the church.
We must also ask: What does this hymn have to do with the wedding ceremony? The response is all the more beautiful!
“Most importantly, we notice that the Virgin Mary is referred to, not as ]selet [the bride], but as pimanselet [the chamber, or better yet, the place of the wedding]. This is based on the premise that the divine wedding, between Christ, the true bridegroom, and the entire human race, took place in her womb. This also serves to prove that our unity with God began at the very moment in which the Word united with the holy humanity which he took from the Virgin Mary” – Fr. Athanasius el Maqary
The incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ is in fact the true wedding. The unity between God and man, the sacrifice, the life of emptying one’s self for his/her spouse: this is the the mystery of the incarnation. This is also why many hymns for the Virgin Mary are chanted in the rite of matrimony. Even the concluding canon is about the enlightened bride!
Since we’ve gone through the liturgical background of this hymn, to the best of my ability, we can fully appreciate the musical component…