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(O Nim Nai Symphonia)
This hymn is chanted before the Resurrection Cycle on the Easter Eve and up to thirty-ninth day of the holy Eastertide. This hymn is included in Service Book of Deacons and Hymns.

The Language of the Hymn:
The words of this Hymn are few, and they are in Coptic (O Nim Nai Symphonia). Their meaning is (Oh, these symphonies coming to my ears).

The Occasion on which the Hymn is Chanted:
This Hymn is chanted from Easter Eve up to the thirty-ninth day of the holy Eastertide after the Praxis (part of the Book of the Apostles). During chanting this hymn, the resurrection icon is prepared. Then the priests with the Crosses in hand and the deacons with candles and flags of the resurrection turn around the altar. The door of the sanctuary is then shut. At this moment the priests begin to remove the roses and the spices away from the burial.

The altar closed door represents the gate of Paradise which was closed because of Adams sin. When it is opened, this refers to its being opened by the Lord of Glory who was crucified for our justification, and rose to give us life and the inheritance of the kingdom.

Some claim closing the doors of the Sanctuary and switching the lights off is a new arrangement introduced to us from the Greek church. We knew it only from the days of Hegumen Philothaos Ibrahim the Head of St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo (1904- 1839).

The Method of Performance:
The deacons perform it outside the Sanctuary. They sing it without using the cymbals and the triangle. I have a personal point of view that if the hymn is performed in the form of a dialogue between a sole singer and the chorus of deacons, this will be a true representation of the dialogue that took place between Mary and the two angels when she saw the two with white clothes, sitting one at the head and the other at the feet where the body of the Lord was laid.

But she went on asking, they have taken away my lord and I dont know where they have placed Him. (John 13: 20) It will represent also the dialogue between Mary and Jesus when she thought Him the gardener.

The Music Mode and Tempo:
The tune begins calm with a sad stanza in Gahar Kah Mode, repeated twice to emphasize the state which is inside and outside the tomb. The low tunes move within the medium refrains zone. Then the tune changes all of a sudden to Soznak Mode which inclines to brightness. So, the church made use of it to reach gradually the word Symphonia. At this word the listener feels the brightness of the melody as if it were the brightness of the light proceeding from the tomb when the stone is rolled.

Concerning the tune speed (tempo), it begins slow about 89 beats per minute. And from the moment the tune changed into Soznak Mode; the percussion changes to Ad-Libitum, i.e. extemporaneous.

Explanation and Contemplation:
Oh! These symphonies coming into my ears. They are the prophetical symphonies which made all prophecies which seemed contradictory harmonious.

Behold! The Virgin will be with child and shall bear a Son and they will name Him Immanuel. How could it be that the Virgin be with a babe?

And how could it be that God who dwells in heaven comes to dwell with us on the earth? Who is He who like a lamb is led and like a silent sheep before His shearers, He does not open His mouth?

Who is He who gave Himself to death and was counted among transgressors and laid on Him many sins and handed over for the sinners?

Who is He who was laid in the lowest pit, in darkness and shades of death? Certainly it is not David; for we know his history. No one put nails in his body, nor his legs and feet were pierced, nor his garments were divided, nor a lot cast over His cloak and none of the passers by spoke against Him or shook their heads saying, He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him, and no one offered Him sour wine to drink in His thirst. It is none but the Lord Christ in whom all the prophecies are fulfilled.

Therefore, this melody was composed to express this harmony, this symphony which combined together all those prophecies though different in place and time to unite in one time only which is the fullness time and one place only which is the body of Christ laid in that wonderful tomb, with the big stone rolled over it, whilst the ranks of angels around singing praise who to Him: (O Nim Nai Symphonia).

A lot of people think that the holy hours that followed the burial of the Lord Christ were silent dead hours. Nay. They were powerful hours full of struggling and fighting with the spiritual host of wickedness. For many people after laying the stone over the tomb thought that by the death of Christ events had stopped until the very moment of the glorious Resurrection Sunday Dawn. But this actually did not happen, but the Lord Christ descended unto Hades from over the Cross to save and bring out the souls of the dead who were waiting in hope for the resurrection, to take their souls out of Satans mouth and set free the captive.

What a long war that began at the twelfth hour of Good Friday and ended with the rolling of the stone over the tomb and Christs ascent from Hades carrying in His hands the souls of the righteous.

This hymn O Nim Nai Symphonia is indeed a marvelous hymn that declares the happenings of those hours, whether those that happened in Hades where the conflict took place, or around the tomb where the Marys and the disciples stood with their doubts.

Therefore, the tune begins calm in Gaharkah Mode with a stanza almost and consisting of ten bars repeated twice to emphasize the sad impression which prevails over and around the tomb. All the tunes of this stanza are low and move within the medium refrains zone. Then, suddenly, the tune changes into Soznak Mode which is inclined to brightness which the church fathers inspired by the Holy Spirit and musicologists, and those who are familiar with music Modes, and making use of them to represent the abundant deep spiritual meanings implied in the few words of the hymn.

The transfer to the Soznak Mode with the gradual elevation of tunes to reach the word Symphonia gives a marvelous sense of brightness like that of the light coming out of the tomb after rolling the stone over it.

From the moment at which the tune is changed into the Soznak Mode, the tone also changes to Ad-Libitum, i.e. extemporaneous free from percussion restrictions. It seems as if the church wants to refer to the setting free of the captives who awaited the Lord Christ to set them free and save them from Hades.

Gradually, the tune ascends higher and higher in the sharp refrains zone unto the climax, as if wants to refer to the bringing out of the souls of the righteous who were waiting in hope for the resurrection. It seems as if we hear in this hymn their voices rejoicing in their salvation.

The joy continues moving the silent rhythm again expressing victory with a simple tune in forms repeated in rhythmic and musical sequence as if it were the joy of victory and conquering.

The Ad-Libitum (extemporaneous) rhythm returns back again and the Mode changes once more to a new mode sozdlar, then to the sad calm tune, as if expressing the concerns of those suspecting the glorious resurrection. Actually, they need to put their fingers in the place of nails and the place of the spear like Thomas so that they might not be unbelievers but believers.

O My Lord and God, grant me when I chant this hymn to live the joy of Your resurrection; to enjoy the victory victory over myself and my lusts. Let Your resurrection touch my mortal body that it may move towards You.

Lift me up with You out of Hades of my sins. Grant me to declare Your resurrection through my life to all them who have not yet got attached with You.

Remove from my heart any suspicion. Do show compassion towards me as You have done towards Thomas and made him cry out announcing his faith.

O My Lord and God, grant me that my voice accord with the voices of Your angels who sing O Nim Nai Symphonia that I might not be the only incongruent voice due to the accumulation of sins over the strings of my heart.

Do let my voice dissolve in their voices, and my tones be steps moving towards You, who arose from the dead.

The Hymn O Nim Nai
O Ye, all the choruses I am listening to:
O for the symphonies coming to my ears.


Contemplations in the Great Lent Melodies
 

(Shary Efnooti)

Arabic Translation (word file format)

Praxis Response in the Weekdays of the Great Lent. God lifts the sins of the people: through the sacrifices and the aroma of the incense.

People in the Holy Lent; sorrowfully remember their sins which appear to them as an apparent crimson. Accordingly, they intentionally crush their bodies performing prostrations (metanoias) with all humiliation and full submissive lowliness in the Morning Prayer directly after the prophecies. We have David, who, in order not to over grief his sins, has said: I confess my sins; they fill me with anxiety. (Ps38: 18). Therefore, the Church excitingly raises its utmost voice chanting that hymn: (Shary Efnooti) saying: God lifts the sins of the people: through the sacrifices and the aroma of the incense.

Seemingly, as if the Church publicly announces it to all people who, have so far and oftenly placed their committed sins in front of them: I recognize my faults; I am always conscious of my sins. (Ps 51: 3) enhancing them to raise their voice with Hosea saying, Return to the Lord and say, Please forgive our sins, Accept our good sacrifices of praise instead of bulls (Hosea 14:2). Thus this hymn, (Shary Efnooti), becomes one of those sacrifices of praise. For the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins. (Heb10:4). We have, then, my brothers, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. (Heb 10:19).

Perhaps, one of us may ask: Why these words are only said in the Weekdays of the Great Lent whereas another completely different hymn, (Ari pa mev ee) is said during the Great Lent Sundays as well?!. Factually speaking, the general sad atmosphere obviously decreases on the Great Lent Sundays rather than the other days. This is simply because a happy atmosphere dominates the front priority in the Church with the remembrance of the savior resurrection. Accordingly, people in Church, arent sufficiently in need to the hymn (Shary Efnooti) in order to motivate their feeling as they are comparatively in need to it during the other days as well.

Similarly, another one may ask: Why these words are said directly before the Praxis?!

N.B. Praxis is a Greek word that means an act which is the elected chapter for reading from The Acts of the Apostles in the Holy Liturgy. This refers to the fact that by reading a chapter from the Acts of the pure Apostles, it directly informs the people about the very super spiritual level of those father saints who were able to raise the dead as Peter has done with Tabitha, In Joppa there was a woman named Tabitha, who was a believer. Her name in Greek is Dorcas, meaning: a deer. She spent all her time doing good and helping the poor. At that time she became ill and died. her body was washed and laid in a room upstairs. Joppa was not very far from Lydda, and when the believers in Joppa heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him with the message, Please hurry and come to us. (Acts 9: 36-38).

They were also assigned to cure diseases and any illness to the extent that one of them continued to recover the diseases whereas the swaddling-cloths of another apostle kept strictly pulling out the evil spirits from the sick people. Therefore, people, as a result, became in real bad need to remove the feeling of being so humble and also be given all the hope that their sins will be actually removed.

Truly, the Church by the following hymn; (Shary Efnooti) which is full of enthusiasm, has definitely succeeded to rescue its people who really perished their bodies with both fasting and metanoias from suffering the pains of their sins, and similarly, has raised them from the desperate sink with quite few words that give entire hope to the sinners together with conformed and fixed tones merely to encourage them to keep it up.

But where would God lift peoples sins?!..... . Soon, the hymn (Shary Efnooti) answers: (emmav) that is to say: There.

There doesnt mean far away, nevertheless, Raise your eyes to the East to see the altar, where both the body and flesh (meaning: the real sacrifice) of our LORD Emanuel are found there.(from the Liturgy of Saint Gregory) . There is not far distant as after a little while, the priest will say: The Holies are for the Holy and after that, we respectfully enter into the partridge of the king and sup with Him. However, the place is certainly not even hereby where people are in the middle of deep grief and surrounding ashes but on the equal contrary, there on the altar of God of Sabaot where both the sheep and the incenses smell are found. As David has said, I will offer sheep to be burnt on the altar; I will sacrifice bulls and goats, and the smoke will go up to the sky. (Ps 66:15) and has said also. I will bring sacrifices into your house, my God, and I will do what I promised when I was in trouble. (Ps 66: 13, 14).

Likewise, in our sorrows we are going to carry the praise sacrifice on our lips and in one voice chant that hymn (Shary Efnooti) as if it is the new chant which was chanted by the twenty-four elders As he did so, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of Gods people. They sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to break open its seals. For you were killed, and by your sacrificial death you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation, and race. (Revelation 5: 8,9).

Perfume and fragrant oils make you feel happier, but trouble shatters your peace of mind. (Prov 27:9). So, with the blazing of incense, here clearly appear all phases and meanings of self perishing mixed with an absolute endurance to bitter pain and oppression and the continuous struggle against sin with which come the beautiful smell of the believers. As, the more they welcomely get into the hell of temptations, they strikingly wrestle against their bodies, till getting them subjugated enslaved through prayers together with fasting and intentionally humiliated them with complete misery, the more a spiritual perfume flows out of them just as the good perfume when spread out from the incense during burning it. And so said St. Afraim El-Soriany : Ive made myself as a Church for Jesus, offered to him good incense as a sign of my body exertions and sicknesses.

What an extremely marvelous that hymn is! It is full of great strength that encouragingly supports those assembled believers in such a long, hard and caesura fasting. The minute they feel or get weak, the more it (the hymn) encourages them with its strict tones together with apparent, defined and dignified rhythms.

Likewise, the more they are brutally pulled down by the sin, the higher it raises them with its proud tones and supportive words or meanings. Then, expectedly, the smell of the incense is shed out of their holy bodies which are violently defeated by all means of abstemiousness.

 

(Entho Te Ti Shoori)

Arabic Translation (word file format)

It is a: The hymn of the Censer in the Weekdays of the Great Lent Meaning: You are the censer of pure gold: bearing the blessed embers.

The priest puts the Prosferin (altar cloth) (its a Greek word meaning the covering that covers the oblations after Offering of the Lamb and The prayer of Thanksgiving) at the presentation of bread and wine seeming as if it is the stone that has been rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb. Then, he puts a corporal on it as a sign to the seal that has sealed the tomb (Mt 27: 60, 66). After that, all the priests and deacons come out of the altar bowing down right in front of its door then follows the chief priest reading the Absolution of the Ministers. Meanwhile, the hymn (Entho Te Ti Shoori) proceeds.

During that time, the priest carries the censer seen by all the present people in his hands enclosing the embers inside without being burnt. At this very time, he retrieves the peoples souls back to the far distant past reminding them with Moses who stood in front of the fully blazing bush, similarly, without being absolutely burnt. At that time, Moses heard the LORDs voice: I have indeed heard the cry of my people, and I see how the Egyptians are oppressing them. Now I am sending you to the king of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country.(Ex 3: 9,10).

Therefore, all the present people, screamingly chant (Entho Te Ti Shoori) as if they are screaming out of the lots of sins and crimes which have entirely disgraced them. Meanwhile, they sorrowfully stand ashamed of themselves repenting their sins. Accordingly, God will definitely respond to their true crying call and will certainly come to rescue them not only for the sake of their fasting, nor for their abstemiousness nor even for their submissive penitence but rather for their loud prays real repentance. But where is that bush with which God will come down to save and lead to salvation?! And where is the blessed Horib; the mountain of God?! The sacred temple is Horib mountain whereas the altar is the bush where the pure flesh and blood are the flaming fire found above it. So why doesnt God listen to all the peoples loud and true prays flowing out from the very deep heart of Church while they are chanting (Entho Te Ti Shoori) and come down to rescue them.

Actually, the Coptic Church, in this typical part of the divine liturgy, introduces to its fasting people that gold censer with such an inlaid hymn with intense piety merely to remind the penitent people who shamefully regret their sin with the thorny entangled fire grated bush taking it as a true example and a powerful proof that God is mightily capable to transform the sins punishment into a final salvation.

Both the weeds and the thorns which the ground has produced for Adam due to his shameful sin (Gen 3: 18), God has aimed to descend through that bush willing to raise his dear people from certain slavery. He wasnt satisfied by only coming down, but has harvested it in his holy forehead where he has been brutally pricked with a braided crown. Very wonderfully, fire has blazed in the thorn of the bush without being slightly burnt or even perished. Similarly, the thorn was prickly inserted in Jesus head simply as a starving fire bitterly extending its roots in its holy flesh and veins to flow blood. Then, both the thorn and the bush, which were produced by the ground without being humanly planted, have plainly approached the virgins image that has likewise produced for us Jesus without any human interference.

Nobody has even witnessed the bush of Old Testament but Moses; Gods converser. As for the New Testament bush, it is obviously seen by all people in the Church nowadays. However, God has descended in the bush of Old Testament simply to raise Israeli people from Egypt land, whereas, He, has undergone that of the New Testament in order to attract the whole people directly upwards. The bush of the Old Testament was to save certain people from Pharaohs hand grasp while that of the New Testament, was also to rescue the entire world from the devils handful hilt. Therefore, we all should pray saying: (You are the censer of pure gold: bearing the blessed embers).

Perhaps our prayer with this hymn (Entho Te Ti Shoori) is holy elevated to that of the Seraphim which prophet Isaiah has witnessed, They were calling out to each other:

Holy, holy, holy!

The Lord Almighty is holy!

His glory filled the world.


The sound of their voices made the foundation of the Temple shake, and the Temple itself was filled with smoke. (Is 6: 3, 4) That mighty prophet, after witnessing that scene, he guiltily said: There is no hope for me! I am doomed because every word that passes my lips is sinful, and I live among a people whose every word is sinful. (Is 6: 5).

Since then, is it not possible for those worshiping, adoring and abstemious people who guiltily feel their filthy and impure lips all as natural result of their sins to have their crimes expiated by a mere burning coal picked from that golden censer carrying the blazing coals?! As a matter of fact, praying with that hymn (Entho Te Ti Shoori) in this very time is justly quite suitable.

 

(Ti hireenee ente Efnooti)

Arabic Translation (word file format)

It is a: Gospel Response in the Weekdays of the Great Lent Meaning: The peace of God: which is beyond all understanding: keeps your hearts: in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

The Church has set that hymn as an example for melodic devoutness being a little tuning hymn and having the rhythmic triviality. Besides, its rhythmic shapes are so simple that any child can easily carve with his finger. Its an abstemious hymn that includes neither modal changes nor even rhythmic ones. It seems as if the Church is intentionally teaching its children both devoutness and abstemiousness not only in food but also through its spiritual music as well.

No doubt to wonder though the words at the beginning of the hymn are: The peace of God: which is beyond all understanding which were actually expressed by the Church in the hymn : (Ep ooro ente ti hireenee) with a sharp, quick and compound melody, hovering round deep inside the human soul with high musical pitches together with intellectual modal transferences, still it is the typical Church itself which now fully expresses the same peace but through an entire strict little tuning hymn that is sharply cut and centrally located in a middle area neither sharp nor thick.

If you compare between this hymn (Ti hireenee ente Efnooti) as a gospel response in the Great Lent and that of (Oo sioo afshai) ; the gospel response in the Feast of the Nativity, you will apparently notice though both of them are hymned after reading the gospel, nevertheless, (Oo sioo afshai) the gospel response in the Feast of the Nativity has an absolute different nature as it definitely expresses the meaning of a star appeared in the East and the wise men followed it. Therefore, it wholly raises the heart upwards where the star which rose is found there. As for (Ti hireenee ente Efnooti), on the contrary, it pulls the body downwards mainly teaching it how to bend in complete humiliation and perform prostrations (metanoias) all in full worship and to our Lord.

Thus, it is actually intuitive to find the second part of the hymn starting with (Ai er novi ai er novi) meaning Ive sinned, Ive sinned: My Lord Jesus, forgive me as there is no servant without sin nor a master without forgiveness having the same melodic shaping of the first part not only for the purpose of musical abstemiousness nor for that of melodic devoutness but majorly because compositional sentence: Ive sinned, Ive sinned is comparatively worthy enough to have its hymn full of both contrition and submission at one and the same time.

So, who would ever be that aware person saying loudly and daringly: (Ai er novi ai er novi) but merely one who showingly appears as if fully proud of his shameful sins. Therefore, it was mostly suitable for the melody of Aiernobi aiernobi... to have a fine touch of thorough humiliation that obviously expressed its words on one hand and the general fasting atmosphere in which that hymn is chanted on the other hand.

Indeed, the Church mainly sanctifies fasting (Lent) and apparently calls for complete seclusion not only through its readings but in its chanted hymns as well.

Praising with Coptic Hymns

About Praise Singing:

 

In praise singing the most regarded music is used, and as music is nourishing the soul with melodies, the spirit is raised levels and levels towards its Creator who is Fearful in praises (Ex 15:11), and the body which is weak and heavy gains power and alacrity that enables it to ascend over desires and disjoin from earthly uproar to unite with the heavenly powers and spiritual beings, chanting with them.

When the child Jesus was born, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, suddenly appeared with the angel that stood before the shepherds, a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying : Glory to God in the highest, and on the earth peace, good will toward men.

What a beautiful praise of salvation the angels composed expressing the peace that came down on earth, and the joy that proceeded into peoples life through the melodies of this canticle, that the shepherds started to iterate as received from the angels, which echo will remain iterated by all humanity till the ages of ages.

The appearance of the son of God on earth among those praises assured that the kingdom of God was extended from angels world to human world, the angels started their service on earth, inviting people to share in the same service, this was the first time people were invited to accompany the chorus of angels.

God when entered our world and became with us, permitted the heaven to open on earth with all its mysteries, glories, ministers, peace, joy and praises. Wherefore our traditional Coptic church cared to let praises partake more space of time in worship rituals than readings, private prayers and preaching.
 

About Praising with Coptic hymns:
 

In the book Description of Egypt that was written by the savants of the French expedition I quote:

As we return backwards in time to the ancient eras, we find that music was more prevailing, having a wider amplitude, noble and sober form, and vice versa as we go near to the modern times, musical art starts to loose from its sobriety and austerity to become more trivial and fragile

This quotation may open the way for me to speak on Coptic hymns, that are believed to be chanted inside churches for about two thousands years. Coptic hymns are considered to be supreme, for as we praise we accompany plenty of saints that praised with the same hymns through generations, both praises intermingle and our striving church get in contact with the victorious one, diffuses in it and gets empowered by it.

And since those hymns passed with the church all the persecution eras, and continued unmovable and eternal, the listener will recognize if carefully listened that they were inspired from one source - constant through generations - from the Holy Spirit.

Like the wine if kept for years and years its effect become more cordial and stronger, also the Coptic hymns as kept so many years, did gain a spiritual charm and a great influence over the chanters emotions, by which he feels an overwhelming blessing.

And since it is not possible even by using new advanced technology to create new wine having the same attributes, taste and influence of the old one, it is also impossible for a composer to produce one hymn having the same influence, spirituality and sanctity that the immortal Coptic hymns have.

About the Coptic hymns Dr. Michael Badie Abdelmalek says: When listening to the Coptic music, there appears at once the composers professionalism because they placed it with emotions in response to the work of the Holy Spirit in their life. As we listen we dont listen to impassive rituals but to a living (reborn) worship, because the doer in this music is the Holy Spirit who spoke in the prophets at the Old Testament and who is working in the church of the new testament.

When listening to those hymns a personal enjoyment touches our life, happiness overwhelms us and we get attracted to music, as we follow the structure of a musical stanza - as if it is a huge edifice constructed in front of us - block over block, melody over melody, the hymn develops gradually until it reaches its peak in expression and emotion through our heart beats and internal feelings, we incorporate in this spiritual construction that is manifested at the end of the phrase.

The hymn in the Coptic church is an idea exposed in front of us to share and respond, the interaction with it leads to incorporation, we reach to the peak of the hymn by intellectual siege and responding, and the hymn being heard become linked to our internal life. Through hymns the whole church melts - bishop with priest, deacon with all the congregation - in unity and tight conjunction. This is what St. Ignatius expressed in his epistle to the Ephesians: Wherefore it is fitting that ye should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also ye do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp.

Therefore in your concord and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung. And do ye, man by man become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, ye may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that ye are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus ye may always enjoy communion with God (The Ante Nicene Fathers volume 1)

The words notated in this modest book, is only an attempt to highlight the beauty of the Coptic hymn (that have been skulked by the poor performance of the few that iterate without understanding) , trying to dive in the music of those hymns, in its historical roots, in the hymn language, in understanding the spiritual objective beyond the music, with a spiritual and musical explanation of some. Through preparing this treatise I found myself with no intention to go deep in pharaohs music, its attributes and musical instruments, which had a great role in forming our Coptic music, and I found myself comparing and connecting between how the pharaohs music was and how our Coptic music became.

I found myself also contemplating in our performance of Coptic hymns, and how we sometimes (or most of the times) wipe by our performance (unconscious and unscientific) its profound spiritual and musical structure. I noticed that when the melodies ascend or descend, modes transform or change, rhythms activate or calm down, there are always a profound spiritual objective beyond the music, and since I am overwhelmed by the enjoyment of its beauty I wanted to let everyone share in that musical spiritual state, this book is the outcome which I hope to bear fruits.

George Kyrillos