A text from the desert fathers, on music

March 13, 2018

From Martin Gerbert, Scriptores ecclesiastici de musica sacra potissimum, Tomus I. (1784), pp. 2-4.

Ὁ Ἀββᾶς Παμβῶ ἀπέστειλε τὸν μαθητὴν αὐτοῦ ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ, πρὸς τὸ πωλῆσαι τὸ ἐργόχειρον αὐτῶν. Ποιήσας δὲ ἡμέρας δεκαὲξ ἐν τῇ πόλει, ὡς ἔλεγεν ἡμῖν, τὰς νύκτας ἐκάθευδεν ἐν τῷ νάρθηκι τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἐν τῷ ναῷ τοῦ ἁγίου Μάρκου. Καὶ ἰδὼν τὴν ἀκολουθίαν τῆς ἁγίας ἐκκλησίας, ἀνέκαμψε πρὸς τὸν γέροντα. Ἔμαθε δὲ καὶ τροπάρια. Abba Pambo sent his disciple to Alexandria to sell their handcrafts. During the sixteen days he spent in the city, he slept at night (as he himself told us) in the narthex of the church, in the shrine of St. Mark. After seeing the order in which services were done in the holy church, he returned to his elder. (Now, he also learned troparia.)
Λέγει οὖν αὐτῷ ὁ γέρων· Ὁρῶ σε τέκνον τεταραγμένον, μή τις πειρασμός σοι συνέβη ἐν τῇ πόλει; λέγει ὁ ἀδελφὸς γέροντι, Φύσει Ἀββᾶ ἐν ἀμελείᾳ δαπανῶμεν τὰς ἡμέρας ἡμῶν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ταύτῃ, καὶ οὔτε κανόνας οὔτε τροπάρια ψάλλομεν. Ἀπελθόντος γάρ μου ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ εἶδον τὰ τάγματα τῆς ἐκκλησίας, πῶς ψάλλουσι, καὶ ἐν λύπῃ γέγονα πολλῇ, διατὶ καὶ ἡμεῖς οὐ ψάλλομεν κανόνας καὶ τροπάρια. The elder therefore says to him: Child, I perceive that you are troubled. Did you encounter any temptation in the city? The brother says to the elder, Indeed, Abba, we spend our days in this desert negligently, singing neither canons nor troparia. For, when I was in Alexandria I saw the order of the church, how they sing, and it made me very sad that we do not also sing canons and troparia.
Λέγει οὖν αὐτῷ ὁ γέρων· οὐαὶ ἡμῖν τέκνον, ὅτι ἔφθασαν αἱ ἡμέραι, ἐν αἷς ὑπολείψουσιν οἱ μοναχοὶ τὴν στερεὰν τροφὴν τὴν διὰ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος ῥηθεῖσαν, καὶ ἐξακολουθήσουσιν ᾄσματα καὶ ἤχους. Ποία γὰρ κατάνυξις, ποῖα δάκρυα τίκτονται ἐκ τῶν τροπαρίων; ποία γὰρ κατάνυξις τῷ μοναχῷ, ὅταν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ ἢ ἐν κελλίῳ ἴσταται, καὶ ὑψοῖ τὴν φωνὴν αὐτοῦ ὡς οἱ βόες; Εἰ γὰρ ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ παριστάμεθα, ἐν πολλῇ κατανύξει ὀφείλομεν ἵστασθαι, καὶ οὐχὶ ἐν μετεωρισμῷ. Καὶ γὰρ οὐκ ἐξῆλθον οἱ μοναχοὶ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ταύτῃ, ἵνα παρίστανται τῷ Θεῷ, καὶ μετεωρίζονται καὶ μελῳδοῦσιν ᾄσματα, καὶ ῥυθμίζουσιν ἤχους· καὶ σείουσι χείρας, καὶ μεταβαίνουσι πόδας. Ἀλλ᾽ ὀφείλομεν ἐν φόβῳ πολλῷ καὶ τρόμῳ δακρυσί τε καὶ στεναγμοῖς μετὰ εὐλαβείας καὶ εὐκατανύκτου καὶ μετρίας ταπεινῆς φωνῆς τὰς προσευχὰς τῷ Θεῷ προσφέρειν. The elder therefore says to him: Woe to us, child! for the days have arrived, in which monks will forsake the strong nourishment spoken by the Holy Spirit, and will follow after songs and “tones.” For what sort of contrition, what sort of tears are produced by troparia? What kind of contrition is there in a monk, when he stands in church or in his cell and raises his voice like cattle? For if we are standing in God’s presence, we ought to be standing there with great contrition, and not with our heads in the clouds. For, indeed, we monks did not go out into this desert in order to stand before God and be raised up on high and make melodious tunes and measure out tones (modes), and wave our hands, and move our feet. But it is with great fear and trembling, with tears and groans, in reverence and repentance and with a moderate, humble voice, that we ought to present our prayers to God.
Ἰδοὺ γὰρ λέγω σοι τέκνον, ὅτι ἐλεύσονται ἡμέραι, ὅτε φθείρουσιν οἱ χριστιανοὶ τὰς βίβλους τῶν ἁγίων Εὐαγγελίων, καὶ τῶν ἁγίων Ἀποστόλων, καὶ τῶν θεσπεσίων Προφητῶν λεαίνοντες τὰς γραφὰς τῶν ἁγίων· καὶ χυθήσεται ὁ νοῦς εἰς τρόπους καὶ εἰς τοὺς λόγους τῶν ἑλλήνων· διὰ τοῦτο καὶ οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν εἰρήκασιν, ἵνα μὴ γράφωσιν οἱ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ταύτῃ ὄντες καλόγραφοι τοὺς βίους καὶ λόγους τῶν γερόντων ἐν μεμβράναις, ἀλλ᾽ ἐν χαρτίοις· μέλλει γὰρ ἡ ἐρχομένη γεννεὰ λεαίνειν τοὺς βίους καὶ λόγους τῶν πατέρων, καὶ γράφειν κατὰ τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῖς. For I tell you, child, that the days will come when Christians shall corrupt the books of the holy Gospels, and of the holy Apostles, and of the divine Prophets, erasing the writings of the saints; and their mind will be dissipated on rhetorical figures and on the discourses of the Greeks. That is why our fathers also have said that those who are calligraphers here in this desert should not write the lives and words of the elders on parchment, but on papyrus. For the coming generation is going to erase the lives and words of the fathers, and write as it pleases them.
Καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ἀδελφὸς, τί οὖν ἀλλαχθήσονται τὰ ἔθη καὶ αἱ παραδόσεις τῶν χριστιανῶν· καὶ οὐκ ἔσονται ἱερεῖς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, ἵνα ταῦτα γένηται; καὶ εἶπεν ὁ γέρων· ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις καιροῖς ψυγήσεται ἡ ἀγάπη τῶν πολλῶν, καὶ ἔσται θλίψις οὐκ ὀλίγη ἐθνῶν. And the brother said: What then? Are the customs and traditions of Christians going to be changed? And the elder said: At such times the love of many shall grow cold, and the nations shall be afflicted in no small way.
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