Great & Wondrous Mystery Cantata Service (Fourth Saturday of Advent)
Our Saturday Vespers service for this final weekend of Advent features the premiere of a new cantata by our music minister, David Chávez, featuring the Abiding Presence Chamber Orchestra and guest soloists:
Tap the links below to…
Hear the actual chant recordings from the album Forty Martyrs (chanting by Very Reverend Yeznig Zegchanian, recorded by Jason Hamacher)
See some of Jason Hamacher's photos from Syria and hear more about his travels to Aleppo, Syria
Read an entire hymn text translation of the original Armenian Orthodox hymn for the First Day of Theophany “Great and Wondrous Mystery”
Q: What is a "cantata"?
A: Many of the best-known works of the most famous Lutheran composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, are cantatas. In fact, there were points in his career in which he wrote a new cantata weekly as part of his church job... in addition to playing the organ, directing the choir and orchestra, maintaining instruments, and on and on! Luckily, many of his twenty children had great musical talent as well, so one would suppose they helped out. The easiest was to think of a cantata is like a shorter version of an oratorio or unstaged opera––that is, like, Handel's Messiah but in miniature form so it fits within a regular church service. A cantata usually has a story or unifying idea, told across multiple movements by singers and orchestra. Our cantata on Dec. 22 features fabulous guest soloists with members of the Abiding Presence Chamber Orchestra.
Q: Why is the cantata called "Great & Wondrous Mystery"?
This cantata is inspired by an ancient Orthodox hymn of the same name, "Great and Wondrous Mystery," and especially by a recording of this hymn from the Forty Martyrs Church in Aleppo, Syria. This idea of opening oneself to mystery is central to worship in many Eastern Christian traditions. According to an Armenian Orthodox writer describing this hymn, "Rather than being a state of ignorance and lack of knowledge, mystery is the beginning of worship. It’s the place of awe where we realize the shadow God’s vast glory and divine infinitude. It’s the place where we dare not attempt to understand or grasp with our feeble and flawed minds, so instead we bow before Him in worship...The Mystery is the Incarnation – Jesus Christ revealed among us, the Son of God, who became a human being in order to fill us with His divine blessings, with eternal life, so that we would become like Him. The mystery is the reality of God with, among, and in us."