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How to Compose an Akathist?

JamesR

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Hello everyone,

I have a bit of a serious question. What exactly is the process of composing an Akathist and what are the technical standards? The reason I ask is because I really want to compose an Akathist to St. Augustine of Hippo. It would be based off of Confessions and make a lot of references to Ss. Monica and Ambrose and the conversion of St. Augustine, along with his theological contributions to the pre-schism Western Church. I've listened to a lot of other Akathists, and I'm majoring in English so I think that I would possess the poetic skills. What exactly would it take to compose such an Akathist and have it accepted by the Church? This is important to me because St. Augustine is my patron saint.
 

Volnutt

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Probably not a good idea considering the serious crises of faith you keep going through. Maybe take a few years to become more stable and experienced before you try to do anything official? I think that Fr. Hopko would agree with me.



Note to others: YES, I'm aware of the extreme irony and/or hypocrisy of me of all people giving advice like this. No need to point it out.
 

scamandrius

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JamesR said:
Hello everyone,

I have a bit of a serious question. What exactly is the process of composing an Akathist and what are the technical standards? The reason I ask is because I really want to compose an Akathist to St. Augustine of Hippo. It would be based off of Confessions and make a lot of references to Ss. Monica and Ambrose and the conversion of St. Augustine, along with his theological contributions to the pre-schism Western Church. I've listened to a lot of other Akathists, and I'm majoring in English so I think that I would possess the poetic skills. What exactly would it take to compose such an Akathist and have it accepted by the Church? This is important to me because St. Augustine is my patron saint.
First off, I'd recommend that you don't.  Now, I don't know what your skills are as far as writing is concerned (majoring in English does not necessarily a poet make), but, IMHO, the Orthodox Church has a great many akathists which are frankly...bad.  They are more often than not simply really bad poetry and derivative, failed imitations of the original Akathist composed by St. Romanos the Melodist which is used during Great Lent, so we don't need another one added to the list.  For those reasons and many others, I prefer the Canons that were written by great poets.  And there is a canon to St. Augustine.
 

LBK

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Volnutt and scamandrius, excellent replies!

I'd add that such an endeavor MUST be discussed with one's priest, and ideally one's bishop.
 

mike

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LBK said:
I'd add that such an endeavor MUST be discussed with one's priest, and ideally one's bishop.
All other things aside, why? There are plenty of people that paint icons (you included), write books, record podcasts, engage in chanting, singing, knitting, sewing, whatever. Why can't James use his poetry skills for his private worship? How is that different?
 

LBK

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mike said:
LBK said:
I'd add that such an endeavor MUST be discussed with one's priest, and ideally one's bishop.
All other things aside, why? There are plenty of people that paint icons (you included), write books, record podcasts, engage in chanting, singing, knitting, sewing, whatever. Why can't James use his poetry skills for his private worship? How is that different?
All of the activities are services to the Church, and it is standard practice to receive a clerical blessing to do them. It is especially necessary for the writing of hymns and the painting of icons, as icons and hymns are not simply creative outlets for one's literary or artistic talents, but must express what the Church believes and teaches.

The need for clerical oversight and guidance does not change if an akathist or other hymnography is intended as a personal devotional exercise.
 

Antonis

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scamandrius said:
I prefer the Canons that were written by great poets.  And there is a canon to St. Augustine.
There are several, and they are each of surprisingly recent origin!
 

TheTrisagion

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I don't know, James, but it sounds like an interesting project. I hope that it will help you in your spiritual struggles. St. Augustine is certainly a wonderful saint to emulate. :)
 

Iconodule

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Volnutt said:
Probably not a good idea considering the serious crises of faith you keep going through. Maybe take a few years to become more stable and experienced before you try to do anything official? I think that Fr. Hopko would agree with me.
Or maybe it's just the thing he needs to get himself out of his rut.

If you feel inspired, go for it, though I too generally prefer the canons to the akathists. Discussing it with a priest isn't a bad idea but it's not like ordination confers some special poetic genius.
 

mike

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LBK said:
All of the activities are services to the Church, and it is standard practice to receive a clerical blessing to do them. It is especially necessary for the writing of hymns and the painting of icons, as icons and hymns are not simply creative outlets for one's literary or artistic talents, but must express what the Church believes and teaches.

The need for clerical oversight and guidance does not change if an akathist or other hymnography is intended as a personal devotional exercise.
Do you consult a bishop every time you pretend to be an expert in iconography?



That's a particularly low blow, especially considering that you posted it to the Liturgy board, where polemic is forbidden. You are therefore receiving a 30-point warning. If you wish to appeal this warning, please PM me.

- PeterTheAleut
Section Moderator
 

LBK

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mike said:
LBK said:
All of the activities are services to the Church, and it is standard practice to receive a clerical blessing to do them. It is especially necessary for the writing of hymns and the painting of icons, as icons and hymns are not simply creative outlets for one's literary or artistic talents, but must express what the Church believes and teaches.

The need for clerical oversight and guidance does not change if an akathist or other hymnography is intended as a personal devotional exercise.
Do you consult a bishop every time you pretend to be an expert in iconography?
All of my work in that field has been cleared by my bishop, and several priests use my work for their pastoral needs.

But this thread isn't about taking cheap shots at me, but in addressing JamesR's request.

 

mike

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LBK said:
All of my work in that field has been cleared by my bishop, and several priests use my work for their pastoral needs.
That's good.

But this thread isn't about taking cheap shots at me, but in addressing JamesR's request.
What is not really different.
 

LBK

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I and others have provided constructive advice to the OP. Is it too much to expect the same from you? Your sniping at me isn't helping James.
 

vamrat

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Whatever you do, God be with you.  May your prayers bring you peace and strengthen your faith and bring you closer to God.
 

mike

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LBK said:
I and others have provided constructive advice to the OP. Is it too much to expect the same from you? Your sniping at me isn't helping James.
I think it's pretty clear from my posts that if he wants to do it, let he does it.

I only wanted to receive some reasons from posters that wrote he should not do it and I have not yet (apart from MalpanaGiwargis who gave a good argument).

Antonis said:
There are several, and they are each of surprisingly recent origin!
What's so surprising? He wasn't very popular until recently.
 

Agabus

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scamandrius said:
JamesR said:
Hello everyone,

I have a bit of a serious question. What exactly is the process of composing an Akathist and what are the technical standards? The reason I ask is because I really want to compose an Akathist to St. Augustine of Hippo. It would be based off of Confessions and make a lot of references to Ss. Monica and Ambrose and the conversion of St. Augustine, along with his theological contributions to the pre-schism Western Church. I've listened to a lot of other Akathists, and I'm majoring in English so I think that I would possess the poetic skills. What exactly would it take to compose such an Akathist and have it accepted by the Church? This is important to me because St. Augustine is my patron saint.
First off, I'd recommend that you don't.  Now, I don't know what your skills are as far as writing is concerned (majoring in English does not necessarily a poet make), but, IMHO, the Orthodox Church has a great many akathists which are frankly...bad.  They are more often than not simply really bad poetry and derivative, failed imitations of the original Akathist composed by St. Romanos the Melodist which is used during Great Lent, so we don't need another one added to the list. 
Unless, of course, he could write a good one. Even if it is not great, the exercise could be spiritually beneficial, and if it's bad, he'd hardly be the first to write bad religious poetry. I don't really see the problem.

BTW, this comes up in another thread here about Akathists to St. Augustine:

scamandrius said:
A lot of Akathists have been written recently.  Maybe you should write one.  I did for my patron saint, St. John of Damascus.  A Romanus the Melodist I am not, but I undertook it with love and humility.
I'm going to in good faith assume James is approaching this in love as well.
 

scamandrius

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Agabus said:
scamandrius said:
JamesR said:
Hello everyone,

I have a bit of a serious question. What exactly is the process of composing an Akathist and what are the technical standards? The reason I ask is because I really want to compose an Akathist to St. Augustine of Hippo. It would be based off of Confessions and make a lot of references to Ss. Monica and Ambrose and the conversion of St. Augustine, along with his theological contributions to the pre-schism Western Church. I've listened to a lot of other Akathists, and I'm majoring in English so I think that I would possess the poetic skills. What exactly would it take to compose such an Akathist and have it accepted by the Church? This is important to me because St. Augustine is my patron saint.
First off, I'd recommend that you don't.  Now, I don't know what your skills are as far as writing is concerned (majoring in English does not necessarily a poet make), but, IMHO, the Orthodox Church has a great many akathists which are frankly...bad.  They are more often than not simply really bad poetry and derivative, failed imitations of the original Akathist composed by St. Romanos the Melodist which is used during Great Lent, so we don't need another one added to the list. 
Unless, of course, he could write a good one. Even if it is not great, the exercise could be spiritually beneficial, and if it's bad, he'd hardly be the first to write bad religious poetry. I don't really see the problem.

BTW, this comes up in another thread here about Akathists to St. Augustine:

scamandrius said:
A lot of Akathists have been written recently.  Maybe you should write one.  I did for my patron saint, St. John of Damascus.  A Romanus the Melodist I am not, but I undertook it with love and humility.
I'm going to in good faith assume James is approaching this in love as well.
Note the time stamp on that, Agabus.  that's from over six years ago.  I have since changed my mind on the subject, which I am allowed to do, after doing more research and really just seeing how bad they mine and many others are.
 

Agabus

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scamandrius said:
Agabus said:
scamandrius said:
JamesR said:
Hello everyone,

I have a bit of a serious question. What exactly is the process of composing an Akathist and what are the technical standards? The reason I ask is because I really want to compose an Akathist to St. Augustine of Hippo. It would be based off of Confessions and make a lot of references to Ss. Monica and Ambrose and the conversion of St. Augustine, along with his theological contributions to the pre-schism Western Church. I've listened to a lot of other Akathists, and I'm majoring in English so I think that I would possess the poetic skills. What exactly would it take to compose such an Akathist and have it accepted by the Church? This is important to me because St. Augustine is my patron saint.
First off, I'd recommend that you don't.  Now, I don't know what your skills are as far as writing is concerned (majoring in English does not necessarily a poet make), but, IMHO, the Orthodox Church has a great many akathists which are frankly...bad.  They are more often than not simply really bad poetry and derivative, failed imitations of the original Akathist composed by St. Romanos the Melodist which is used during Great Lent, so we don't need another one added to the list. 
Unless, of course, he could write a good one. Even if it is not great, the exercise could be spiritually beneficial, and if it's bad, he'd hardly be the first to write bad religious poetry. I don't really see the problem.

BTW, this comes up in another thread here about Akathists to St. Augustine:

scamandrius said:
A lot of Akathists have been written recently.  Maybe you should write one.  I did for my patron saint, St. John of Damascus.  A Romanus the Melodist I am not, but I undertook it with love and humility.
I'm going to in good faith assume James is approaching this in love as well.
Note the time stamp on that, Agabus.  that's from over six years ago.  I have since changed my mind on the subject, which I am allowed to do, after doing more research and really just seeing how bad they mine and many others are.
And maybe that's a conclusion others may need to work their own way to as well.

But I also don't think that an art form — even one tied to the Church — should be entirely written off because most people aren't good at it. If James follows through, no one is obligated to pray it just because it exists.
 

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mike said:
LBK said:
I'd add that such an endeavor MUST be discussed with one's priest, and ideally one's bishop.
All other things aside, why? There are plenty of people that paint icons (you included), write books, record podcasts, engage in chanting, singing, knitting, sewing, whatever. Why can't James use his poetry skills for his private worship? How is that different?
Agreed.  There are formal rules to writing one of these things, and you have to submit it to others anyway if you want it used publicly.  I don't see any reason to discourage writing an athakist, painting an icon, singing in the choir or anything like that.  That almost seems counter productive.

And let's try not to overburden priests or bishops with these philosophic questions that go nowhere fast.  If you want to ask your priest anything, ask him (at a leisurely time) where you can find a class or resources to learn about composition.  don't be afraid to participate in this stuff..ever.  If you think you have a talent, use it no matter how "insecure"'you "feel" about it.
 

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JamesR said:
Hello everyone,

I have a bit of a serious question. What exactly is the process of composing an Akathist and what are the technical standards? The reason I ask is because I really want to compose an Akathist to St. Augustine of Hippo. It would be based off of Confessions and make a lot of references to Ss. Monica and Ambrose and the conversion of St. Augustine, along with his theological contributions to the pre-schism Western Church. I've listened to a lot of other Akathists, and I'm majoring in English so I think that I would possess the poetic skills. What exactly would it take to compose such an Akathist and have it accepted by the Church? This is important to me because St. Augustine is my patron saint.
You should ask your priest first if this is OK.  If it is, then I suggest a thorough study of the form of akathists and also more generally of the liturgical history of the Byzantine rite.  Past afherence to the formal standards, there is also a certain question of aesthetics.

I would also not reccommend this if you are feeling misotheistic.  If you still hate God, writing what amounts to poetry in honour of someone who is glorified by virtue of their love for God, and the love of God for them, and the indwelling of God in that person, might prove to be quixotic.  On the other hand, if you have moved past misotheism and now feel philotheistic, and think writing this would help, and p, most importantly,myour priest agrees, then do it.  You really should have a blessing before undertaking this sort of thing.
 

LenInSebastopol

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mike said:
LBK said:
I'd add that such an endeavor MUST be discussed with one's priest, and ideally one's bishop.
All other things aside, why? There are plenty of people that paint icons (you included), write books, record podcasts, engage in chanting, singing, knitting, sewing, whatever. Why can't James use his poetry skills for his private worship? How is that different?
Right. And over 100% of all of them are 'bad' in some other person's judgment.
As he seeks discipline, let him learn via expression. And as all things Orthodox, talk with his priest.
 

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Volnutt said:
Probably not a good idea considering the serious crises of faith you keep going through. Maybe take a few years to become more stable and experienced before you try to do anything official? I think that Fr. Hopko would agree with me.



Note to others: YES, I'm aware of the extreme irony and/or hypocrisy of me of all people giving advice like this. No need to point it out.
What's ironic is that I agree with you. ;)
 

wgw

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JamesR, if you do get a blessing from your priest to do this, have him photocopy for you any service texts for St. Augustine in the Menaion.

The existing text should really be the basis for any akathist.  In general, all new liturgical texts should be composed out of or based upon existing texts, a bit like iconography; this is not "creative writing."  Thus, troparia for different types of saints tend to share common thematic elements; the Divine Liturgy is based on various scriptural passages in the OT and NT, and so on.

This principle sets us apart from Protestantism, especially modern praise and worship rubbish.  So aside from following the formal conventions of the akathist, you should also to the fullest extent possible integrate into your work existing material.

Don't do any of this however without a blessing. 

Also, consider writing a poem or a short prose work in honour of St. Augustine, again with your priest's blessing, before embarking on this sort of liturgical project.  Hagiography is a living tradition of the Church, and in addition to the formal liturgical hagiography, there is also always a need for devotional works of hagiography: biographies, panygerics and so on. 

You might well consider composing an anthology of your favourite quotes of St. Augustine to start with, perhaps interpolating these with relevant quotes from sacred scripture.
 

LenInSebastopol

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Makes me wonder what "sacred" means after reading all of this.
I can imagine rap being such by some. While others would hold disdain even hatred for it.
Makes me wonder about God.
:)
 

mike

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wgw said:
JamesR, if you do get a blessing from your priest to do this, have him photocopy for you any service texts for St. Augustine in the Menaion.
Is there anything to him in any Menaion?

And weren't you trying to write akathysts as well?
 

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mike said:
wgw said:
JamesR, if you do get a blessing from your priest to do this, have him photocopy for you any service texts for St. Augustine in the Menaion.
Is there anything to him in any Menaion?

I don't know; if there isn't, I would think that material is higher priority than an akathist.
And weren't you trying to write akathysts as well?
Yes, either an akathist or a kontakion, with the blessing of my priest.  It is not finished, I would furthermore not have set out to do it without a blessing.  Furthermore, if I ever finish it, ot would require another blessing in my opinion to be legitimately usable, probabaly from a bishop.  All things of a liturgical nature must be approved by the Bishop; St. Ignatius makes this very clear, and in turn bishops are our safeguard against the accidental introduction of liturgical error.

Indeed, the tragedy in RC and Anglican liturgics is due to a lack of competent episcopal supervision in some dioceses, whereas the even more disagreeable corruption of the Coptic Orthodox liturgy in some places is due I think to a shortage of diocesan bishops, although that at least I think is set to improve as more dynamic diocesan bishops like HG Abanoub of Muqattam, who I much admire. are enthroned.
 

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JamesR said:
Hello everyone,

I have a bit of a serious question. What exactly is the process of composing an Akathist and what are the technical standards? The reason I ask is because I really want to compose an Akathist to St. Augustine of Hippo. It would be based off of Confessions and make a lot of references to Ss. Monica and Ambrose and the conversion of St. Augustine, along with his theological contributions to the pre-schism Western Church. I've listened to a lot of other Akathists, and I'm majoring in English so I think that I would possess the poetic skills. What exactly would it take to compose such an Akathist and have it accepted by the Church? This is important to me because St. Augustine is my patron saint.
I admire that you love St. Augustine.  I like him a lot as well, and ask for his prayers.

I think when it comes to something liturgical, one should devote prayers and fasting in preparation to write something, or to paint icons.  There is a whole mind-body devotion to the task at hand.

Now I don't know how to write an akathist, but I imagine part of writing one is to have a certain spiritual exercise and devotion.
 

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scamandrius said:
JamesR said:
Hello everyone,

I have a bit of a serious question. What exactly is the process of composing an Akathist and what are the technical standards? The reason I ask is because I really want to compose an Akathist to St. Augustine of Hippo. It would be based off of Confessions and make a lot of references to Ss. Monica and Ambrose and the conversion of St. Augustine, along with his theological contributions to the pre-schism Western Church. I've listened to a lot of other Akathists, and I'm majoring in English so I think that I would possess the poetic skills. What exactly would it take to compose such an Akathist and have it accepted by the Church? This is important to me because St. Augustine is my patron saint.
First off, I'd recommend that you don't.  Now, I don't know what your skills are as far as writing is concerned (majoring in English does not necessarily a poet make), but, IMHO, the Orthodox Church has a great many akathists which are frankly...bad.  They are more often than not simply really bad poetry and derivative, failed imitations of the original Akathist composed by St. Romanos the Melodist which is used during Great Lent, so we don't need another one added to the list.  For those reasons and many others, I prefer the Canons that were written by great poets.  And there is a canon to St. Augustine.
What's the difference between a Canon and an Akathist?
 
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