Kassiani’s Song: Woman at the Center of the Easter Drama by Carol P. Christ

Today I am reposting the song and story of Kassiani, the Byzantine composer, poet, and hymnographer, who is not well-known to western feminists or in western history in general. In Christian Orthodox tradition, Kassiani’s most famous song will be sung this week on Easter Tuesday night or very early Easter Wednesday morning, placing a woman’s love for Jesus at the heart of the Easter drama.

For many this song is the high point of Easter week.

Kassiani, also known as St. Kassia, was a Greek woman born into a wealthy family in Constantinople (now Istanbul) about 805 to 810 AD. According to three historians of the time, she was intelligent and beautiful and selected as a potential bride for the Emperor Theophilos. The chroniclers state that the Theophilos approached her and said: “Through woman, the worst,” referring to the sin of Eve. Clever Kassiani responded, “Through woman, the best,” referring to the birth of the Savior through Mary.

Apparently unable to accept being put in his place by a woman, Theophilos chose another bride. Perhaps relieved, Kassiani founded a monastery in Constantinople becoming its first abbess. She was an outspoken theological advocate of icons during the iconoclastic crisis (for which she was flogged). One of only two women to publish under her own name during the Byzantine Middle Ages, Kassiani wrote both poetry and hymns. Up to 50 of her hymns are known today, with 23 of them being part of the Greek Orthodox liturgy. Continue reading “Kassiani’s Song: Woman at the Center of the Easter Drama by Carol P. Christ”

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