The featured singers on this CD are a father/daughter duo: Father John Tomasi, Rector of the Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church (OCA), chants the scriptural verses, and Lydia Tomasi-Given chants the Byzantine special melody verses of the Lamentations. Together with three cantors on the lower drone, or "eson," as it is known in the church, this full-length version of the Lamentations will penetrate into the deepest expression of the soul.
Byzantine chant is among the most ancient forms of Christian hymnody. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, all worship services primarily consist of chant and choral singing. During Great Lent, no sacred music is more poignant or powerful than the three distinct Byzantine melodies used in this version of the Lamentations. It is said that the angels praise God through song. This CD seeks to emulate the angels and encourages listeners to reach with heart, mind, and voice to glorify the Creator—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
As we go about our daily lives, with the ups and downs of the modern world, a still, small voice urges us to listen to the heart as it tells the story of loneliness and grief. For the soul longs to know the Creator, yet the mind being unfamiliar with the urgings of God, fails to comprehend the depth of the call. This CD will allow the listener to see the suffering of Christ, and to know the grief of a mother as she watches her Son die on the cross. Every word is crystal clear, and the haunting melodies will inspire all to listen again and again to the message contained in this striking and mystical presentation of the Lamentations. And through this experience, the listener will be able to touch upon the longing of the soul to be united with God.
Throughout the liturgical year, the Church immerses itself in the people, teachings, and events surrounding the life of Jesus Christ. The circumstances leading up to His crucifixion and death, as depicted in the annual services of Holy Week, are both poignant and distressing. First, we accompany Christ as He rides into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass. We participate in the Last Supper, and stand in the garden as our teacher and beloved Friend is betrayed by a kiss. We betray Him again by our silence, as He stands condemned by Pilot. We watch as He is scourged and mocked, and gaze from afar as He is brought to the Place of the Skull, where the Innocent is hung on a cross—by and for the guilty.
We experience the pinnacle of the cycle of Christ’s passion as He passes from this life and descends into Hades. Now, we witness the confusion and terror of the world as it laments the death of the One Begotten Before all Ages. As the noble Joseph of Arimethea removes the Body of Christ from the cross and prepares this Sacred Vessel for burial, we hear the chilling wails of a mother mourning the loss of her beloved Son. Yet, through all the tears and sorrow, a glimmer of hope arises with the coming of a new day. Holy Saturday morning announces in a quiet hush that “Christ truly is risen,” as He is freeing those held in bondage in the realm of death. While on the earth the Life-giving body of the King lies in the tomb, the Lord of Lords in His eternal kingdom ushers all into the Bright and Glorious Resurrection. May we all come to know the meaning of this gift.
Background information that led up to the production of this CD: Since 2000, the Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church has been a mission of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Its ministries include an Orthodox retail bookstore, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, children’s religious education program, community library project, weekly Bible Studies, weekly Studies in the Faith classes, and ongoing church services throughout the week. Father John Tomasi, Rector, is also a special education teacher and adjunct professor at a local university. Even though he teaches full-time, Father John manages to provide the community with regular church services, including at Divine Liturgies and vigils.
The Tomasi family was brought into the Orthodox Church through the monks of St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood in Platina, CA. With the blessings of the monks, the Tomasis started their Orthodox missionary outreach in Venice Beach as the "Bookstand on the Strand," and eventually found a home for the bookstore and budding church in Culver City. The Archangel Michael Orthodox Bookstore continues to maintain regular business hours, and because of this, the church is open for those who need to pray or light candles for loved ones.
For many years, Father John and Lydia have together chanted the Lamentations during the Holy Saturday matins service, and each year people have commented that someday a CD of the service must be made; it is with great thanksgiving that the Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church parishioners are now able to present this full-length version of the “Lamentations of Holy and Great Saturday."
Glory to God for all things!