The Solovetsky Monastery in Northern Russia is one of the greatest citadels of Orthodox Christianity in Russia. However, only seventy years ago, this monastery was turned into a prison camp by the Soviet Union. In fact, it was one of the first communist death camps of a group called the GULAG - which stands for “Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies.” Not only that, but this monastery/prison camp became the “guinea pig” for all types of torture and prison camp research - the prisoners becoming war experiments.
But, something beautiful, shining, and rejuvenating came out of the bitter pain and anguish. A stack of paper - a hymn - was found under some papers as the prison camp was being taken back. This hymn, known to the Orthodox as the “The Akathist Hymn: "Glory to God for All Things” or “The Akathist of Thanksgiving” is a series of kontakions and odes that one of the captives, Fr. Gregory Petrov, wrote shortly before his death in the camp during 1942. The part of the title “Glory to God for All Things” are the words of St. John Chrysostom as he died in exile centuries earlier.
Can you imagine that?
Can you imagine...In the middle of a prison camp, most likely being tortured regularly, and yet writing hymns of Thanksgiving? But, that is truly what we should try to imagine during these next few days, and throughout our lives.
Giving thanks despite the circumstances.
Being faithful despite the pressure.
And loving in the face of our enemy.
Below are some of the hymns from the The Akathist Hymns:
How near Thou art in the day of sickness. Thou Thyself visitest the sick; Thou Thyself bendest over the sufferer's bed. His heart speaks to Thee. In the throes of sorrow and suffering Thou bringest peace and unexpected consolation. Thou art the comforter. Thou art the love which watches over and heals us. To Thee we sing the song: Alleluia!
Across the cold chains of the centuries, I feel the warmth of Thy breath, I feel Thy blood pulsing in my veins. Part of time has already gone, but now Thou art the present. I stand by Thy Cross; I was the cause of it. I cast myself down in the dust before it. Here is the triumph of love, the victory of salvation. Here the centuries themselves cannot remain silent, singing Thy praises: Alleluia!
For the complete series of hymns: http://www.saintjonah.org/services/thanksgiving.htm