Take The Last Kiss – The Last For Ever!

This hymn is a translation of the Stichera of the Last Kiss at the close of the funeral liturgy in the Euchologion in the Byzantine Liturgy. The full text from which this hymn is translated is found in the Great Euchologion (Το Ευχολογιον Το Μεγα).

Here is the text as it appears in the first edition of Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862). The text in the fifth edition has no sustantial differences, except that it breaks it into two hymns and breaks the second part into stanzas where the first edition has one block of text. I have marked the text as Part I and Part II to show these divisions and have followed the 5th edition in its division of part 2 into separate stanzas:

Part I.

Take the last kiss,—the last for ever!
Yet render thanks amidst your gloom:
He, severed from his home and kindred,
Is passing on towards the tomb:
For earthly labours, earthly pleasures,
And carnal joys, he cares no more:
Where are his kinsfolk and acquaintance?
They stand upon another shore.
Let us say, around him pressed,
Grant him, Lord, eternal rest!

The hour of woe and separation,
The hour of falling tears is this.
Him that so lately was among us
For the last time of all we kiss:
Up to the grave to be surrendered,
Sealed with the monumental stone,
A dweller in the house of darkness,
Amidst the dead to lie alone.
Let us say, around him pressed,
Grant him, Lord, eternal rest!

Life, and life’s evil conversation,
And all its dreams, are passed away.
The soul hath left her tabernacle:
Black and unsightly grows the clay:
The golden vessel here lies broken:
The tongue no voice of answer knows:
Hushed is sensation, stilled is motion;
Toward the tomb the dead man goes.
Let us cry with heart’s endeavour,
Grant him rest that is for ever!

What is our life? A fading flower;
A vapour, passing soon away;
The dewdrops of the early morning:—
Come, gaze upon the tombs to-day.
Where now is youth? Where now is beauty,
And grace of form, and sparkling eye?
All, like the summer grass, are withered;
All are abolished utterly!
While our eyes with grief grow dim,
Let us weep to Christ for him!

Woe for that bitter, bitter moment,
The fearful start, the parting groan,
The wrench of anguish, from the body
When the poor soul goes forth alone!
Hell and destruction are before her;
Earth in its truest worth she sees;
A flickering shade; a dream of error;
A vanity of vanities.
Sin in this world let us flee,
That in heaven our place may be.

Draw nigh, ye sons of Adam; viewing
A likeness of yourselves in clay:
Its beauty gone; its grace disfigured;
Dissolving in the tomb’s decay;
The prey of worms and of corruption,
In silent darkness mouldering on;
Earth gathers round the coffin, hiding
The brother, now for ever gone.
Yet we cry, around him pressed,
Grant him, Lord, eternal rest!

When, hurried forth by fearful angels,
The soul forsakes her earthly frame,
Then friends and kindred she forgetteth,
And this world’s cares have no more claim,
Then passed are vanity and labour;
She hears the Judge’s voice alone;
She sees the ineffable tribunal:
Where we, too, cry with suppliant moan,
For the sins that soul hath done,
Grant Thy pardon, Holy One!

Now all the organs of the body,
So full of energy before,
Have lost perception, know not motion,
Can suffer and can act no more.
The eyes are closed in death’s dark shadow;
The ear can never hear again;
The feet are bound; the hands lie idle;
The tongue is fast as with a chain.
Great and mighty though he be,
Every man is vanity.

Part II.

Behold and weep me, friends and brethren!
Voice, sense, and breath, and motion gone;
But yesterday I dwelt among you;
Then death’s most fearful hour came on.

Embrace me with the last embracement;
Kiss me with this, the latest kiss;
Never again shall I be with you;
Never with you share woe or bliss.

I go toward the dread tribunal
Where no man’s person is preferred;
Where lord and slave,where chief and soldier,
Where rich and poor, alike are heard:

One is the manner of their judgment;
Their plea and their condition one:
And they shall reap in woe or glory
The earthly deeds that they have done.

I pray you, brethren, I adjure you,
Pour forth to Christ the ceaseless prayer,
He would not doom me to Gehenna,
But in His glory give me share!

Words: attr. St.John of Damascus, 675–749; tr. John Mason Neale, 1853.
Tune (Part I): No tunes seem to exist in this meter.
Tune (Part II): TBD…
Meter: Part I: 9.8.9.8.9.8.9.8.7.7; Part II: 9.8.9.8

Dr. Neale leaves the following note on this hymn in the first edition:

The following Stichera, which are generally, (though without any great cause,) attributed to S. John Damascene, form, perhaps, one of the most striking portions of the service of the Eastern Church. They are sung towards the conclusion of the Funeral Office, while the friends and relations are, in turns, kissing the corpse ; the Priest does so last of all. Immediately afterwards, it is borne to the grave ; the Priest casts the first earth on the coffin, with the words,—” The earth is the Lord’s, and all that therein is : the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein.” I have omitted four of the stanzas, as being almost a repetition of the rest.

This is the original Greek text from which this hymn is translated in its entirety as it appears in the Great Euchologion:

Ἦχος β’
Ὅτε ἐκ τοῦ ξύλου σε νεκρὸν

Δεῦτε. τελευταῖον ἀσπασμόν· δῶμεν ἀδελφοὶ τῷ θανόντι· εὐχαριστοῦντες Θεῷ· οὗτος μὲν ἐξέλιπε· τῆς συγγενείας αὐτοῦ, καὶ πρὸς τάφον ἐπεὶγεται· οὐκ ἔτι φροντίζων· τὰ τῆς ματαιότητος καὶ πολυμόχθου σαρκός· ποῦ νῦν συγγενεῖς τε καὶ φίλοι· ἄρτι χωριζόμεθα ὅνπερ· ἀναπαῦσαι Κύριος εὐξώμεθα.

Ποῖος· χωρισμός, ὦ ἀδελφοί· ποῖος κοπετός ποῖος θρῆνος· ἐν τῇ παρούσῃ ῥοπῇ· δεῦτε οὖν ἀσπάσασθε· τόν πρὸ μικροῦ μεθ’ ἡμῶν· παραδίδοται τάφῳ γὰρ· καλύπτεται λίθῳ· σκότει κατοικίζεται νεκροῖς συνθάπτεται· πάντες· συγγενεῖς τε καὶ φίλοι· ἄρτι χωριζόμεθα ὅνπερ· ἀναπαῦσαι Κύριος εὐξώμεθα.

Ἄρτι ἡ τοῦ βίου πονηρὰ· λύεται πανήγυρις πᾶσα· τῆς ματαιότητος· πνεῦμα γὰρ ἐξέλιπεν· ἀπὸ σκηνώματος· ὁ πηλὸς μεμελάνωται· τὸ σκεῦος ἐῤῥάγη· ἀφωνον ἀναίσθητον νεκρὸν ακίνητoν· ὅπερ· παραπέμποντες τάφῳ· Κύριον εὐξώμεθα δοῦναι· εἰς αἰώνας τούτῳ τὴν ἀνάπαυσιν.

Οἷα· ἡ ζωὴ ἡμῶν ἐστὶν· ἄνθος καὶ ἀτμίς τε καὶ δρόσος· ἑωθινὴ ἀληθῶς· δεῦτε οὖν κατίδωμεν ἐπὶ τοὺς τάφους τρανῶς· ποῦ τὸ κάλλος τοῦ σώματος· καὶ ποῦ ἡ νεότης· ποῦ εἰσὶ τὰ ὄμματα καὶ ἡ μορφὴ τῆς σαρκὸς· πάντα· ἐξηράνθη ὡς χόρτος· πάντα ἠφανίσθησαν δεῦτε· τῷ Χριστῷ προσπέσωμεν ἐν δάκρυσι.

Μέγας· ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὀδυρμὸς· μέγας στεναγμὸς καὶ ἀνάγκη· ὁ χωρισμὸς τῆς ψυχῆς· ἅδης καὶ ἀπώλεια· ἡ τῶν προσκαίρων ζωὴ· ἡ σκιὰ ἡ ἀνύπαρκτος· ὁ ὕπνος τῆς πλάνης· ὁ ἀκαιροφάνταστος μόχθος τοῦ βίου τῆς γῆς· πόῤῥω· ἐκφευξώμεθα κόσμου· ἅπαν τὸ ἁμάρτημα ἵνα· τὰ οὐράνια κληρονομήσωμεν.

Βλέποντες προκείμενον νεκρὸν· λόγον ἀναλάβωμεν πάντες· τῆς τελευταίας ῥοπῆς· οὗτος γὰρ παράγεται· ὥσπερ καπνὸς ἀπὸ γῆς· ὡσεὶ ἄνθος ἐξήνθησεν· ὡς χόρτος ἐτμήθη· ῥάκει σπαργανούμενος γῇ καλυπτόμενος· ὅνπερ· ἀφανῆ λελοιπότες· τῷ Χριστῷ εὐξώμεθα δοῦναι· εἰς αἰώνας τούτῳ τὴν ἀνάπαυσιν.

Δεῦτε· οἱ ἀπόγονοι Ἀδὰμ· ἴδωμεν εἰς γῆν βεβλημένον· τὸν κατ’ εἰκόνα ἡμῶν· ὅλην τὴν εὐπρέπειαν· ἀποβαλλόμενον· λελυμμένον ἐν μνήματι· σαπρία σκωλήκων· σκότει δαπανώμενον γῇ καλυπτόμενον· ὅνπερ· ἀφανῆ λελοιπότες· τῷ Χριστῷ εὐξώμεθα δοῦναι· εἰς αἰώνας τούτῳ τὴν ἀνάπαυσιν.

Ὅτε· ἐκ τοῦ σώματος ψυχὴ· μέλλει μετὰ βίας ἁρπᾶσθαι· ὑπὸ ἀγγέλων φρικτῶν· πάντων ἐπιλάθεται· τῶν συγγενῶν καὶ γνωστῶν· καὶ φροντίζει τὰ μέλλοντα· κριτήρια στῆναι· τὰ τῆς ματαιότητος καὶ πολυμόχθου σαρκὸς· τότε· τὸν κριτὴν δυσωποῦντες· πάντες ἐπευξώμεθα ἵνα· συγχωρήσῃ Κύριος ὃ ἔπραξεν.

Δεῦτε· ἐν τῷ τάφῷ ἀδελφοὶ· βλέψωμεν τὴν τέφραν καὶ κόνιν· ἐξ ἧς ἐπλάσθημεν· ποῦ νῦν πορεύομεθα· τί δ’ ἐγεγόναμεν· ποῖος πένης ἢ πλούσιος· ἢ ποῖος δεσπότης· ποῖος δὲ ἐλεύθερος καὶ οὐχὶ πάντες σποδὸς· κάλλος· τοῦ προσώπου ἐσάπη· καὶ τὸ τῆς νεότητος ἅπαν· ἄνθος κατεμάρανεν ὁ θάνατος.

Ὄντως· ματαιότης καὶ φθορὰ· πάντα τὰ τοῦ βίου ἡδέα· καὶ τὰ περίδοξα· πάντες γὰρ ἐκλείπομεν· πάντες θνηξόμεθα· βασιλεῖς τε καὶ ἄρχοντες· κριταὶ καὶ δυνάσται· πλούσιοι καὶ πένητες καὶ πᾶσα φύσις βροτῶν· νῦν γὰρ· οἱ ποτὲ ἐν τῷ βίω· τάφοις καταβέβληνται οὕσπερ· ἀναπαῦσαι Κύριος εὐξώμεθα.

Πάντα· τὰ τοῦ σώματος νυνὶ· ὄργανα ἀργὰ θεωροῦνται· τὰ πρὸ μικροῦ κινητὰ πάντα ἀνενέργητα· νεκρὰ ἀναίσθητα· ὀφθαλμοὶ γὰρ κατέδυσαν· ἐδέθησαν πόδες· χεῖρες ἡσυχάζουσι καὶ ἀκοὴ σὺν αὐτοῖς· γλῶσσα· τῇ σιγῇ συνεκλείσθη· τάφῳ παραδίδοται ὄντως· ματαιότης πάντα τὰ ἀνθρώπινα.
Θεοτοκίον
Σῷζε· τοὺς ἐλπίζοντας εἰς σὲ· Μήτηρ τοῦ ἀδύτου Ἡλίου· Θεογεννήτρια· αἴτησαι πρεσβείαις σου· τὸν Ὑπεράγαθον· ἀναπαῦσαι δεόμεθα· τὸν νῦν μεταστάντα· ἔνθα ἀναπαύονται αἱ τῶν δικαίων ψυχαί· θείων· ἀγαθῶν κληρονόμον· δεῖξον ἐν αὐλαῖς τῶν δικαίων· εἰς μνημόσυνον Πανάμωμε αἰώνιον.
Δόξα…ἦχος πλ. β.
Ὁρῶντές με ἄφωνον καὶ ἄπνουν προκείμενον· κλαύσατε πάντες ἐπ’ ἐμοὶ ἀδελφοὶ· καὶ φίλοι συγγενεῖς καὶ γνωστοὶ· τὴν γὰρ χθὲς ἡμέραν μεθ’ ὑμῶν ἐλάλουν· καὶ ἄφνω ἐπῆλθέ μοι ἡ φοβερὰ ὧρα τοῦ θανάτου· ἀλλὰ δεῦτε πάντες οἱ ποθούμενοί με· καὶ ἀσπάσασθέ με τὸν τελευταῖον ἀσπασμὸν· οὐκ ἔτι γὰρ μεθ’ ὑμῶν πορεύσομαι· ἢ συλλαλήσω τοῦ λοιποῦ· εἰς κριτὴν γὰρ ἀπέρχομαι· ἔνθα προσωποληψία οὐκ ἔστι· δοῦλος γὰρ καὶ δεσπότης ὁμοῦ παρίστανται· βασιλεὺς καὶ στρατιώτης· πλούσιος καὶ πένης ἐν ἀξιώματι ἴσῳ· ἕκαστος γὰρ ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων ἔργων· ἢ δοξασθήσεται ἢ αἰσχυνθήσεται· ἀλλ’ αἰτῶ πάντας καὶ δυσωπῶ· ἀδιαλείπτως ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ προσεύξασθαι Χριστῷ τῷ Θεῷ· ἵνα μὴ καταταγῶ κατὰ τὰς ἁμαρτίας μου εἰς τὸν τόπον τῆς βασάνου· ἀλλ’ ἵνα με κατατάξῃ ὅπου τὸ φῶς τῆς ζωῆς.
Καὶ νῦν…Θεοτοκίον ὁ αὐτός

Πρεσβείαις τῆς τεκούσης σε· Χριστὲ καὶ τοῦ Προδρόμου σου. Ἀποστόλων Προφητῶν· Ἱεραρχῶν Ὁσίων καὶ Δικαίωνἡ καὶ πάντων τῶν Ἁγίων· τὸν κοιμηθέντα δοῦλόν σου ἀνάπαυσον.
Τρισάγιον. Παναγία Τριὰς… Πάτερ ἡμῶν… Ὅτι σοῦ ἐστιν … Μετὰ πνευμάτων δικαίων… καὶ τὰ ἕτερα· ἡ Αἴτησις παρὰ τοὰ Διακόνου, καὶ ἡ εὐχὴ παρὰ τοῦ Ἱερέως. Μετὰ δὲ τὴν ἐκφώνησιν, Δοξα καὶ νῦν· καὶ Ἀπόλυσις.

Ὁ ἀναστὰς ἐκ νεκρῶν, Χριστὸς ὁ ἀληθινὸς Θεὸς ἡμῶν, ταῖς πρεσβείαις τῆς παναχράντου αὐτοῦ Μητρὸς, τῶν ἁγίων ἐνδόξων καὶ πανευφήμων Ἀποστόλων, τῶν ὁσίων καὶ θεοφόρων Πατέρων ἡμῶν, καὶ πάντων τῶν Ἁγίων, καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν τοῦ ἐξ ἡμῶν μεταστάντος δούλου αὐτοῦ ἐν σκηναῖς δικαίων τάξαι , ἐν κόλποις Ἀβραὰμ ἀναπαύσαι, καὶ μετὰ δικαίων συναριθμήσαι, καὶ ἡμᾶς ἐλεήσαι, ὡς ἀγαθὸς καὶ φιλάνθρωπος. Ἀμήν.

Αἰωνία σου ἡ μνήμη, ἀξιομακάριστε καὶ ἀείμνηστε ἀδελφὲ ἡμῶν γ’.

About Noah

musings of a young Catholic aspiring to be faithful to his Lord and God Jesus Christ through His Holy Catholic Church
This entry was posted in Ancient & Mediaeval Hymns, Authorship Debated, Unknown, To Be Determined, Byzantine and Other Eastern Liturgies, Byzantine Liturgy, English Translation of Non-English Hymn, Euchologion, Funeral, Greek Hymns, Hymns By The Greats, John Mason Neale, No Tunes Exist For Hymn, Non-English Hymns, Saints of the Church (Canonized or Beatified), St. John of Damascus, The Faithful Departed, The Last Things, The Liturgy of the Church, Tune to Be Determined and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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