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Kontakion of the Departed – All Souls

Images of the grave in darkness are contrasted with the eternal light of Christ and underscored with the ancient Kiev chant, the Kontakion of the Departed, and the chimes and chant of the Orthodox monks in Ukraine.

Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy saints:
where sorrow and pain are no more;
neither sighing but life everlasting.
Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of man:
and we are mortal formed from the dust of the earth,
and unto earth shall we return:
for so thou didst ordain,
when thou created me saying:
“Dust thou art und unto dust shalt thou return.”
All we go down to the dust;
and weeping o’er the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Update: sung at the funeral for Prince Philip (including New Zealand-born tenor Nicholas Madden)

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18 thoughts on “Kontakion of the Departed – All Souls”

  1. I’ve listened to this about 5 times already. And sent it out to a whole list of people – most of whom have no interest in religion whatsoever. But this music is so transcendent, I could not but share it!

    To me there is nothing as beautiful as fine Russian Orthodox chant.

    Thank you so much.

  2. Charles Ainsworth

    Surely this is the most beautiful and devotional hymn for the dead. I first heard it when I was in the choir of Kingston on Thames and the then organist Fergus O’Connor took us into the great parish church to sing it for a friend who had died. It has remained deep in my heart ever since. Nothing however can replace Russian bases when it is sung

  3. Like Charles Ainsworth, of whom I have heard no news for probably 50 years, I too sang the Kontakion at Kingston Parish Church for Fergus O’Connor in the 1950s.
    David Ingall

    1. My father particularly requested this to be sung at his funeral (in August 2010). Having googled the words, I was astonished to see references to Kingston Parish Church and the choir. My father, Tony Swaby was (I think) in the choir here for a while in the early sixties. My Godmother was closely involved with All Saints for many years and I remember well many of the congregation from my visits back down south. David Nield was my sister’s Godfather.
      It’s an extraordinarily beautiful piece.

  4. Raymond ffoulkes

    The words and music (arr. Walter Parratt) can be found in the English Hymnal (1933 edition), no. 744. Also, of course, the Kontakion is the opening music in the David Lean film, Dr Zhivago.

  5. When I learn, as I did today, of a friend’s death, it is this Kontakion which springs up from within me. Yes, even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia; for that is at the very heart of our faith, even when we weep tears of grief.

  6. This chant is not Russian. It is originally in old Church Slavonic and evolved in Kyiv which is Ukraine. Kyiv is the historic origins of the Ukrainian people. There is a difference so please take note.

      1. Mrs. Helen Goodchild

        A cd called Earth Teach Me made in Vancouver BC Canada has a lovely recording of it. You might inquire at Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver to see if copies are still available. Also try the Chor Leoni Men’s Choir in Vancouver who have also recorded it.

    1. Dear Lara,

      It is not Ukrainian either. The Church Slavonic language is in fact Old Bulgarian language as it was developed in the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9 century CE and the chant itself originated in the Byzantine Empire around 6 century CE. I appreciate your effort to wish clarity on the matter. May God give your peace of mind and calm to your troubled heart.

    2. It was in Kiev that the Russian people were introduced to Christianity more than a thousand years ago. The city is still considered a sacred place for all Orthodox Christians in Russia as well as Ukraine. It was also the first capital of the Russian State, which at that time was known as Kiev Russ.

  7. Fr J.R.Bunyan

    Does anyone know where one can obtain a CD that includes the Contakion sung in English. A friend who has not long to live is keen to hear it and perhaps include it in her funeral. I did not see anything on Amazon. Thanks.

    1. Bosco Peters

      I’ve tweeted this question, Fr Bunyan. I hope you get a reply here. Easter Season Blessings. Prayers for you and your friend.

      1. I have been looking for many of the Old Church Slavonic chants/ songs especially those sung throughout the Divine liturgy. I’m Eastern Orthodox since birth (67 years). I’m Macedonian-Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox and unfortunately our services are all in English now. It just isn’t the same.

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