O Nim Nai Symphonia1
This hymn is chanted before the Resurrection Cycle on the Easter Eve
and up to thirty-ninth day of the holy Eastertide. This hymn is included in
Service Book of Deacons and Hymns.
The Language of the Hymn:
The words of this Hymn are few, and they are in Coptic (O Nim Nai
Symphonia). Their meaning is (Oh, these symphonies coming to my ears).
The Occasion on which the Hymn is Chanted:
This Hymn is chanted from Easter Eve up to the thirty-ninth day of the
holy Eastertide after the Praxis (part of the Book of the Apostles). During
chanting this hymn, the resurrection icon is prepared. Then the priests with
the Crosses in hand and the deacons with candles and flags of the
resurrection turn around the altar. The door of the sanctuary is then shut. At
1 “Symphony” is a word of Greek origin, meaning a group of sounds heard at the same time. It was first
known in early th century in Italy to describe the musical introduction preceding the lifting up of the
curtains in the Operas, or between the scenes.
In mid th century the Symphony became a complete work performed by the major Orchestra.
The Symphony is considered the most perfect and sublime musical work. Hayden was the first to be
called “the father of Symphony”, followed by Mozart. Then Beethoven improved it to perfection, and in the
ninth Symphony (called Choral) he introduced singing to accompany it. It therefore became expressive of
personal thoughts and human emotions in the Romantic era
this moment the priests begin to remove the roses and the spices away from
The altar closed door represents the gate of Paradise which was closed
because of Adam’s sin. When it is opened, this refers to its being opened by
the Lord of Glory who was crucified for our justification, and rose to give us
life and the inheritance of the kingdom.
Some claim closing the doors of the Sanctuary and switching the lights
off is a new arrangement introduced to us from the Greek church. We knew
it only from the days of Hegumen Philothaos Ibrahim the Head of St. Mark
Cathedral in Cairo ( ).
The Method of Performance:
The deacons perform it outside the Sanctuary. They sing it without using
the cymbals and the triangle. I have a personal point of view that if the hymn
is performed in the form of a dialogue between a sole singer and the chorus
of deacons, this will be a true representation of the dialogue that took place
between Mary and the two angels when she saw the two with white clothes,
sitting one at the head and the other at the feet where the body of the Lord
But she went on asking, “they have taken away my lord and I don’t know
where they have placed Him.” (John ) It will represent also the
dialogue between Mary and Jesus when she thought Him the gardener.
The Music Mode and Tempo:
The tune begins calm with a sad stanza in “Gahar Kah” Mode, repeated
twice to emphasize the state which is inside and outside the tomb. The low
tunes move within the medium refrains zone. Then the tune changes all of a
sudden to “Soznak Mode” which inclines to brightness. So, the church made
use of it to reach gradually the word “Symphonia”. At this word the listener
feels the brightness of the melody as if it were the brightness of the light
proceeding from the tomb when the stone is rolled.
Concerning the tune speed (tempo), it begins slow about beats per
minute. And from the moment the tune changed into “Soznak Mode”; the
percussion changes to “Ad-Libitum”, i.e. extemporaneous.
Explanation and Contemplation:
“Oh! These symphonies coming into my ears”. They are the prophetical
symphonies which made all prophecies – which seemed contradictory –
“Behold! The Virgin will be with child and shall bear a Son and they will
name Him Immanuel”. How could it be that the Virgin be with a babe?
And how could it be that God who dwells in heaven comes to dwell with
us on the earth? Who is He who like a lamb is led and like a silent sheep
before His shearers, He does not open His mouth?
Who is He who gave Himself to death and was counted among
transgressors and laid on Him many sins and handed over for the sinners?
Who is He who was laid in the lowest pit, in darkness and shades of
death? Certainly it is not David; for we know his history. No one put nails
in his body, nor his legs and feet were pierced, nor his garments were
divided, nor a lot cast over His cloak and none of the passers by spoke
against Him or shook their heads saying, “He trusted in God; let Him
deliver Him now if He will have Him”, and no one offered Him sour wine to
drink in His thirst. It is none but the Lord Christ in whom all the prophecies
Therefore, this melody was composed to express this harmony, this
symphony which combined together all those prophecies though different in
place and time to unite in one time only which is the fullness time and one
place only which is the body of Christ laid in that wonderful tomb, with the
big stone rolled over it, whilst the ranks of angels around singing praise who
to Him: (O Nim Nai Symphonia).
A lot of people think that the holy hours that followed the burial of the
Lord Christ were silent dead hours. Nay. They were powerful hours full of
struggling and fighting with the spiritual host of wickedness. For many
people after laying the stone over the tomb thought that by the death of
Christ events had stopped until the very moment of the glorious Resurrection
Sunday Dawn. But this actually did not happen, but the Lord Christ
descended unto Hades from over the Cross to save and bring out the souls of
the dead who were waiting in hope for the resurrection, to take their souls
out of Satan’s mouth and set free the captive.
What a long war that began at the twelfth hour of Good Friday and ended
with the rolling of the stone over the tomb and Christ’s ascent from Hades
carrying in His hands the souls of the righteous.
This hymn “O Nim Nai Symphonia” is indeed a marvelous hymn that
declares the happenings of those hours, whether those that happened in
Hades where the conflict took place, or around the tomb where the Marys
and the disciples stood with their doubts.
Therefore, the tune begins calm in “Gaharkah Mode” with a stanza
almost and consisting of ten bars repeated twice to emphasize the sad
impression which prevails over and around the tomb. All the tunes of this
stanza are low and move within the medium refrains zone. Then, suddenly,
the tune changes into “Soznak Mode” which is inclined to brightness which
the church fathers – inspired by the Holy Spirit and musicologists, and those
who are familiar with music Modes, and making use of them to represent the
abundant deep spiritual meanings implied in the few words of the hymn.
The transfer to the “Soznak Mode” with the gradual elevation of tunes to
reach the word “Symphonia” gives a marvelous sense of brightness like that
of the light coming out of the tomb after rolling the stone over it.
From the moment at which the tune is changed into the “Soznak Mode”,
the tone also changes to “Ad-Libitum”, i.e. extemporaneous free from
percussion restrictions. It seems as if the church wants to refer to the setting
free of the captives who awaited the Lord Christ to set them free and save
them from Hades.
Gradually, the tune ascends higher and higher in the sharp refrains zone
unto the climax, as if wants to refer to the bringing out of the souls of the
righteous who were waiting in hope for the resurrection. It seems as if we
hear in this hymn their voices rejoicing in their salvation.
The joy continues moving the silent rhythm again expressing victory with
a simple tune in forms repeated in rhythmic and musical sequence as if it
were the joy of victory and conquering.
The “Ad-Libitum” (extemporaneous) rhythm returns back again and the
Mode changes once more to a new mode “sozdlar”, then to the sad calm
tune, as if expressing the concerns of those suspecting the glorious
resurrection. Actually, they need to put their fingers in the place of nails and
the place of the spear – like Thomas – so that they might not be unbelievers
O My Lord and God, grant me when I chant this hymn to live the joy of
Your resurrection; to enjoy the victory … victory over myself and my lusts.
Let Your resurrection touch my mortal body that it may move towards You.
Lift me up with You out of Hades of my sins. Grant me to declare Your
resurrection through my life to all them who have not yet got attached with
Remove from my heart any suspicion. Do show compassion towards me
as You have done towards Thomas and made him cry out announcing his
O My Lord and God, grant me that my voice accord with the voices of
Your angels who sing “O Nim Nai Symphonia” that I might not be the only
incongruent voice due to the accumulation of sins over the strings of my
Do let my voice dissolve in their voices, and my tones be steps moving
towards You, who arose from the dead.
The Hymn “O Nim Nai”
O Ye, all the choruses I am listening to:
O for the symphonies coming to my ears.
Hymn O Nem Nai Symfonia
O Nim Nai Symphonia1