As the time is approaching for us to hear again Kassiani’s Hymn for Mary Magdalene, the woman lost in so many sins, by her own admission, I imagined her in dialog with Violetta Valery, the tragic heroine of Verdi’s “La Traviata”.
Violetta is dying and sings farewell to the joys of life, preparing to meet the Lord.
Mary is addressing the Dead Christ, weeping at his feet and pondering on the horrible sight of Death.
In both cases the desired result is “Redemption”.
However, there is a major difference. Violetta is the one who is dying, and in the agony of Death she tries to redeem herself, while Mary is alive and well, and tries to redeem herself while pondering Christ’s Death.
The major difference is that Mary has plenty of time ahead of her, while Violetta does not. In addition, Mary is privileged to be next to Christ’s body, while Violetta is feeling her own body shivering and going cold.
Initially I present the original text of Kassiani’s hymn, and the libretto of “La Traviata”, accompanied by a relevant Maria Callas masterclass. I then proceed to present the dialog, as I wrote it for the occasion.
Hymn of Kassiani
Sensing your divinity Lord,
a woman of many sins,
takes it upon herself
to become a myrrh bearer
and in deep mourning
brings before you fragrant oil
in anticipation of your burial; crying:
“Woe to me! What night falls on me,
what dark and moonless madness
of wild-desire, this lust for sin.
Take my spring of tears
You who draw water from the clouds,
bend to me, to the sighing of my heart,
You who bend the heavens
in your secret incarnation,
I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses
and wipe them dry with the locks of my hair;
those very feet whose sound Eve heard
at the dusk in Paradise and hid herself in terror.
Who shall count the multitude of my sins
or the depth of your judgment,
Saviour of my soul?
Do not ignore your handmaiden,
You whose mercy is endless”.
In the painting detail above, which is by Caravaggio, we can see Mary weeping by the deathbed of the Holy Mother.
Addio del Passato
Addio, del passato bei sogni ridenti,
Le rose del volto gia’ son pallenti
L’amore d’Alfredo pur esso mi manca,
Conforto, sostegno dell’anima stanca
Ah, della traviata sorridi al desio;
A lei, deh, perdona; tu accoglila, o Dio,
Or tutto fini’.
Le gioie, i dolori tra poco avran fine,
La tomba ai mortali di tutto e’ confine!
Non lagrima o fiore avra’ la mia fossa,
Non croce col nome che copra quest’ossa!
Ah, della traviata sorridi al desio;
A lei, deh, perdona; tu accoglila, o Dio.
Or tutto fini’!
Farewell, happy dreams of bygone days;
The roses in my cheeks already are faded.
Even Alfredo’s love is lacking,
To comfort and uphold my weary spirit.
Oh, comfort, sustain an erring soul,
And may God pardon and make her his own!
Ah, all is over,
All is over now.
Maria Callas at her “Addio del Passato” Master Class at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
Mary and Violetta in Dialog
The place where the dialog takes place is imaginary.
Mary: I am full of sin. I am dedicated to Christ. Christ is dead. I am ready to die.
Violetta: I am dying. I was full of sin. I tried to redeem myself. My love for Alfredo cannot save me. I do not want to die.
Mary: I am ready to die, but Death does not take me. I will cry and cry again, but who will hear me crying? The one that could save me is now dead.
Violetta: I do not want to die alone. Hold my hand. The end is coming. There is no more hope. The end is here.
Mary: Let me wash your feet, let me caress your hands. Let me come with you. My Lord cannot come to me, so I will go to him.
Violetta: You can wash my feet and caress my hands, but do not add more sin to your sins. You belong to the living, I belong to the dead. Farewell my dear. Pray for me. Pray for my soul.
Mary: I will bring you flowers for your journey. To caress your soul. Your favorite flowers.
Violetta: I enjoyed life. I tried to save my soul. I have to pay now with my life for it.
Mary: Take your flowers dearest, farewell!