Icon courtesy of Dmitry Shkolnik

An Akathist is a hymn dedicated to a saint, holy event, or one of the persons of the Trinity.  The word akathist itself means “not sitting”.  The name derives from the fact that during the chanting of the hymn, or sometimes during the entire service, the congregation is expected to remain standing in reverence (except for the elderly and infirm).

When the word akathist is used alone it most commonly refers to the original hymn by this name, the 6th century Akathist to the Theotokos.

On the fifth Saturday of Lent, the Byzantine Catholic Churches celebrate this special service in honour of the Mother of God.  It is a prayer of veneration, thanksgiving and petition and is an expression of profound joy!

Akathist Saturday does not have any real connection to the Great Fast, but is celebrated during this time for historical reasons.  The profound content of this hymn incorporates the entire teaching of the Eastern Church concerning Mary.  In the Akathist we meditate and pray about the privileges, role and graces of the Mother of God in our salvation.  As we do so, we realize the power of her intercession and protection.  It is difficult for our hearts to remain unmoved at the beauty and profound imagery of this prayer.  It is the crown of all services in honour of Mary in the Eastern Church.

The writing of akathists continues to this day following the template of the original akathist to the Theotokos.