Introduction to the hymn
The hymn “O Nim Nai” is part of a longer hymn known as “Kata Nikhouros of the Veil”. This longer hymn gets its name because it is said when the doors of the sanctuary are closed, which are considered the veil of the sanctuary. (This is not to be confused with the hymn “Kata Nikhouros”, which is sung during communion of liturgy in the Holy 50 days.) The words to “Kata Nikhouros of the Veil” are below, with “O Nim Nai” highlighted in bold:
All the choirs that I hear. Oh what are these symphonies that are coming to my ears!
Christ rose from the dead, early on one Sunday.
O soldiers, lie not about the Resurrection of our Savior on the Lord’s Day.
Occasion for chanting the hymn
The hymn preceeds “Ya Kol el Sefoof” (“All You Heavenly Orders”), which is chanted before the “Resurrection Reenactment.” The deacons chant it outside the sanctuary without using the cymbals and the triangle.
During the chanting of this hymn, the Resurrection icon is prepared. The door of the sanctuary is then shut, and the priest begins to remove the roses and spices away from the burial.
The closed sanctuary door represents the gates of Paradise, which were closed because of Adam’s sin. When it is opened, it represents the gates opened by the Lord of Glory; He who was crucified for our salvation and rose to give us life and the inheritance of the kingdom.
Composition and contemplation of the hymn
The tune begins in a calm and somber manner, with the words “O Nim Nai” repeated twice to emphasize the state of those inside and outside the tomb. On the third repetition of “O Nim Nai”, the tune suddenly changes to a more upbeat tune, which symbolizes brightness. The church makes use of the tune to gradually introduce the word “Symphonia.” At this word, the listener feels the brightness of the melody as if he or she were witnessing the brightness of the light proceeding from the tomb when the stone is rolled.
Gradually, the tune continues to ascend higher until it reaches its climax. This represents the lifting of the righteous souls who were waiting for the hope of the Resurrection. As we know, these souls were held captive in Hades prior to Christ’s crucifixion, and with the resurrection, they were set free. In this part of the hymn, it seems as if we hear their voices rejoicing in their salvation.
The joy continues in like manner with a simple tune repeated in rhythmic and musical sequence, as if it were to express the joy of victory and conquering.
At the conclusion of the hymn, the tune once again returns to sadness and calmmess as if expressing the concerns of those who are skeptical of the glorious Resurrection. This is a reminder for us to believe undoubtedly in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The hymn is then immediately followed by the festive “All You Heavenly Orders” to continue this expression of joy and victory for our salvation. We are then led into the “Resurrection Reenactment” where the church gives us a heavenly, behind-the-scenes look at the moment when the gates of Paradise were opened.
Explanation of the hymn
Many people think that the holy hours that followed the burial of the Lord Christ were silent, dead hours, and that no events occurred until the very moment of the Resurrection. This is not true. These were powerful hours full of struggling and fighting with the spiritual host of wickedness, where Christ descended into Hades to save and bring out the souls of the dead who were waiting in hope to be set free from captivity.
The hymn “O Nim Nai” declares the happenings of those hours, both in Hades, where the conflict took place, and around the tomb, where the Mary’s and disciples stood with their doubts. From a human perspective, this hymn represents the exact moment of transition – from sadness to hope and joy. The hymn expresses the joy of victory and conquering, while also reminding us to believe in our Lord’s Resurrection, unlike Thomas who only believed when he put his hands in the wounds of Christ.
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29).
A Prayer on the hymn
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 out of the darkness of Hades with You, where I have been held captive because of my sins.
Grant me to declare Your Resurrection through my life to all who have not yet united with You. Remove from my heart any suspicion and doubt. Show compassion towards me, as You have shown compassion towards Thomas and made him cry out announcing his faith.
O my Lord and God, grant 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 heart.
Let my voice dissolve in their voices, and my tones be as steps moving towards You, oh You who have risen from the dead. Amen.
Sources and where to go to learn more:
- Cover Page Icon courtesy of AU Coptic Art