Monday, October 10, 2011

1st & 2nd Antiphons- The Divine Liturgy of St John Chyrsostom

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Bless the Lord, O my soul and let all that is within me, bless His holy name. Blessed are You, O Lord.

(In addition, on feasts we sing- 'Through the prayers of the Mother of God, O Savior save us' with verses)

Now and always and forever and ever. Amen. O Only begotten Son and Word of God, you who are immortal, yet did condescend for the sake of our salvation to become incarnate of the holy Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary, without change becoming man, and being crucified , O Christ our God, with death you conquered death, you who are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified together with the Father and the Holy Spirit save us.

(in addition, on feasts we sing- 'O Son of God, you who are glorified in your saints, save us who sing to you. Alleluia' with verses)

In the first antiphon- the portion that resonates with me today is 'let all that is within me, bless...' So, by singing this, I am reminded again and again that I must offer my entire self to God and my entire being in blessing His name. My life as a Christian is an offering to Him. But I am also reminded that I am to offer myself, not someone else. We are exhorted to "be yourself, everyone else is taken" (my favorite scandalous writer Oscar Wilde). The widow who gave a minuscule amount of money as an offering in the temple is remembered as one who gave all. This line of the Divine Liturgy is a strong reminder that we should be like her and give all we have and 'keep our eyes on our own work' as they say in school.

The second antiphon is a good example of Byzantine spirituality. Every Divine Liturgy mixes the concepts of death and resurrection ("By death, he conquered death" and "Alleluia"). The concepts are never separated. It can be shocking for some to hear  "Alleluia" in our churches during the Great Lent and to hear "By death he conquered death" over and over between Easter and Ascension. My older girls are preparing a Russian folk song for Christmas that depicts Jesus as a boy who gives white roses to some children. They ask him what He will use for a crown and he says that His thorns are growing in the garden in preparation for His future.- and it also uses the words Alleluia! Bleak, yet beautiful....

I'm sure you could search for deep theological reasons for this, but I'll just say: we are an 'Easter People' every day but we also are living with the consequences of original sin- death- every day. Until we are all called home to God, the foot of the cross is our home. It is the sadness and fear of the crucifixion combined with the hope and joy of the resurrection. I suppose you could call us a 'bitter-sweet' people.


  1. I can't wait to hear their folk song. Maybe priest's wife could break from tradition and upload a video and give us a peek into your world? I like the seamlessness between death and life-- beautiful. -F

  2. I don't think that the spirituality you describe is exclusively Byzantine. Often Westerners seem to be inoculated against seeing it in their own tradition, but is certainly there. The whole theology of the Mass is about the paradox of re-presenting the sacrifice of the One who has died and has been raised so that death no longer has power over Him.

    Certainly Christmas in the West has traditionally mixed elements of joy and sorrow. In German lands, where the Advent wreath began, it has red berries to symbolize the Blood shed to bring about eternal life (symbolized by the shape of the wreath and the ever-green branches). In England sprigs of holly have a similar meaning (think of the "Holly and the Ivy" carol). Baby Jesus in the Nativity scene has His little arms spread out to form a cross. These folk traditions echo the liturgical tradition in which death and life are intertwined through the Scripture passages and through the traditional commemoration of the martyr St. Anastasia during the Mass at Dawn. Death, bloody death, is never far away from the thought of the Christian celebrating the Incarnation.

  3. I agree with anonymous, Alice and Priest's Wife. Thanks for your blog.


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