07 June 2011

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, Have Mercy on us!

The Trisagion (Greek: Τρισάγιον "Thrice Holy"), sometimes called by its opening line Agios O Theos or by the Latin Tersanctus, is a standard hymn of the Divine Liturgy in most of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches and Catholic Churches.

In those Churches which use the Byzantine Rite, the Trisagion is chanted immediately before the Prokeimenon and the Epistle Reading. It is also included in a set of prayers named for it, called the Trisagion Prayers, which forms part of numerous services (the Hours, Vespers, Matins, and as part of the opening prayers for most services).

The Trisagion prayer is an ancient prayer in Christianity. It may be that the prayer was originally an expansion of the angelic cry recorded in Revelation 4:8 (sometimes called the Sanctus).

The Greek phrase Trisagion translates as "Thrice Holy" - as in this hymn God is described Holy in three different qualities; Agios o Theos, means 'Holy God'.

In Greek:
Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός, Ἅγιος ἰσχυρός, Ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.Agios o Theos, Agios ischyros, Agios athanatos, eleison imas. (Traditional Romanization) 
In Arabic:
Qudduson il-Lah, qudduson il Qawee, qudduson il-Ladhee, la ya-mout ir-hamna. 
In Latin:
Sānctus Deus, Sānctus Fortis, Sānctus Immortālis, miserēre nōbīs. 
In English:
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. 
In Church Slavonic this is:
Свѧты́й Бо́же, Свѧты́й Крѣ́пкїй, Свѧты́й Безсме́ртный, поми́лyй на́съ. Svjatyj Boze, Svjatyj Kripkij, Svjatyj Bezsmertnnyj, pomiluj nas. 
In Classical Armenian:
Սուրբ Աստուած, սուրբ եւ հզօր, սուրբ եւ անմահ, որ հարյար ի մեռելոց, ողորմեա մեզ Sourp Asdvadz, sourp yev h'zor, sourp yev anmah, vor haryar i merelotz, voghormia mez.
In Croatian:
Sveti Bože, Sveti Jaki Bože, Sveti Besmrtni Bože, smiluj nam se. 
In French:
Saint Dieu, Saint Fort, Saint Immortel, aie pitié de nous. 
In German:
Heiliger Gott, heiliger starker, heiliger unsterblicher, erbarme dich unser. 
In Italian:
Santo Dio, Santo forte, Santo immortale, abbi pietà di noi.
Dio santo, Dio forte, Dio immortale, abbi pietà di noi. 
In Polish:
Święty Boże, Święty Mocny, Święty Nieśmiertelny, zmiłuj się nad nami. 
In Romanian:
Sfinte Dumnezeule, Sfinte Tare, Sfinte Fără de Moarte, miluieşte-ne pre noi. 
In Turkish:
Kutsal Tanrı, Kutsal Kudretli, Kutsal Ölümsüz, bize merhamet göster. 
In Finnish:
Pyhä Jumala, Pyhä Väkevä, Pyhä Kuolematon, armahda meitä. 
In Spanish:
Santo Dios, Santo Fuerte, Santo Inmortal, ten piedád de nosotros. 
In Georgian:
წმიდაო ღმერთო, წმიდაო ძლიერო, წმიდაო უკვდავო, შეგვიწყალენ ჩვენ.
Tsmidao Ghmerto, Tsmidao Dzliero, Tsmidao Ukvdavo, shegvitsqalen chven. 
In Low Mari (spoken in Russian Federation):
Святой Юмо, Святой Куатле, Святой Колыдымо, мемнам серлаге.
Svyatoy Yumo, Svyatoy Kolydymo, Svyatoy Kooatle, memnam serlage. 
In Slovak:
Svätý Bože, Svätý Silný, Svätý Nesmrteľný, zmiluj sa nad nami. 
In Belarusian:
Сьвяты Божа, Сьвяты Моцны, Сьвяты Несьмяротны, памілуй нас. (Cyrillic orthography)
Śviaty Boža, Śviaty Mocny, Śviaty Nieśmiarotny, pamiłuj nas. (Latin orthography) 
In Ge'ez (Ethiopic):
Qidus Igziabhér, Qidus Hayal, Qidus Hiyaw, Ze'iyimewut, Tesehalene Egzi'o. 
In Amharic (Ethiopia):
Qidus Igziabhér, Qidus Hayal, Qidus Hiyaw, Yemaymot, Abétu Yiqir Belen. 
In Syriac: Qadeeshat aloho, qadeeshat hayelthono, qadeeshat lo moyoutho, deslebt hlofayn ethraham layn. 
In Arabic:
قدوس الله، قدوس القوي، قدوس الذي لا يموت ارحمنا
Quddûsun Allâh! Quddûsun al-qawî! Quddûsun al-ladhî lâ yamût urhamnâ. 
In Hebrew:
אל הקדוש, סגיב הקודש,אלמותי הקודש, ירחם עלינו
El Ha-Kadosh! Sagiv Ha-Kadosh! Almoti Ha-Kadosh, rakhem aleynu. 
In Chinese:
至聖之上帝,至聖及大能之上帝,至聖及永生之上帝,憐憫我們。 (Traditional)
至圣之上帝,至圣及大能之上帝,至圣及永生之上帝,怜悯我们。 (Simplified)
Zhì shèng zhī Shàngdì, zhì shèng jí dà néng zhī Shàngdì, zhì shèng jí yǒngshēng zhī Shàngdì, liánmǐn wǒmen. (Pinyin) 
In Filipino:
Banál na Diyós, Banál na Puspós ng Kapángyarihan, Banál na Waláng Hanggán, maawâ po Kayò sa amin. 
In Korean:
거룩한 하느님이시여, 거룩하고 전능하신 이여, 거룩하고 영원하신 이여, 우리를 불쌍히 여기소서.
Georukhan Haneunimisiyeo, Georukhago Jeonneunghasin Iyeo, Georukhago Yeongwonhasin Iyeo, urireul bulssanghi yeogisoseo. 
In Japanese:
聖なる神, 聖なる勇毅, 聖なる常生の者や、我等を憐れめよ。
Seinaru Kami, Seinaru Yūki, Seinaru Jōseinomonoya, Warerao Awaremeyo. 
In Malayalam:
Deivame nee parisudhanaakunnu, Belavanne nee parisudhanaakunnu, Maranamillathavane nee parisudhannakunnu, Njangalku vendi (Making the sign of the cross) Krushikkapettavane Njangale anugrahikkaname
The hymn is of great antiquity, and perhaps much older than the event assigned by the Greek Menology as connected to its origin. The tradition recounts that during the reign of Theodosius II (408-450), Constantinople was shaken by a violent earthquake, 24 September, and that whilst the people, the emperor and the Patriarch Proclus of Constantinople (434-446) were praying for heavenly assistance, a child was suddenly lifted into midair, to whom all cried out Kyrie eleison ('Lord, have mercy'). The child was then seen to descend again to the earth, and in a loud voice he exhorted the people to pray : 'Holy God, Holy and Strong, Holy and Immortal'. After giving this exhortation, the child died.

The fact that the hymn was one of the exclamations of the fathers at the Council of Chalcedon (451), and that it is common not only to all the Greek Oriental liturgies, but was used also in the Gallican Liturgy (see Saint Germain of Paris, d. 576), suggests that the hymn is extremely ancient, perhaps of apostolic-era origin.

The Coptic Orthodox Church believes that the Trisagion originated from Nicodemus. While taking the body of Christ off the cross with Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus saw Jesus Christ's eyes open and then shouted "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal". Traditionally, it is also considered proof that his Divinty did not part from his humanity.

Interestingly, the Gallican Liturgy refers to it as being sung both in Greek and in Latin: Incipiente præsule ecclesia Ajus [that is, Agios] psallit, dicens latinum cum græco, as also previously in Greek alone, before the Prophetia. Benedict XIV thought that the Greek formula was joined with the Latin in allusion to the divine voice heard at Constantinople. But the explanation seems hardly necessary, in view of the retention of Kyrie eleison in the Roman Liturgy, as well as such Hebrew words as Amen, Alleluia, Hosanna, Sabaoth. It is true that the Kyrie eleison is not joined to a Latin version; on the other hand, it is so simple and occurs so frequently, that its meaning could easily be learned and remembered - whereas the entire Trisagion might well receive a parallel version into Latin.

When the Trisagion is sung during the Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine Rite, before the Prokeimenon of the Gospel that precedes the Epistle reading, it is normally sung three times to one of many melodies composed for it. This is followed by singing Glory... Now..., the second half of the Trisagion once, and finally the whole Trisagion a fourth time:
Holy God, Holy [and] Mighty, Holy [and] Immortal, Have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy [and] Mighty, Holy [and] Immortal, Have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy [and] Mighty, Holy [and] Immortal, Have mercy on us.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Holy [and] Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy [and] Mighty, Holy [and] Immortal, Have mercy on us.
On the other hand, in the usage of the other, non-Byzantine Eastern Churches, the Trisagion is simply sung thrice, with no Glory... Now....

In the West Syrian Rite, used by the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and in a hybrid form, the Maronite Church and other derived rites of Syriac Christianity, the Trisagion is sung towards the beginning of the Holy Qurbana (Divine Liturgy), after the Old Testament Readings and the Introductory Hymn.

In the Armenian Rite, used by the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian Catholic Church, the Trisagion occurs early in the Divine Liturgy, coming after the Monogenes Hymn and the Midday Hymn & Psalm.

The Trisagion also has a similar place in the liturgies of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Eritrean Orthodox Church, as well as the Coptic Catholic Church and Ethiopic Catholic Church.

During most services of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Trisagion is combined with several other prayers to form a unit, often called simply The Trisagion Prayers. This set of prayers forms part of the opening prayers of most services, and is also located within many of the Hours and daily cycle of services.

The full unit known as the Trisagion Prayers normally looks like this:
Holy God, Holy [and] Mighty, Holy [and] Immortal, have mercy on us. (three times)
Glory... Both now...
All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy God, visit and heal us for thy Name's sake.
Lord, have mercy. (three times)
Glory... Both now...
Our Father...
While it is possible that the Trisagion has origins in the Biblical 'thrice holy' of Isaiah 6:3 (the Sanctus: Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of your glory', etc.), they are today separate prayers. The latter is used at a different point in the Liturgy (in the Divine Liturgy, during the anaphora).

The trisagion is also sung at the entry of the coffin into the church at a funeral and when the coffin is carried to the grave. It is also sung at the conclusion of the Great Doxology.

In the Latin Church, the main regular use of the Trisagion is on Good Friday, when it is sung throughout the ceremony of the Adoration of the Cross. In the Sistine Chapel, the traditional setting was the polyphonic musical setting of Palestrina. During this service, the hymn is sung by two choirs, alternately in Greek and Latin, originally two antiphonal Greek and Latin choirs, as follows:
Greek (First) Choir: Agios o Theos. (Holy God)
Latin (Second) Choir: Sanctus Deus.
Greek (First) Choir: Agios ischyros. (Holy Mighty)
Latin (Second) Choir: Sanctus fortis.
Greek (First) Choir: Agios athanatos, eleison imas. (Holy Immortal, have mercy on us)
Latin (Second) Choir: Sanctus immortalis, miserere nobis.
The hymn is sung in this manner thrice, responding to the first three of twelve reproaches.

In the Latin Church, the Trisagion is also employed in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. There is also a Chaplet to the Holy Trinity used by the Order of the Most Holy Trinity called 'The Trisagion' or the 'Angelic Trisagion', which makes use of both forms of the Trisagion. It is also used in the hour of Prime, in the ferial Preces, on ferias of Advent and Lent and on common Vigils.

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