Trisagion

edited December 1969 in Coptic Orthodox Church
Have we dealt with this before? If so, sorry.

What are the theological implications of the simple Trisagion used by the Chalcedonian churches and the longer one used by the Copts etc?

This is particularly relevant when discussing the Nature of Christ so needs to be aired.

Comments

  • [quote author=aidan link=topic=10266.msg125219#msg125219 date=1293099350]
    Have we dealt with this before? If so, sorry.

    What are the theological implications of the simple Trisagion used by the Chalcedonian churches and the longer one used by the Copts etc?

    This is particularly relevant when discussing the Nature of Christ so needs to be aired.


    This is a good topic. I don't think we've dealt with it before.

    I thought, because our Trisagion is in Greek that it must naturally be exactly the same as the Greek Orthodox Church. I was clearly wrong. However, what's interesting, is that I know from a Greek that (to them), they can still pray it with us. Its more or less the same for them.

    Apparently, from what I understood is that we direct the Trisagion to the Son. However, they direct it to the Father.  This is what I understood from them anyway. If I'm wrong, I will allow someone more knowledgeable to correct me.

    Can you paste your Trisagion hymn here?

    Thanks
  • There is a very interesting thread about this on the Eastern Orthodox forum "Monachos". You can read it here. It appears that some EO do indeed have a theological problem with the Coptic Trisagion.
  • [quote author=dzheremi link=topic=10266.msg125251#msg125251 date=1293128421]
    There is a very interesting thread about this on the Eastern Orthodox forum "Monachos". You can read it here. It appears that some EO do indeed have a theological problem with the Coptic Trisagion.


    Well, this greek orthodox guy came to our Church and made a comment about how their Trisagion was different to ours ; but he said ours was OK - just different.

    Can you kindly summarise the issues the GOC have with the COC's Trisagion?

    Thanks
  • Some EO do have a problem with the Coptic Trisagion. I seem to remember reading about a riot in Constantinople when a patriarch introduced it.

    It does seem to leave the Father and the Holy Spirit out of the picture and would be a stumbling block to intercommunion. The EO is clearly trinitarian;
    'Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us' x3
  • [quote author=Zoxsasi link=topic=10266.msg125256#msg125256 date=1293131170]

    Can you kindly summarise the issues the GOC have with the COC's Trisagion?

    Thanks


    Unfortunately, not any more so than what you already read in the thread on the Monachos forum. I am not GOC or COC, so I am not a good person to provide that information.
  • The Trisagion was first of all a hymn to Christ used in the See of Antioch. The Oriental Orthodox continue to use it in a Christological manner. We know that even strict Chalcedonian two-nature supporters also used it in a Christological sense in Antioch.

    It began to be used in a Trinitarian sense in Constantinople, and when Constantinople came to dominate the Imperial Church it also insisted that its understanding and use of the Trisagion be accepted.

    But the original use was as a Christological hymn. The Trinitarian use is a relative novelty. Not disqualified because of that, but a novelty none the less. Therefore the Chalcedonians do not have a leg to stand on when criticising the more traditional Christological use.

    In this Christological sense there is no problem at all with any additions to the Trisagion. If the hymn is addressed to Christ then it is entirely reasonable to say '...who was crucified for us...'. Even strict Chalcedonians in Antioch used it in a Christological manner because this was how it was first used. So they added '..Christ the King, who was crucified for us..'

    There is no reason for the Trisagion to be a point of controversy unless Chalcedonians choose to ignore the history of the use of the Trisagion outside of Constantinople - unfortunately they sometimes have. I don't sense that most Chalcedonians in the modern time do, not least because the history is clear.

    The Chalcedonians have suggested that it was used first at Chalcedon, by angels even. But we know that it had already been in use in Syria for 100 years before that. Indeed the Syrian tradition is that it was heard as the song of the Angels waiting in the tomb of Christ.

    Father Peter
  • I heard the hymn originated from the words of Joseph of Arimathea when he saw Christ.

    Can Fr. Peter confirm this?

    [quote author=Father Peter link=topic=10266.msg125259#msg125259 date=1293133979]
    So they added '..Christ the King, who was crucified for us..'



    That's it? They just add that?
  • [quote author=Zoxsasi link=topic=10266.msg125263#msg125263 date=1293136756]
    I heard the hymn originated from the words of Joseph of Arimathea when he saw Christ.

    Can Fr. Peter confirm this?

    [quote author=Father Peter link=topic=10266.msg125259#msg125259 date=1293133979]
    So they added '..Christ the King, who was crucified for us..'



    That's it? They just add that?



    No.. It did not come from Joseph O.A  but from Nicodemus ,

    " 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."   (source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trisagion)  - under origins


    Also the EO get their Tresagion from the book of Isiah which the three God/Might/Immortal refer to the Trinity.    (Which is acceptable)

    as OO Our Tresagion is directed to the Son.. Like Father Peter said.. and Comes from Revelation and Nicodemus , (Source: Revelation 4: v8)

    Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”
  • I discussed this with Fr. Peter a little while ago.

    Here is a summary.

    The Non-Chalcedonian history:
    As Fr. Peter said the Coptic/Oriental Trisagion was used in Antioch. St Severus wrote about the Trisagion in a homily in the 6th century. Bar Salibi wrote about the Trisagion in the 12th century discussing the theology of the Trisagion.

    Professor Youssef Nessim Youhanna wrote an article attempting to trace the Trisagion to Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus. According to him, the 12th hour canon of Good Friday was first published by Raphael Tuki in 1736. The earliest Coptic writer to mention this tradition (that the Trisagion came from an angel when Joseph and Nicodemus were burying Christ) is Ibn Siba in the 13th or 14th century. The earliest Syriac writer was Thomas Bar Kepha in the ninth century. The earliest Syriac Arabic writer Ibn Garir in the 11th century.

    The Coptic tradition of Joseph and Nicodemus has more to do with buying 100 pounds of spices for the burial.

    Regardless of how the Trisagion came. It has come down from many sources as an original Christological hymn.

    Chalcedonian Tradition:
    John of Damascus in the 8th century and Nicephorus Callistus of the 14th century describe the Chalcedonian tradition. Between 434 and 446, when Proclus was bishop of Constantinople, numerous and violent earthquakes plagued the city. In one earthquake, a child was taken up to heaven and was taught by the teaching of the angels, the Trisagion (specifically, Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us). When the child returned and told the bishop what he was taught, the whole city sang the hymn and the calamity subsided.  Since this time, the Chalcedonians considered the Trisagion a Trinitarian hymn.

    According to Nicephorus and other Chalcedonian historians, additions to the Trisagion were introduced by Peter "the Fuller", a presbyter of the Church of St. Bassa the Martyr, which is in Chalcedon.  These additions focus on the Son and make the Trisagion a  Christological hymn. Through political maneuvering Peter the Fuller was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church, not the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Chalcedonians did condemn anyone who uses any addition to the "Trinitarian" Trisagion in 692 in the council of Trullo. Of course the Roman Catholic church views the council of Trullo as a "reprobate, erratic synod".

    The Roman Catholic church tried to condemn any additions to the Trisagion also. But in the end they left the Melkite churches to use it as long as they give allegiance to the Pope of Rome.

    The conclusion is that the Trisagion was probably originally a Christological hymn and the Chalcedonians changed it to a Trinitarian hymn, condemning anyone who added Christological statement. The Chalcedonians insist that it was originally a Trinitarian hymn and refuse to accept any tradition outside of Chalcedon as Fr. Peter said.

    I hope this helped.
    George
  • I don't know whether this is a helpful picture but can we picture a 'monophysite' scale with Nestorius at one end and Eutyches at the other. The Chalcedonians are nearer the Nestorian end and the OO close but nearer the Eutychian end.

    Pardon if this is insulting, it's not meant to be although it could be innacurate.
  • The Trisagion as a hymn to Christ and with the Christological addition, '..thou who wast crucified for us..' was used in Antioch during the episcopate of Eustathius (325-330), and therefore had a history of 140 years of use before the time of Peter the Fuller.

    John of Damsacus is therefore incorrect at least, and unfair and polemical at worst, when he calls Peter the Fuller a blasphemer, and an introducer of a fourth person into the Trinity.

    It is also the case that the Maronite Christians of the Lebanon, who are Chalcedonian and in communion with Rome, also used the Trisagion as a Christological hymn and with the Christological addition at least to the 16th century.

    Ephraim of Amida, a Chalcedonian Patriarch of Antioch, writes that the people of Syria and Antioch address the hymn to Christ, with the Christological additions, while those of Constantinople address it to the Trinity. He says that it is permissible to address the hymn to Christ with the addition.

    Indeed we even find Avitus, bishop of Vienne (d. 518) praising the singing of the Trisagion with the Christological addition.

    It seems reasonable to conclude that it was only at first used in a Trinitarian manner in Constantinople, and the opposition of Constantinople to other uses caused these other uses to be deprecated as Constantinople gained universal authority (and also eliminated all other liturgical uses). But it was not so at first, and even Chalcedonians are found using the Christological Trisagion without concern.

    The comments of John of Damascus are part of the historical revisionism which took place within the Chalcedonian community. (However much he is to be valued as a source of EO thought).

    Father Peter
  • Dear Aidan,

    I guess that I would want to say that if there was a scale it would have Theodore of Mopsuestia at one end, and probably not Eutyches at the other, but the Synousiasts that various non-Chalcedonian Fathers fought against.

    We would consider that our Christological Faith is in the middle, and that 'classical or strict Chalcedonianism' is towards the Theodorean end, while post-553 Chalcedonianism is much closer to the middle.

    Father Peter
  • My Dear Father,

    I'm always amazed how over the centuries, the most obvious point, can be ignored and intentionally butchered.

    It is so obivious, as you have illustrated and outlined, and even by the regular reading, that this magnificent hymn can only be addressed to the Son of God.

    I just don't see how it can be interpreted any other way, other than someone trying to elevate fake arguments for a secondary gain.
  • Dear Father

    Can you clarify what Gibbon has to say  http://www.anastasis.org.uk/gibbon_trisagion.htm

    Sounds dreadful
  • Well it pretty much happened like that. Constantinople was easily turned to mob rule. You can see from the introduction that the variety of use was not previously a matter of great dispute. But the author is wrong in saying the addition was by Peter the Fuller.

    Father Peter
  • Fr. Peter, lest we be accused of propogating lies against the Chalcedonians, let me be clear.
    John of Damascus (if memory serves me correctly) did not accuse Peter the Fuller of the additions. He wrote a treaty (found in the Ante Nicene Fathers Encyclopedia) that the Trisagion cannot be a Christological hymn. He simply argued theology. It was later Chalcedonian (and probably Constantinopolian) historians and writers who accused Peter the Fuller of the additions. This is clear from the fact that Peter the Fuller was not condemned in the 7th century by the Eastern Orthodox Chalcedonians, but in the 5th century by Rome.
    George

    [quote author=Father Peter link=topic=10266.msg125288#msg125288 date=1293184082]
    The Trisagion as a hymn to Christ and with the Christological addition, '..thou who wast crucified for us..' was used in Antioch during the episcopate of Eustathius (325-330), and therefore had a history of 140 years of use before the time of Peter the Fuller.

    John of Damsacus is therefore incorrect at least, and unfair and polemical at worst, when he calls Peter the Fuller a blasphemer, and an introducer of a fourth person into the Trinity.

    It is also the case that the Maronite Christians of the Lebanon, who are Chalcedonian and in communion with Rome, also used the Trisagion as a Christological hymn and with the Christological addition at least to the 16th century.

    Ephraim of Amida, a Chalcedonian Patriarch of Antioch, writes that the people of Syria and Antioch address the hymn to Christ, with the Christological additions, while those of Constantinople address it to the Trinity. He says that it is permissible to address the hymn to Christ with the addition.

    Indeed we even find Avitus, bishop of Vienne (d. 518) praising the singing of the Trisagion with the Christological addition.

    It seems reasonable to conclude that it was only at first used in a Trinitarian manner in Constantinople, and the opposition of Constantinople to other uses caused these other uses to be deprecated as Constantinople gained universal authority (and also eliminated all other liturgical uses). But it was not so at first, and even Chalcedonians are found using the Christological Trisagion without concern.

    The comments of John of Damascus are part of the historical revisionism which took place within the Chalcedonian community. (However much he is to be valued as a source of EO thought).

    Father Peter
  • I am afraid I can't agree with you George.

    John of Damascus certainly did condemn Peter the Fuller, and had he wanted he would have been able to find the clear evidence that the Trisagion was originally a Syrian Christological hymn.

    He says that Peter the Fuller 'did not fear to bleach the hymn of the Trisagion like a dirty garment'.

    He says, 'Heaven forbid that we repeat this Trisagion with our lips... Death is in this cup'.

    He says, 'He who restricts the Trisagion hymn to a single Person of the Holy Trinity shares in the vulgar stupidity of the Fuller, and contributes to the outrage evilly introduced by the Fuller to destroy everyone utterly'.

    The Chalcedonian Council in Trullo says...

    Canon LXXXI.

    Whereas we have heard that in some places in the hymn Trisagion there is added after “Holy and Immortal,” “Who was crucified for us, have mercy upon us,” and since this as being alien to piety was by the ancient and holy Fathers cast out of the hymn, as also the violent heretics who inserted these new words were cast out of the Church; we also, confirming the things which were formerly piously established by our holy Fathers, anathematize those who after this present decree allow in church this or any other addition to the most sacred hymn; but if indeed he who has transgressed is of the sacerdotal order, we command that he be deprived of his priestly dignity, but if he be a layman or monk let him be cut off.

    Yet it clearly is NOT alien to piety. This is revisionism.

    Indeed I have always considered this one of the worst instances of Chalcedonian revisionism. This hymn, which had been used anciently in Antioch as a Christological hymn, and had this addition for well over a hundred years before Chalcedon was rejected only by those of Constantinople, who used it in a Trinitarian manner. History is then changed so that it seems that the Christological use of the hymn was a novelty and the use of the addition was assigned to someone the Chalcedonians considered a heretic. It is not true. John of Damascus could easily have known that it was not true.

    Peter the Fuller was condemned by the Eastern Chalcedonians for the first time in 478 AD. He never believed anything worthy of censure. There seem to me to be plenty of reasons for considering the actions of the Chalcedonians to be at fault. The issue of the Trisagion has been a lasting one. Even now there are plenty of Chalcedonians insisting that our Orthodox Church is at fault for singing this hymn as we do. Many of them turn to John of Damascus for their justification and insist that he provides plenty of reason for never considering our Orthodox Churches to be anything but heretical.

    Father Peter
  • Fr Peter, I revert to your knowledge of these events. I just couldn't find any references to John of Damascus direct condemnation to Peter the Fuller. But you gave good quotes and references.

    I agree that Canon 81 of the Council of Trullo condemns additions to the Trisagion. But it didn't directly condemn Peter the Fuller. I agree the language of the canon implies the audience knows who Peter the Fuller is. And the canon ignores the fact that the Christological additions existed way before any Chalcedonian opposition or the Council of Trullo.

    Thanks for the clarification.
    George
  • thanks all for this clarification, very interesting.
    may we all work towards greater orthodox unity, unity based on a good understanding of history, love and forgiveness.
    i had the occasion to sing the trisagion (i sensitively used the EO version) in a greek orthodox church one; they were very surprised to find that i not only knew the words but that i was not actually a monophysite!
    once that discussion was over, they warmly invited me to visit again.
    i tell this story because this is the sort of contribution many of us can make, we don't need to be experts in theology and history to make a small change.
    thanks also to aidan, who already does this and is an inspiration :)
  • @PeterFarrington
    "The Trisagion as a hymn to Christ and with the Christological addition, '..thou who wast crucified for us..' was used in Antioch during the episcopate of Eustathius (325-330), and therefore had a history of 140 years of use before the time of Peter the Fuller." Would you please send me scholarly evidence for such?
  • @PaulIbrahim
    Did you notice that this discussion is 10yr old?
    Btw PeterFarrington doesn't post anymore on this forum
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