Hymn Hiten Ebresvia

“The Hittenne Presvia Hymn”
· It is chanted after the Reconciliation Prayer in the Divine Liturgy of
St. Gregory.
· The text is included in the Deacon’s Service Book page (in the
Arabic Text).
The Language of the Hymn:
All words of the hymn are in Coptic, except the last sentence “Eleos
Erines Thisea Eni Theos” which means “the mercy of peace, the sacrifice of
praise”. This sentence is in Greek. In old Eucologions this sentence came
separate from the words “Through the Intercession of the mother of God”,
and after the deacon says “come forward according to the order”.
The occasion on which the hymn is chanted:
The congregation chants it after the “Reconciliation Prayer” in which the
Lord Christ made reconciliation between the heavenly and the earthly
through offering Himself a live sacrifice as a propitiation for the sins of the
whole world.
The deacon inside the sanctuary says first “Spazist” i.e. “kiss each other”.
For the kiss here is an expression of reconciliation and forgiveness, and a
sign of unity of the members of the church in one body and one spirit.
During this kiss, the priest, with the help of the deacon, lifts the
“Prospharine”, (i.e. the white cloth made of silk or linen and having bells
fixed to it). This rite refers to removing the stone from the mouth of the
tomb where the Lord was buried. The shaking of the bells refers to the great
shaking which happened at the tomb of the glorious Resurrection.
This is followed by the hymn “Hittenni Presvia” which means “with the
intercession of the mother God the Holy Mary, O Lord, grant us the
forgiveness of our sins.”
The Method of Performance:
The whole congregation chants it with one spirit, having felt the
reconciliation following the Reconciliation Prayer and the holy kiss. Neither
the cymbals nor the triangle are used.
The Mode and the Speed of the Hymn:
The hymn is of “Hegaz Agami” mode, and near the end it turns into
“Hegaz Oigi” mode. It starts with active speed – approximately
pulse/moment – then turns into Ad-libitum1 mode which is not restricted by
a limited fixed time. This occurs in the last sentence in Greek, which is
translated: “ the mercy of peace, the sacrifice of praise”.
Explanation and Contemplation:
“With the intercession of the mother of God the holy Mary, O Lord, grant
us forgiveness of our sins”. Intercession is mediation between two parties,
and it is a pledge of love. It is based on the fact that God is dealing with
people and are not on the personal level only but on the level of the
congregation also.
1 Ad-libitum is free performance unrestricted with regular beats. The singer as player is given the chance to
perform freely.
The intercession prayer is as old as Noah, for we read, “Then Noah built
an altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His
heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake …. Nor will I
again destroy every living thing as I have done.” (Gen  )
It is as old also as Abraham, for he interceded for the people of Sodom
and Gomorrah, saying, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the
wicked? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous
with the wicked … Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do
right?” (Gen )
And it is as old as Samuel, who said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah. And I
will pray to the Lord for You.” (1 Sam )
The Holy Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which
cannot be uttered. The church distinguishes between those who have the
right to intercede such as the holy Virgin Mary, the angels, and John the
Baptist and other saints who may only ask and implore for us.
The early fathers, inspired by the Holy Spirit wanted to express their
persistence in entreating for forgiveness, so they repeated the basic tune
“Tonic: with an active speed along eight bars, in “Hegaz Agami” mode.
If ever there were one melody in the whole world in which one tune is
repeated for eight successive bars, it would be rejected altogether by all,
because the listener and singer also might get bored. However, in this hymn
we are discussing the repetition of the tune expressing persistence in
imploring for forgiveness. For this is our holy faith, as the Gospel says,
“And Shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him,
though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them
speedily” (Lk ) and also, “I say to you, though he will not rise and give
to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will rise
and give him as many as he needs.” (Lk )
The Lord Christ himself taught us to be persistent, for He, “being in
agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops
of blood falling down to the ground.” (Lk )
The Church knows well the importance of persistence, for when King
Herod arrested St. Peter, as the Book of the Apostles says, “constant prayer
was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts )
Yet, amidst the repetition of the tune expressing persistence, there comes
moments of awe and worship before the Lord. Worship is not performed
merely by bowing of the body downwards, but by bowing the melody down
a third short distance (lowering it) at the word “Epshois” (i.e. O Lord)
because “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall
serve”.
This lowering of the tune is repeated once more for the same distance at
the word “Ten Oo Osht” (i.e. We worship). It seems as if the church wants
by these tunes to move our heavy bodies to bow before Christ.
The meditative pause occurs within the melody at the word “Bi-Khristos”
(i.e. Christ) as if the melody calls you to pause a little to recognize who
Christ is! He is the Son of Man who “we will see coming on the clouds of
heaven with power and great glory and He will send His angels and they
will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to
the other”.
So the tune rises and lifts our sight up towards the cloud to see Him who
we see “Coming in glory”.
The rapid music stanza lingers to give the impression of reverence and
majesty to the Lord Christ, and to give a chance for meditation:
Am I, O Lord, among Your elect who You will gather from the four
winds and from one end of heaven to the other? … Here I am entreating You
for forgiveness with the intercession of Your mother the holy Mary … Here
I am wishing to taste the sweetness of Your true promise “Though your sins
are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa )
But soon the moments of meditation cease when the rhythm of the
melody takes us again to the first active speed (tempo) introducing to us the
Orthodox creed: “We believe in One God”, “One essence and Three
persons”, “We worship You, O Christ, with Your Good Father and the holy
Spirit.”
Therefore at the words “Afkcoti Emmon”, which mean “You have saved
us”, one stage of the melody comes to an end, forming almost a close with
an extended ending (Crona). A new important stage begins, without any
beats; for all this part is performed without being restricted by beats. It takes
the form of Ad-Libitum i.e. extemporaneously.
It is the sacrifice … the sacrifice that occupies God’s heart from the very
beginning of the creation. Even the first man felt that the sacrifice pleases
the heart of God. That is why Abel the Righteous offered of the firstborn of
his flock and of their fat. And God respected Abel and his offering. Thus
began the offering of sacrifices in the Old Testament, and continued until the
blameless sacrifice came. That sacrifice for our salvation … The Lord Christ
who came as a Lamb.
He was the prototype that abolished the symbolic sacrifice, for Michah
the Prophet said, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself
before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with
calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten
thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the
fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is
good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic )
So David – who deserved to be called father and savior – was the first to
introduce to the Jews a new way of praise. He set a new order of worship
through praise songs, and other means that surpassed the Law of Moses,
which David created throughout his service. This is the reason behind the
superiority of the psalms in holiness and benefit. And this is why the Jews
called the Book of Psalms “Cedra Tahllim” which means “the Book of
Joyful praise”.
Chanting praise is the heavenly prayer garment which endows praise with
serenity and sublimity. Chanting dresses the words of praise with the most
valuable poetic rhyming. Hence the human voice comes out bearing the
sacrifice of the tune in its most sublime degree. The meaning rises up high
and gradually in its gentleness and deep emotions to attain utmost
inspiration. With them man’s heart rises up readily even unto God’s
presence, and the whole congregation with the same readiness and high
familiarity surpassing any human measure to attain the utmost level of
worship. And after a short time of harmonious chanting the Church attains a
state of communion with the invisible heavenly host and everyone in the
Church can feel it inside and outside.
The prayers of David the Prophet, therefore, were all continual praise and
singing, for he said, “Seven times a day I praise You.” (Ps )
Actually, when the heart overflows with the action of the spirit, the
tongue is loosened and utters tunes expressing the deep emotions of the heart
far more than words can do.
St. Justin in his “First Defense” says that he considers prayers and praise –
when offered by important persons– are alone complete sacrifices acceptable
to God.
The Church often offers praise songs and hymns accompanied with
incense, as if confirming that these are a true sacrifice, because the Holy
Spirit descends and works in this invaluable sacrifice as David said, “Let my
prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the
evening sacrifice.” (Ps. )
From now on, there will be none but only this sacrifice which God has
loved since eternity: “the sacrifice of praise”. For it He created the angels, so
that they may offer it to Him continually, that is “the fruit of our lips, giving
thanks to His name.” (Heb )
St. Justine says also in the same reference “First Defense” that the only
honor that is suitable for God is not burnt offerings of animals which God
gave us for food, but rather offering Him praise with songs and hymns for
He created us.
And David the Prophet considered praise a true sacrifice, so he was keen
on offering his praise honestly and incessantly. So many times we read
words like, “I will go about Your altar, O Lord, that I may proclaim with the
voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works”; “Therefore I
will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle.” (Ps  ) And after
being freed of his sins, David says, “You have loosed my bonds. I will offer
to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Ps ). It is natural then that
man, having obtained the forgiveness if his sins, offers a sacrifice of praise
and thanksgiving, “For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.” (Hos )
The melody of this hymn thus came expressing the steps by which we
prepare such a sacrifice in a way to be acceptable. These preparations are the
wood, the ropes, the knife and the fire. So the melody came slow to
represent the time these preparations take. Then it rises gradually the nearer
we come to offering the sacrifice. As soon as it is offered to the heavenly
Father it carries us from the earth unto heaven through changing the musical
mode to “Hegaz Oigi”.
O our God, who accepted the sacrifice of Abel the Righteous, may You
accept our sacrifice of praise! Ye who gave those on the earth to chant the
songs of praise of the Seraphim, do accept also from us our voices with
those who are invisible. Do count us among the heavenly host that we may
sing with them with unceasing voices and mouths that never slacken and
bless Your Majesty.
O my God, if you hear me crying, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because
I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean
lips;”(Isa ), do not leave me alone, but through the intercession of Your
mother the holy Virgin Mary send a seraph to take a live coal with the tongs
from the altar and touch my mouth with it so that my iniquity be taken away
and my sin be purged.
The “Hittenne Presvia” Hymn
Through the Intercession of the mother of God
The Holy Mary
O Lord Grant us the forgiveness of our sins.
We worship You, O Christ,
With Your Good Father and the Holy Spirit
Because You came and saved us.
The mercy of peace;
The sacrifice of praise!

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