Hymn Ariho Itshasf

The “Arihoo Chasf” Hymn
“Exalt Him High”
This hymn is included in the Midnight Psalmody and chanted at the end
of the Third Hos (Canticle) after the long delightful hymn of “Hos Erof” and
before the Batos Song of the Three Saintly Young Men.
The text of this hymn is included in the Annual Holy Psalmody (Page
- the Arabic text).
The Language of the Hymn:
The few words of the hymn are written in Coptic language. The words
and the meaning are as follows:
Hos Erof : Praise Him
Arihoo Chasf : Exalt Him high
Sha Ni Eneh : Forever
The Occasion on which the Hymn is Chanted:
This hymn is included in the Midnight Psalmody and chanted at the
conclusion of the Third Hos (Canticle), and before the Batos Song for the
Three Saintly Young Men.
The hymn of the Midnight Psalmody, especially this hymn, are
distinguished by the lengthiness of the tunes (Melisma) which gives the
impression that the singers love praising so much that they fear lest it come
to an end. That is why the tunes extend, rise up and go down on their mouths
For two words only: Hos Erof, there is a lengthy hymn that takes about a
quarter of an hour! And before it immediately comes the hymn “Ezmoo
Epshois”, which is another lengthy one. This is followed by this hymn
“Arihoo Chasf”.
The Method of Performance:
This hymn is chanted by all performers with the cymbals and the triangle.
They perform it in a joyful way, revealing on their mouths the infinite love
of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, and exalting Him forever. This hymn
is distinguished for the lengthiness of its tunes (Melisma).
The Mode and the Speed of the hymn:
The mode of the hymn varies intensively. It begins with “Agam Mode”
which is based on the “Fa Tone” with a famous musical stanza, which is so
beautiful that it is repeated in other hymns, especially in the Liturgy of St.
Then in great fluency it changes into the “Rast Mode” that is based on the
“Do Tone”. After that, in a wonderful, yet complicated facility, it changes
into the “Agam Mode” based on the “Do Tone” and again to “Rast Mode”.
Then, yearning for the famous stanza which distinguishes the hymn, and
with which it began, it returns once more to “Agam Mode”. All these
extensive tunes imply no words, but only the letter “Yota” of the word
“Arihoo Chasf”.
At this point, it is time for uttering the rest of the word “Hoo Chasf Sha”
all at one time in a musical stanza which does not exceed seven measures.
The hymn tunes rely on the letter “Alfa” from “Sha” in order to repeat the
complete hymn from the beginning with all the changes in the mode, all the
lengthiness of its tunes, and all its beautiful musical stanzas once more. It
seems as if the saint who composed its music by the Spirit does not want
these few words to quit his lips, his ears or his heart; or as if this hymn is an
endless Praise Song.
Finally, the hymn ends with the word “Ni Eneh” at which the tunes go
high, the preceding modes change into a new mode called “Arak”. Then
come new musical stanzas not heard of before. This is the proper express
word “forever”.
For this is eternal life: when the Lord will dwell with men, and there shall
be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall be any more pain,
for the former things are passed away …..And He that sat upon the throne
makes all things new (Rev ).
Explanation and Contemplation:
Praise is a heavenly language. For in the resurrection they neither marry
nor are given in marriage but are as the angels of God in heaven (Mt ).
Thus if we want to be like the angels of God, we must praise God
continually, without tepidity or weariness.
Hence, the early fathers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, composed melodies
for few words, so that each letter takes lengthy tunes, rising or descending,
extended or shortened, separated and linked before the following letter is
uttered. It is the desire to praise forever, to be like the angels of God. Thus
we should not be surprised when we listen to lengthy tunes for few words
taking about six minutes if we knew the meaning intended by these tunes.
The meaning of the word “Exalt Him High” justifies the lengthiness of the
tunes over the hymn. And the meaning which the word “High” bears
explains the clear ascending tune. On the other hand, the meaning behind the
word “forever” requires more continuity of these tunes.
The spiritual concept implied in the Melisma, with which the early
fathers were inspired while composing this hymn, became afterwards a
method followed by some music composers from outside the church. They
composed melodies for their songs distinguished by that Melisma.
Perhaps the Egyptian musical chanting form, known as “Al Doar”, which
appeared at the beginning of the th century, is a clear image affirming that
this Melisma – the lengthening of tunes – which the early Apostolic Church
created in the first three centuries won satisfaction and acceptance in the ears
of the great hymnists of that time on. So they began to imitate this method
i.e. by stuffing the second part of “Al Doar” with moans. They called this
part “Al Hunk”, a technical term referring to the method of singing “the
principal part of Al Doar” when both the singer and chanters exchange
Certainly the early fathers while composing these hymns were motivated
by the words of David the Prophet “Alleluia … Sing unto the Lord a new
song, and His praise in the congregation of saints” (Ps ). They
wanted by every tune to create a new praise song to the Lord.
Even in their beds, they are in a state of love that appears in praise
singing, “Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud upon their
beds” (Ps ), that is why they are awake at Midnight … while everyone
is asleep … to praise Him and exalt Him high forever with this new song
“Arihoo Chasf”.
And if we contemplate this hymn “Arihoo Chasf”, analyzing it, we will
find that it begins with a musical stanza which draws in my mind the image
of the monk who leaves his warm bed, at midnight in a chilly winter, to put
his head under the cold water to be refreshed and energetic. Then he goes
joyfully to the Monastery’s Church, stands among his brethren chanting with
them the first musical stanza of this hymn, which is composed of ten
measures and distinguished for its musical beauty and spiritual warmth
mixed with celerity and activity derived from the verse in (Ps )
“Awake, psaltery and harp. I myself will awake early.” And these ten
measures are repeated once more to assert the former image.
In wonderful fluency the melody then transfers to the zone of low refrains
when the mode changed from “Agam” to “Rast”. And in spite of the great
difference between these two modes and between the two base levels “Fa &
Do”, the change of modes is performed so skillfully and professionally
revealing the perfect musical awareness.
Then the melody returns once more to the big Mode “Agam”, then begins
to leave little by little the zone of low refrains and rises gradually until it
goes back to the start point … to the vivid stanza which depicts the image of
the hymnist shaking off his laziness to sing praise at midnight.
He says with the Bride of the Song “By night on my bed I sought him
who my soul loves … I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and
in broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loves.” He, likewise, rises and
goes about amidst the tunes and the modes, seeking Him who his soul loves.
So he goes with the tunes a step up towards Him who he loves, and not
finding Him, he rises another step.
And when the words “Arihoo Chasf” which mean “Exalt Him High” are
uttered, the attempt is repeated again by repeating the whole hymn from the
beginning, as if this repetition explains also the meaning of “Exalt Him”.
When the word “Ni Eneh” – which means: forever – comes, the melody
changes into “Arak Mode” flowing in the zone of sharp refrains as if he had
found at last whom his soul loves, seized Him, not letting Him go. Therefore
the change of modes and the use of the sharp refrains are the most truthful
expression of the joyful meeting which no one can ever take away.
The various changes in modes with which this hymn is overcrowded, the
wonderful celerity of moving among them all, and the perfect usage of the
zone of low refrains and sharp refrains to express the few words “praise Him
and exalt Him high for ever”, this proves that the early fathers who
composed this hymn by the Spirit were not only saints but they were also
skilful musicians. They knew the different types of musical scales and could
move among them in a professional way with musical awareness and
scientific knowledge. This made such changes to the ear but rather a cause
of enjoyment and fascination. They knew also the musical measures of each
scale, which zone to be selected to express the intended meaning, how and
when the musical stanza is to be repeated, and which one ought not be
repeated. It is a mixture of spirituality and scientific musical knowledge.
O my God, who granted Your saints Your Holy Spirit in order to
compose hymns … who sanctified their gift, so their hymns lived within us
all the time through … may You sanctify also my gift so that I may present
to You a new praise song. For whatever musicology I studied to praise You
with are but empty vessels unless You pour Your Holy Spirit to fill them.
I wish to be like the owner of the ten talents who traded and gained
another ten, not like the owner of one talent who went and hid it.
O my God, do grant me the power to overcome the devil of laziness, that
I may leave my bed and join the singers and praise with David, “At midnight
I will rise to give thanks unto You because of Your righteous judgments.”(Ps
I wish I would join all these persevering singers who at midnight stand
around You every day praising “Hos Erof Arihoo Chasf”.
The “Hos Erof” Hymn
Praise ye Him;
Exalt Him high,
For ever and ever.

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