The “Aripsalin” Hymn
+ It is a “ Batis Psali”1, i.e. Praise Song, for the three young men.
+ It is chanted in the Midnight Praise, after the Third Hos (Praise Song
from the Holy Scriptures)
+ It is included in the Yearly Holy Psalmody (Page – Arabic text)
A Hint on the Commencement of Hymns and Modes in the Early
So many everlasting poetic works have enriched the church so far.
Among these are the works of St. Gregory Nazianz who compiled over four
hundred rhymed poems. Some of them are fit for singing, but most of them
have not yet been used in the church due to their deep wording and difficult
Someone else preceded St. Gregory, namely “Sinosius of Cyrene” in
Lybia (the town where St. Mark the apostle was born). Sinosius was
appointed as Bishop for the five towns, and succeeded in taking care of his
country. He was also gifted in compiling poems and hymns. It is noteworthy
that he was the first to compile a hymn on Christ to be chanted accompanied
by the harp.
Then by the appearance of St. Ephraim the Syrian who was called “The
Harp of the Holy Spirit”, the church hymns in the East commenced a new
epoch of spiritual fruitfulness.
1 It is called “Psali” from the Greek verb “psalo” which means: sing praise or play on a stringed
instrument. It is mainly Coptic rhyming poems and has rhythm like poetry. It is chanted in glorification of
the Lord and often arranged according to the order of the alphabet.
St. Augustine, in his “Confessions”, states that the churches of Milan
were the first to use hymns according to the way of the eastern church. That
was in the days of Queen Justina who persecuted St. Ambrose ( A.D.)
St. Hilary of Poitiers (+ A.D.) was the first to compose the Latin
melodies and their rules for the Latin Church.
St. Ambrose succeeded him and enriched the Latin melodies. He was
considered “Ephraim of the West”, the prince of the Latin melodies.
Praise Songs in the Syrian Church are affected by the Jewish way of
singing. This same influence is apparent in some Coptic hymns included in
the Yearly Holy Psalmody. However, those of Ephraim are inclined more to
grief, regret, and remembrance of the coming suffering than to the joy of
salvation, comfort and hope in the coming glory.
St. Ephraim was succeeded in compiling poetic hymns by Isaac of
Antioch in mid fifth century, and by Jacob the Serougi in Metoposamia (
Scholars have proved that the music scale of the Ancient Egyptian Praise
Songs are similar to those of the Hebrew Praise Songs, especially the
Those were followed by the Jewish scholar Samuel Nawmbourg ( -
) who compiled a book on “the Hymns of Israel”. In this book he
pointed out the great similarity between the church hymns and the Israeli
The Language and History of the Hymn:
Actually, we notice in most cases where God bestows His Holy Spirit on
prophets or ordinary people, they spoke God’s words in the form of rhymed
poetry. They uttered them like Praise Songs or anthems inspired and filled
by the Holy Spirit. The Song of Moses and the people of Israel while
crossing the Red Sea is an example. It is rich in mystic meanings referring to
the salvation of the church from this world. Another example is the Song of
Moses in his last farewell to the children of Israel, which is indeed
invaluable. It says, “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O
earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain; My speech
distill as the dew, as rain drops on the tender herb, and as showers on the
grass. For I proclaim the name of the Lord: ascribe greatness to our God.”
There is also the Song of Deborah the judge of Israel, which she chanted
as a Praise Song accompanied by a music instrument. The words of its
prelude are: “I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will sing Praise to the Lord
God of Israel … awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, sing a song!”
From the wording of this Song we notice that Deborah was speaking by
the Holy Spirit, as if the body was asleep and the spirit was conscious and
Other poetic poems, specially the Book of Psalms, the Song of Songs,
and some important prophecies of Isaiah the Prophet, these reveal the poetic
rhyming subject to direct inspiration. They reveal also how the prophecy
conform with the anthem, and how singing and praising rise high unto a
state of inspiration and utterance by the Holy Spirit.
Psali, in general, is a rhymed and rhythmic song like poetry. It differs
from Hos, since the latter is a psalm with its original words without any
poetic or rhyming modification. Usually the beginnings of the stanzas (the
four lines) are arranged in an alphabetical order.
Psali differs also in the way of chanting. For the Hos has its fixed yearly
way of chanting, whereas the tune of the Psali differs twice a week. On
Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays it has a short tune, called “Adam”, while
on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, it has a long tune called
Furthermore the “Psali” has a yearly tune, a Kiahk tune, and a joyful tune
Aripsalin, the hymn we are discussing here, is “Batis”, and it is quoted by
Cantor “Sarkis” from the story of the three holy young men “Shadrach”,
“Meshach” and “Abed-Nego” who refused to worship the image of gold
which King Nebuchadnezzar had set. For that King had set a big image of
gold, sixty cubits in height and six in width, and he sent a word that
everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and symphony
with all kinds of music shall fall down and worship the gold image; and
whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the
midst of a burning fiery furnace.
Those three holy young men refused to comply to the command knowing
the Lord’s Commandment: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him
only you shall serve.” This filled Nebuchadnezzar with rage and fury, and he
gave the command that mighty men in his army bind them in their coats,
their trousers, their turbans, and their garments and cast them into the midst
of the burning fiery furnace after heating it seven times more than it was
usually heated. The furnace, being exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire
killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-Nego.
Having been cast in the furnace of fire, the king stood astonished because
he saw four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they were not
hurt, and the form of the fourth was like the Son of God. So they came out
from the midst of the fire, and blessed their God who sent His Angel and
delivered them from the fire (Da )
The composer of this Psali excelled in both Coptic and Greek languages.
He arranged it in the Greek alphabetic order, having felt comfort, power, and
blessing in the story. He thus wrote the Psali and composed its melody:
[ Sing to Him who was crucified for us, buried and arose, who did away with
death and disdained it .. Praise Him and exalt Him ..
Come forth, O ye three young men, ye who Christ our God has raised and
saved from Satan. Praise ye Him …
Here is Emmanuel in our midst, ye Mishael, Meshach, speak with a voice
of gladness. Praise ye Him. ]
Then he calls upon all to praise the Lord and bless His name, for there is
no God other than Him who can save like that.
Amazing indeed also, that he did not call to praise only the angels and the
heavenly host of the Lord, but he called also the sun, the moon and the stars;
the rain and the dew; the clouds and the air; the souls and the spirits; the
cold, the fire and the heat; the nights and the days; the light, the darkness and
the lightening; the trees and every plant on the earth; every creature in the
waters, on the mountains and in the thickets; the seas, the rivers, and the
birds; the snow and the ice; the animals and the beasts. These all also should
praise and bless and give glory to the Lord.
It is not strange to call upon the silent nature to praise, for David the
Prophet also had called upon them to sing with him his Psalm ( ).
It is true that King Nebuchadnezzar changed the use of the music
instruments that were made to praise God with and which David the Prophet
used to praise God all the time. Instead he used the horn, flute, harp, lyre,
and psaltry to call people to worship gods made by human hands. It is not
therefore strange that the saints quoted the story of the three young men in
this regard. It is not strange that the fire which knows its Creator, and obey
Him praise Him also. When the Lord commanded the fire that was heated
seven times more than it was usually heated not to have any power on their
bodies. The hair of their head was not singed, nor were their garments
affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.
Truly, fire knows its Creator, whereas God’s people do not, as Isaiah the
Prophet said, “The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but
Israel does not know, My people do not consider.” (Isa )
The Occasion on which the Hymn is Chanted:
This “Psali” is chanted in the Midnight Prayer after the third “Hos” with
its long extended tunes and numerous stanzas and changeable modes.
Aripsalin then comes with its rapid, short and concise tunes, fixed stanzas
and sole mode repeated every stanza. This shows the complete musical
awareness of the Coptic Church revealed in the order and succession of the
hymns. She is keen that the long numerous stanza melodies be followed by
one fixed repeated stanza melody to achieve audio balance. It is the method
which great world musicians adopt preparing the “Repertoire”.
Mode and Speed of Performance (Tempo):
“Aripsalin” Hymn is one musical stanza only of “Agam Mode”, with
quadruple scale. Each stanza consists of eight bears; each of two phrases,
and each phrase containing four bars.
The first phrase is in the form of a question, and the second the answer.
The answer is accompanied by a fixed refrain: Hos Eroph Arihoo Chasf,
which means “Praise and exalt Him”
The stanza starts usually with the preceding “Up Beat” called “Anacruse”
or “Livari” which is fit as a beginning. It gives the impression of the image
of the King’s men taking up “Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-Nego” to cast
them into the furnace.
The musical stanza in this hymn is a vivid example of the proper musical
stanza with regard to the number of bars, the equality between the question
(the first phrase) and the answer (the second phrase), and the sweetness and
simplicity of the music, for it sticks to the ear so that the person repeats it
continually without getting bored.
In the hymn “Aripsalin” this musical stanza is repeated twenty four times,
and each time it ends with the fixed refrain Hos Eroph …
The church used to sing this hymn in reciprocation between the chorus to
the right of the altar “South” and those on the left “North”. They reciprocate
every two quarters, whereas the common part between them is the refrain,
besides the cymbals and the triangle.
Explanation and Contemplation:
The hymn of the three young men is the hymn of all creation led by the
church unto eternity where every thing ends. When the church chants this
hymn, she is combining in one scene her existence in the present world of
suffering and her existence in the eternity with its happiness.
In spite of her existence in the midst of the furnace of the world
consuming fire, she is protected by the Son of God. Fire has no power on
her. In spite of flames extending cubits high, the church crossed it as if it
were gentle dew. The church lives the symbols of the hymn declaring the
mystery of her ability to surpass any suffering and the mystery of the
kingdom she lives on the earth.
In her belief that the world is subjected under her feet with the power of
the cross as the fire had been subjected under the feet of the three young men
through the mystery of the power of the fourth, she starts praising as if she
was given the glory of the first Adam and his power over the whole creation
in the Person of Jesus Christ who was given every dominion over everything
in heaven and on earth. Thus the whole creation on by one raises their voices
and all take part with them:
“Praise ye Him; Glorify ye Him; Exalt ye Him forever”
as if they were predicting the new creation with its new heaven and new
The melody of “Aripsalin” accompanied by the cymbals and triangle
which increase its joyfulness, is a rapid melody that does not depend on
Melisma. It rather depends on one fixed combined stanza based on its beauty
and sweetness. Though repeated twenty four successive times, no one falls
in distraction or feels bored. But its repetition rather makes it stick more and
more to the ear, then to the heart. And through meditation in its meaning one
gets attached to God.
I always get overwhelmed by a beautiful feeling whenever I chant this
hymn with its repetitions and refrains with the deacons. Each time I repeat a
stanza I rise up a step a step higher until I attain such height as described by
David the Prophet in the Psalm, “I used to go with the multitude; I went with
them to the house of God; with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude
that kept a pilgrim feast.” (Ps )
The early fathers of the church, having realized the importance of
repetition for lifting up the emotions gradually even unto heaven, introduced
in all the church prayers and hymns such repetition, both in musical tunes
and in wording.
Besides lifting up the emotions gradually unto heaven, repetition
establishes the meaning in the heart and carves God’s words in the
subconscious. Then the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. The
word “Kerie Elisoon” for instance is repeated dozens of times with varied
tunes throughout prayers.
Actually, Aripsalin, with its twenty four stanzas, is a wonderful model of
a simple melody by which repetition the emotions rise high and the heart
O our God, the God of Schadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who
delivered them from the furnace of fire and let not the fire have any power
over their bodies, do deliver us also from the consuming fire of trial which
had burnt the Virgin of the Song so she cried out “Do not look upon me,
because I am dark, because the sun has tanned me.” (Song )
If You will ever permit the sun of trials to burn us, do come to us as You
came to the three holy young men and delivered them from the burning fire
of the furnace. Let Your voice within us extinguish the flames of fire.
O You the God of those three young men, who bent down the heavens
and came down into the furnace to raise them up, who saved them from
Satan, do come down unto our humbleness and raise us up to praise You
with them incessantly, saying “Aripsalin”…
The “Aripsalin” Hymn
Sing to Him who was crucified for us;
Who was buried and arose;
Who has done away with death and disdained it;
Praise ye Him and exalt Him high.
Put off the old man,
And put on the new distinguished one;
Draw near to the great mercy;
Praise ye Him and exalt Him high.
O Christians, priests and deacons;
Give glory to the Lord for His is deserving;
Come to us, ye three young men,
Who Christ our God has rescued and saved them;
For the sake of your God Messiah the Benevolent;
Come to us, O Hananiah;
O Azariah the Zealous,
evening, morning and noon
give glory to the power of the Trinity;
Behold, Emmanuel in our midst,
O Mishael. Speak with a joyful voice;
Come together and persist all of you;
Speak with the priests.
Praise the Lord, ye all of His works;
Behold the heavens utter God’s glory unto this day;
O ye the angels who He has created;
Now, ye the Lord’s host, bless His holy name;
Ye the sun, the moon, and the stars;
And ye the rains, and the dew;
Praise our Savior,
For He is the God of our fathers;
Give glory, ye clouds and wind;
Ye spirits and cold; Ye fire and heat;
Ye nights and days; Light and darkness and lightening;
Say Glory to You, O Lover of mankind;
Ye trees and every plant on the earth;
Every creature in waters, on mountains and plains;
And ye the seas and rivers,
Praise without slackness the Lord King of Kings;
We also, looking at them,
Let us say with all of these: Bless the Lord, ye birds;
Ye snow and ice; Bests and animals;
Bless the Lord of lords;
Praise the Lord as proper for Him,
Not as the transgressors, ye mankind;
Glory and honor, O Israel; Offer before Him,
with joyful voices, O priests of Emmanuel;
O ye the ministers of the True God,
And the souls of the righteous, The humble and loving;
God my God is He who saved you from danger,
O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego;
Make haste with all caution,
Ye the godly of the Lord and all creation He has made;
Coolness and repose give us all;
Without failure, that we may enjoy singing;
Also Your poor servant Sarkis,
Let him be without condemnation,
That he may say with those,
The “Aripsalin” Hymn