Hymn Agios

The “Agios” Hymn
+ It is chanted before the Prayer of the Gospel in the Holy Mass.
The Language of the Hymn:
All the text is in Greek.
The Occasions on which the Hymn is Chanted:
It is chanted with a joyful melody before reading the Bible on the
following occasions:
– In the Holy Masses of the Lord’s Feasts (Grand and Minor)
– In the Masses that take place in the th of each Coptic month (in
remembrance of the Annunciation, Nativity and Resurrection )
– In the rite of Matrimony Service.
It was said that this chant was declared as a song used by angels in
heaven, through a divine revelation in Constantinople at the time of Herucles
the Patriarch ( – ).
The Oriental Churches believe that its origin dates back to the time of our
Lord Jesus burial, when Joseph and Nicodemus were enshrouding the body,
they got astonished how was it possible for the Giver of life to die!! So they
praised Him saying: “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal”
There are several hymns for those Holy words: During the grand festivals
and matrimonies, the hymn is chanted with the joyful tune. Through normal
days (of the liturgical year) it is chanted with the joyful tune without the
Melisma toning that is in the beginning. During the Good Friday and
funerals it is chanted using an exceeding mournful tune in its grief and
The Method of its Performance:
All the congregation with the chorus of deacons chant it accompanied
with the cymbals and triangle. Sometimes a pleasant dialogue takes place
between a solo singer and the congregation with the chorus, especially in the
Melisma toning of the first letter of the word “Agios”, which usually is
started by the solo singer and then iterated by the chorus of deacons, and the
dialogue continues.
Mode and Speed of Performance (Tempo):
The joyful hymn we are speaking about starts with Sika mode with a
melisma toning of the first letter of the word “Agios” which means “Holy”,
in a quadruple scale.
This hymn is featured by having all its musical sentences iterated twice,
as if it is really the hymn that is chanted by the Seraphim and Cherubim that
have the six wings: “They cry out one to the other sending up the hymn of
victory and a salvation that is ours, with a voice full of glory. Praising,
singing and crying out, saying: Holy Lord of Sabaoth ….”
Many churches care to divide this iteration into two groups of deacons or
a solo singer and a group of deacons, to express the meaning of “crying out
one to the other”
Nice to note that the first musical sentences of this Trisagion hymn,
contain three measures only, this is not common in traditional form of the
musical stanzas, for usually the musical stanzas are composed of two
phrases, each one composed of four measures, as if the Holy Spirit set three
measures to advert to the three Sanctus.
The hymn is featured also by its lively tone, its speed is approximately
beats per minute, the musical stanza is fluent, velvet and lilt, inspiring
people to happiness and rapture, this may confirm that this song is chanted
by the angels in front of the Divine throne, for near the throne there are
absolute happiness that is reflected by joyful melodies.
The musical stanzas also are animated, with high technique and
cleverness; its performance requires a skillful and a trained voice, may be
this also is another evidence that it is one of the hymns that are chanted by
the angels – the specialized and trained choruses of praise.
Explanation and Contemplation:
This old praise that was first uttered by Joseph and Nicodemus, was
passed to the Syrian church through St. Peter who directed them to chant it
before reading the Gospel in the Holy mass.
Some of the old manuscripts in the church support this opinion: [When
Nicodemus saw the Master Christ died, he was amazed that the chief of life
dies, He who raised Lazarus from death after four days in the tomb, so he
hailed Him saying: “Where is Your might, O Lord!” Immediately he heard
angels chanting from heaven : “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal”,
consequently he acclaimed saying : “Who was crucified for us have mercy
on us”] The church arranged that this praise be chanted in the Holy Mass
and all other church services, to be iterated three times confessing the
Divinity of the Son. She also arranged a long beautiful hymn but mourning
one for the Good Friday, in which the phrase “Who was crucified for us
have mercy on us” is iterated three times, in an answer to the Jews that took
council together against the Lord and against His Anointed, despising His
Divinity and saying : “Crucify Him, crucify Him” three times.
This praise continued to be used in all churches until the fourth century,
and when the heresy of Arius the heretic was spread, the three locutions of
nativity, crucifixion and resurrection were omitted, but our Orthodox Church
continued to use it, in its complete form to the present time.
Some western Christians refused this praise assuming that it gestures to a
crucifixion of the three Hypostasis. The church intent in iterating the word
“Agios” or “Holy” in each sentence, is to glorify the Word incarnate in His
three acts in the plan of salvation (Nativity, crucifixion, & resurrection). If
each word “Agios” is meant to indicate a Hypostasis then the result will be
nine Hypostasis since it is iterated nine times.
In this hymn the dialogue is graduated between the solo singer and the
group in a musical sentence, around the letter “Alpha”, the first letter of the
word “Agios”.
This hymn is featured by a musical sentence so beautiful, spiritual, warm
and mighty. In my personal opinion it is one of the most beautiful hymns
that touched my heart, I usually care to finalize the praising ceremonies with
it, making it the last hymn that enters to the ears and hearts of the chanters as
well as the listeners.
I can not forget the Swedish audience insisting on the repetition of this
hymn in the “Orient” ceremonies in Stockholm, as if it were also revealed to
them with a Divine revelation that it is a praise used by the angels in heaven.
The hymn ascends gradually by iterating each sentence twice between the
singer and the chorus, to the appropriate time for uttering the word “Agios”,
as if all the previous singing was just a musical and spiritual prelusion for
uttering the divine word “Agios”, at which all the congregation bow in
Then the hymn continues in the normal way (as used through the
liturgical year) in another new mode (Agam), another new dual measure, and
different rhythmic forms less in motion compared to the melisma toning
used in the letter alpha, in a lesser speed than the beginning, this slowdown
proceed from the Congregation’s feelings of the Sanctifying word, as they
bow at the word “Agios” which is iterated nine times.
Agam Mode is a strong musical mode, melodies are covered with dignity,
rhythmic forms started to move lively, the early joint delightful hymns
“Legato” became sporadic “Stacatto”, expressing the reverence in front of
the Divine presence, glorifying the power of the Holy Immortal.
I also cry out to You the Holy Immortal, asking You to make me die for
Your sake all day long.
O You, who abolished death by Your death, and broken its thorn;
O You, who killed sin by the tree of the cross, and by Your death You
made alive the dead man, whom You created with Your own hands, and had
died in sin; put to death our pains by Your healing and life-giving passions.
Grant me, O Holy Mighty, who manifested resurrection by Your
resurrection, that I may know You and the power of Your resurrection, and
that my weakness and faults may be perfected by Your strength.
Grant me, O Holy Immortal, a life with you: “And this is eternal life, that
they may know You, the Only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have
sent” (John )
Put in my mouth, the Cherubim chant to shout with them continually.
Grant me, O Holy, to be worthy to stand on the sea of glass, and to hold
Your harp singing with the victorious gathering: “Agios O Theos” “Holy
God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal”
The “Agios” Hymn
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal;
Who was born from the Virgin,
Have mercy upon us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal;
Who was crucified for us,
Have mercy upon us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal;
Who arose from the dead and ascended unto heaven,
Have mercy upon us.
Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;
Now and for ever and ever,
And for the age of ages. Amen.
O You Holy Trinity,
Have mercy upon us.