Amen Ton Thanaton Hymn
(Your death, O Lord)
The congregation sings this hymn in the Liturgies of St. Basil, St.
Gregory and St. Cyril after the signs of the cross are made.
It is contained in page of the book of the “The Deacon’s Service” (the
The Hymn Language:
The words of the hymn are all in Greek language.
The occasion in which the hymn is said:
This hymn is sung by all the congregation in the Divine Liturgy during
the transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord
Jesus Christ known as the mystery of “Eulogia”, “Eucharist”, or
“Communion”. It is the Sacrament instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ when
He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and
drink His blood, you have no life in you … For My flesh is real food and My
blood is real drink … Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in
Me, and I in him.” (John )
As the congregation confess and assert that what is broken on the altar is
not mere bread and wine but the true Body and the true Blood of Jesus
Christ, the Son of our God who died, arose and ascended into heaven, they
shout with this hymn, saying: “Amen, Your death, O Lord, we proclaim,
Your holy resurrection and ascension, we confess”.
For that reason the hymn is said with full power, as by it the whole
congregation declare their readiness to proclaim Christ’s death … that death
by which the dead were risen to the newness of life.
The reason for all the congregation signing this hymn goes back to the
verse said by St. Mark the Evangelist, the owner of the Upper Room – the
first place where the Eucharist was administered – “When they had sung a
hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark )
It is known from tradition that the Lord Excelled in memorizing psalms,
and it is believed that He recited the psalms, and the disciples responded
with Alleluia. This was after He had instituted the Eucharist or Thanksgiving
Mystery and handed it down to His holy disciples.
Method of Performing the Hymn:
This hymn is performed by all the congregation with one spirit and one
faith, as the church had received since the beginning that she should praise
and pray fervently at the end of every liturgy, for the coming of the Lord.
This is very clear in the Eucharist prayers recorded in the Didascalia.
In fact the coming of the Lord in fulfilled in every Liturgy, therefore, the
Eucharist in the first Church was for the believers who were fervent in spirit,
a time for indescribable praise and joy which extended to their houses, as the
Book of Acts says: “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with
glad hand sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the
people.” (Acts )
And the early communities were unified in Christ’s Body by that mystery
which is contained in practicing the Lord’s command: “Do this in
remembrance of Me”, by continually celebrating the mystery of the Lord’s
Supper and remembering the Lord. Therefore, they were declaring their faith
with indescribable fervor singing “Amen, Amen, Amen, Your death, O Lord
we proclaim”; and the Lord was fulfilling His promise “And the Lord added
to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts )
The cymbals and triangle are not used in performing the hymn because
all the congregation are in a state of supplication to God, raising their hands
unto heaven and declaring their full readiness to proclaim the Lord Jesus
Christ’s death and resurrection, and because the vigor of the hymn coming
out from the depth of the congregation’s heart would sweep away the sound
of any musical instrument, however powerful the sound may be.
Musical Scale and Performance Speed:
This hymn is in the musical scale of “hazzam” which has changed on the
mouths of all the congregation, who perform it with great spiritual warmth
from the depths of their hearts, into delightful power, which perhaps the
greatest musical composer cannot make from the “Major Scale”.
The speed of the hymn however is fast, and it is estimated to be around
“ beats/minute”. If this speed is closed down considerably, the hymn will
lose the sense of vigor and enthusiasm, which escapes the sincerity of the
first fathers. Their chanting of this hymn was a kindling of the fire in their
hearts, encouraging the whole congregation to proclaim the death of Him
who died on their behalf.
Explanation and Contemplation:
When the priest during the Mass holds the bread in his hands, the
congregation remember our Lord Jesus sitting in the Upper Room and
holding bread in His hands, surrounded by His disciples who represent the
whole humankind. Among them were the rash and remonstrative, like Peter,
and the skeptical like Thomas. And suddenly Christ breaks the bread and
gives them all saying: “Take it; this is My body given for you; do this in
remembrance of Me …” (Luke ).
Oh Lord!! Couldn’t the remonstrative Peter protest saying: “This is
bread!! How could it be Your body, Lord?” And why did Thomas keep quiet
although he suspected everything including the declared resurrection and
asked to put his finger in the signs of the nails in order to believe?
They must have definitely seen the bread transforming into the body, and
the wine into the Blood, so all skeptical words petrified in their mouths and
instead of that they praised and went out to the mount if olives (Mark
For that, the whole congregation shout like the disciples saying: Amen.
Amen. Your death, O Lord, we proclaim; and their chanting is of the sad
‘hazzam’ scale. But couldn’t He who turned the bread into body change
sadness into power! That power which makes all the congregation shout
praise and go out proclaiming the death of Christ and confessing His holy
resurrection and ascension unto heaven!
Some churches believe that the transformation of bread into the Body,
and of wine into the Blood takes place when the priest says: “And this is My
Body” and “And this is My Blood”. But the Coptic Church believes that the
transformation takes place when the Holy Spirit descends as the priest
inaudibly prays, while kneeling down saying:
[And we ask You, O Lord, our God, we Your sinful and unworthy
servants, that Your Holy Spirit descend upon us and upon these gifts set
forth, and purify them change them, and manifest them as a sanctification to
Your saints.] This transformation is not strange, because Elijah the prophet
“Answer me, O Lord, are God and that You are turning their hearts back
again. Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the word,
the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” ( Kings
Therefore, St. Ambrose in his book on the sacraments says:
[If the word of man was sufficient for fire to fall from heaven, why
couldn’t the word of Christ transform the elements; for I read that He
ordered the creatures to come into being and they did … therefore, could the
Lord’s word, which were able to create from nonbeing that which was
nonexistent, not change the existing things?]
Also St. Chrysostom said:
[He who had made these sacraments in that Supper will make them now
again. We are nothing but servants, and He is the One who sanctifies and
transforms them in reality.] He also said,
[Now Christ attends to adorn this table, for He who adorned that table,
will adorn this one also; as it is not man who transforms the subject matters
into Christ’s Body and Blood but Christ Himself who was crucified for our
sake. The priest stands fulfilling the form and prays with those words, but
grace and power belong to God who does everything.]
St. Titus, the disciple of St. Chrysostom says in one of his letters:
[A sheet of paper made of papyrus is considered simple paper, but when
it accepts the king’s signature, it becomes a significant and great order. As
such we comprehend the Godly Sacraments, for before the priest’s
supplication and before the descent of the Holy Spirit, we say that the
subjects are simple bread and common wine, but after that awesome call and
the descent of the righteous, life giving and worshipped Spirit, we believe
and we confess that the subjects placed on the holy table are not common
bread or wine but the Body of Christ and His Blood which purifies from all
blemish those who portable of them in fear and eagerness.]
In ancient times the altar’s curtain was usually closed during the descent
of the Holy Spirit, during the citation of the Orthodox Creed, and during the
confession and communion. This custom is still practiced in many Eastern
churches, but our Coptic Church has cancelled it.
It is known that after the Holy Spirit’s descent it is not allowed to make
the sign of the cross by the priest’s hand or cross on the Body or the Blood.
Coming back to this hymn, I feel that the whole congregation has
composed it in the spirit when they comprehended for a moment this great
mystery which transformed the bread to Body and the wine to precious
Blood, and they shouted together with one soul and one spirit: “Amen, Ton
For the greatest melodist cannot compose a hymn with this power from a
sad scale with five notes.
The musical analysis of this hymn is summarized as follows:
· The simplest musical scale
· The simplest rhythmical forms.
· The least number of tones (five), that is, the musical scale is not in its
complete form of seven tones.
· There is no utilization of the vocal areas, in that there are no tones in
the area of low keynotes or the area of high-pitched responses.
· There are no scale changes
Therefore, the question is: Where did the power of this hymn come
from? And wherefrom the musical notes come, those notes that are rich in
meaning despite the lack of tones and rhythm?
I cannot say anything but the following:
O, my Lord … You who have inspired Your people by the Spirit to
comprehend that this broken bread which is placed in the tray is Your Holy
Body, and this wine which is poured in the Chalice is Your Blood which was
shed in the cross …
O, my Lord … who have put live coal on the mouths of Your people, so
they shouted with this hymn, saying: “Amen Ton Thanaton” do move my
hard emotions so that I can compose a new hymn for You; for I often hold
my chords and the tones glitter in my mind beyond measure, and the
rhythms move within my soul with their numerous forms … but the chords
do not yield to me … they are stubborn, they always wait for your Holy
Spirit to come and bring out of the eater something to eat and out of the
strong, something sweet … I pray that your Holy Spirit move my voiceless
chords so that they chant as the whole congregation chanted saying: “Amen
Ton Thanaton” when they comprehended the Holy mystery.
The Hymn “Amen Ton Thanaton”
Amen; Amen; Amen.
Your death, o Lord we proclaim;
Your holy Resurrection,
and ascension unto heaven, we confess
We praise You;
We bless You;
We thank You, O Lord;
And we entreat You, O our God.
Hymn Ton Thana Ton
Amen Ton Thanaton Hymn