The First Antiphon

The first antiphon from the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (Psalm 102) is amazing. The song of praise of the infinite mercy of God is the perfect way to introduce the Liturgy and prepare to enter into the holiness of what is about to take place. I love it.

Bless the Lord, 0 my soul: Blessed art Thou, O Lord!

Bless the Lord, 0 my soul,
and all that is within me bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, 0 my soul,
and forget not all that He hath done for thee.
Who is gracious unto all thine iniquities,
Who healeth all thine infirmities.
Who redeemeth thy life from corruption,
Who crowneth thee with mercy and compassion.
Who fulfilleth thy desire with good things;
thy youth shall be renewed as the eagle's.
The Lord performeth deeds of mercy,
and executeth judgment for all them that are wronged.

He hath made His ways known unto Moses,
unto the sons of Israel the things that He hath willed.
Compassionate and merciful is the Lord,
long-suffering and plenteous in mercy;
not unto the end will He be angered,
neither unto eternity will He be wroth.
Not according to our iniquities hath He dealt with us,
neither according to our sins hath He rewarded us.
For according to the height of heaven from the earth,
the Lord hath made His mercy to prevail over them that fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far hath He removed our iniquities from us.
Like as a father hath compassion upon his sons,
so hath the Lord had compassion upon them that fear Him;
for He knoweth whereof we are made,
He hath remembered that we are dust.
As for man, his days are as the grass;
as a flower of the field, so shall he blossom forth.
For when the wind is passed over it, then it shall be gone,
and no longer will it know the place thereof.
But the mercy of the Lord is from eternity, even unto eternity,
upon them that fear Him.
And His righteousness is upon sons of sons,
upon them that keep His testament
and remember His commandments to do them.
The Lord in heaven hath prepared His throne,
and His kingdom ruleth over all.
Bless the Lord, all ye His angels,
mighty in strength, that perform His word, to hear the voice of His words.
Bless the Lord, all ye His hosts,
His ministers that do His will.
Bless the Lord, all ye His works,
in every place of His dominion.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
and all that is within me bless his holy name:
Blessed art Thou, O Lord!

14 responses:

Huw Raphael said...

I greatly missed the chanting of the Psalms in the Russian style liturgy when we became Antiochian. They are not used at all in Byzantine practice - just one of the many variations in Orthodox style! I'm glad to be back in a Russian-tradition parish now.

I find the psalms to be really full of comfort and teaching and I love the community-singing of them. Hence my attraction to WRite psalmody. Most Slavic tradition parishes usually sing a shorter form of this psalm, btw, although I know ROCOR goes for the full effect.

Ari said...

And I'm partial to the Byzantine recension 1st Antiphon, the refrains of which go:

Through the intercessions of the Theotokos, O Savior save us.

With the Glory and Both now and ever. The verses of the Antiphon change with the feast. I guess many parishes in the USA don't do the verses.

Ian said...

Do you chant all the verses, Michael?

We do three, with the refrain Aristibule wrote [though slightly different: we say "prayers" rather than "intercessions"]. The same for Antiphon 2: three verses and a refrain, and then St Justinian's Hymn. I agree it's a perfect way to begin: even more so with all verses.

An continued prayers for you as you approach your reception. God bless.

Michael said...

Thanks, everyone.

The local Antiochian parish I sometimes visit uses a shorter version of this psalm as well. I didn't know that there was a variation in practice until I started visiting there. It was then that I was reminded about this blog post. I mentioned in one of the comments there that the older prayer book had over half of the antiphon "missing" (as I perceived it to be at the time), and at the time we put it down to a printing error, but it now seems that there is a difference in practice between the jurisdictions. I hadn't realised this.

The ROCOR prayer book has the full psalm as I have included it in this post, and that is the antiphon that we use on most days. On Feast Days, we use verses interspersed between the refrain Through the prayers of the Theotokos, save us, O Saviour!, which Aristibule referred to.

Ian, many thanks for your continued prayers. I'm unfamiliar with St Justinian's hymn.

At our place, this everything that precedes the Little Entrance:
-The blesing of the Kingdon
-The Great Litany
-1st ant. Psalm 102 in its entirety
-The Small Litany
-2nd ant. Psalm 145 in its entirety
-The hymn O Only-begotten Son and Word of God, who art immortal...
-Another short litany
-3rd ant. The Beatitudes

How does that compare to others?

Many thanks.

M (who is interested to learn more). x

Ian said...

Perhaps I labelled it incorrectly; what I think is St Justinian's hymn ;-) begins "Only begotten Son and Word of God..." Perhaps I've got a wrong name!

Your list of what happens before the Great Entrance is exactly the same as our parish, except we have three verses from each of the Psalms (and, on certain Feast Days, these change).

I have been to a few Antiochian parishes where, instead of the Antiphons, they recite the refrain 3 times. [But then they have more pre-communion prayers than we do, and I like some of them.]

Michael said...

Thanks, Ian.

You're more than probably right about the name of the hymn. I've just never known it's name before.

I like some of the communion prayers. We do or don't get the additional ones depending on who's cantoring that day.

Another thing I've noticed that I haven't seen in any prayer book or in any other church except my own parish is a practice during some of the litanies. While the deacon (or priest, in our case, as we have no deacon) sings the petition Calling to remembrance our most holy, most pure...let us commend ourselves and all our life unto Christ our God, we sing Most holy Mother of God, save us!, before responding to the petition with To thee, O Lord.

Has anybody else seen this done?

Ian said...

We do as well, though we chant "Most Holy Theotokos, save us!"

A few of the other Antiochian parishes I've visited in Sydney and Meblbourne do as well. It's not in our Prayer Book either, but it is chanted by all. I can't recall if the Macedonian parish I visited on Nativity did this: I don't think they did.

Ari said...

I was taught the response 'Most Holy Theotokos Save Us' - though I've noticed a little discomfort with this at some OCA and convert AOCNA parishes I've visited (where I've heard some say 'Most Holy Theotokos Intercede for Us" instead.)

Some AOCNA and GOA parishes here do the Refrains only as well - the little mission booklet has it that way (along with some settings that make me cringe.) That booklet has 'intercessions'. In Tulsa we used 'prayers' - but used Russian settings (especially at Pascha, when it was Bortniansky.)

The hymn later identified with the Emperor St. Justinian seems to have the older tradition of being written by Severus of Antioch, who is a saint for the Orientals. The name of St. Justinian being attached to it is probably an afterthought centuries later. At least, that's what I gather at this point.

In Tulsa, we always had the Gloria before the 'Blessed is the Kingdom' - as we always had Orthros (the two services blend into each other with the Gloria.) Elsewhere, it seems to just be the 'Blessed is the Kingdom' then:
The Great Ektenia
Prayer of the 1st Antiphon
1st Antiphon (Refrains)
The Little Ektenia
Prayer of the Second Antiphon
2nd Antiphon (Refrains)
Only Begotten Son
The Little Ektenia
Prayer of the Third Antiphon
Troparian of the Day (Refrains of the Third Antiphon)
Prayer of the Little Entrance
Then the Little Entrance

That is the Parish usage of the Byzantine Rite, a recension after the Typikon of the Great Church (Hagia Sophia.) The Russian Church follows the Typikon of St. Sabas (Rural Monastic or Palestinian Typikon, sometimes erroneously called the Jerusalem Typikon.) There is also the Typikon for Urban Monastics (has very limited use nowadays.) So - the differences have to do with the four basic Byzantine Typika (Cathedral, Parish, Rural Monastic, Urban Monastic.) Further differences follow the recension of various Patriarchates and national churches (such as some small differences between Greek and Antiochian usage.)

Ian said...

Thank you Aristible for all that fascinating history -- and modern practices! Thank you.

We too always have Matins, and I love the Gloria -- but now when I visit our Roman and Anglican brothers, the Gloria I was once used to seems now short by comparision ending at, "In the glory of God the Father. Amen." I always want the rest! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Back in my parish church, in Romania, the chanters or the choir would sing only the first verse of the first antiphone, the second one entirely and the third one (the Beatitudes) would almost always be shortened to the last of the Beatitudes. But even when the Beatitudes are sung in their entierty, the verses set to be sung between them
(we call them "stihiri"), were always skipped.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Landon. I was asking about the icon on the other blog- Our Lady of Piety, I think is what it is called. It doesn't look like comments can be left there for the time being. So if you find out where I could get an icon like that before then, feel free to e-mail me: nosepreocupeusted at And thank you! I do appreciate it.

Ben Johnson said...

Yes, the OCA practice (derived from the Russian, naturally) is to sing "Bless the Lord, O My Soul" -- but the shorter version sung thus.

For the record, the Antiochian/Byzantine practice for the Second Antiphon is a number of verses (or not) and the Gloria Patri: the antiphon is "O Son of God Who art risen from the dead, save us who sing to Thee. Alleluia."

I've never had the pleasure of being in a parish that uses the full Psalm.

I've thankfully never been to an Antiochian parish that said, "Most Holy Theotokos, pray for us." Ari, are these by any chance Baptodox converts trying to soften the "offensive" sound of calling on the Mother of God to "save us"? This is by far the most difficult phrase to explain to visitors, esp. Protestants...not that this would in any way justify changing the Church's liturgy.

Incidentally, most OCA parishes I've been to say nothing at all at this point; even the bishop only turned toward the icon of the Theotokos to cross himself at this time. For the longest time, I assumed this was a Byzantine vs. Slavic issue. How widespread is it elsewhere in the Slavic tradition?

Anonymous said...

Being a Romanian, I can tell you that our Church follows rather the Slavic tradition, than the Greek one.
So, we have a distinct "ectenie" (petition)to the Virgin, going "Most Holy God-Bearer, have mercy upon us" or "save us" (the latter being the oldest form). Now, I was quite surprised to see that in the OCA parishes I visited, this petition is dropped out, since I knew of the case of a Romanian priest in the '20s that was defrocked precisely for skipping this petition when celebrating the Liturgy.

Michael said...


New people! Welcome! Christ be with you.

Thanks all, for your comments and informative and educational repsonses. Thanks especially to my new, anonymous Romanian friend who has shared experiences. Was a priest really defrocked for omiting that? I'm surprised but pleased that the Liturgy is given that level of honour and respect.

Landon, we have a Liturgy once a fortnight so I'll ask on this Sunday. I just haven't had a chance to see anyone from church yet, but rest assured I haven't forgotten you.

Ari, I echo Ian's thanks. I need to do some parish visiting soon to pick up on some of these variations. There's a Russian (MP) parish in Manchester which is entirely Slavonic, which I may go along to on one of my "Sundays off" soon.

Ben, Baptodox! I love it! I had to explain to my housemate what the raucous laughter was all about.

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