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Antiphons

After the Great Litany, psalm vers­es are chant­ed prop­er to the par­tic­u­lar occa­sion. These psalm vers­es are called the antiphons because they were, and some­times still are sung by the peo­ple in two choirs, each respond­ing antiphonal­ly to the oth­er. There are three sets of antiphons at each Divine Liturgy.

His­tor­i­cal­ly the antiphons were chant­ed by the peo­ple in solemn pro­ces­sion to the church where the Divine Litur­gy of the day was to be cel­e­brat­ed. Today, although they are now part of the ser­vice itself, they still form the joy­ful prepa­ra­tion for entrance into the wor­ship of Christ through the Word of the Gospel and the offer­ing and receiv­ing of Holy Communion.

The psalms nor­mal­ly sung as the antiphons at the Divine Litur­gy of the Lord’s Day are Psalms 103 and 146. On feast days oth­er psalms are used with par­tic­u­lar rel­e­vance to the spe­cial cel­e­bra­tion. To these psalm vers­es, refrains are added prop­er to the occasion.

Fol­low­ing the sec­ond antiphon, a hymn by the Emper­or Jus­tin­ian, Only-begot­ten Son, is always sung. It is a hymn of faith in the divin­i­ty of Christ and his incar­na­tion, cru­ci­fix­ion, and res­ur­rec­tion as “one of the Holy Trin­i­ty” for the sal­va­tion of men.

In addi­tion to the two sets of antiphons and the singing of Only-begot­ten Son, which belong to every Divine Litur­gy, a third antiphon is chant­ed which on nor­mal Sun­days in most Ortho­dox Church­es is the Beat­i­tudes of Christ’s Ser­mon on the Mount accord­ing to the Gospel of St. Matthew (Mt 5:3–12). The Beat­i­tudes are sung with the refrain tak­en from the words of the Good Thief on the Cross: Remem­ber us, O Lord, when Thou comest in Thy King­dom (Lk 23:42). On fes­tal occa­sions spe­cial psalm vers­es with the singing of the Tropar­i­on of the day con­sti­tute the third antiphon at the Divine Liturgy.