Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Hymn of Severus of Antioch or Justinian?

There is a very beautiful antiphon-prayer that is sung in both the Byzantine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and the Syriac Catholic (and Orthodox) Liturgy of St James the Just. Both versions of the prayer are shown below:

O Only-begotten Son and Word of God, who art immortal, yet didst deign for our salvation to be incarnate of the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary; and without change wast made man; and wast crucified also, O Christ our God, and by thy death didst Death subdue; who art one of the Holy Trinity, glorified together with the Father and the Holy Spirit: save us. (As it appears in the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom
I will exalt You, O my Lord, the King, the Only-begotten Son and the Word of the heavenly Father, Who, by Your nature, are immortal. You accepted, by Your grace, and came down for the life and salvation of mankind, and did become incarnate of the holy, glorious and pure Virgin, Birth-Giver of God, Mary. Who without change did become a man and was crucified for us. O Christ our God, Who by Your death trampled our death and destroyed it. You Who are One of the Holy Trinity, and are worshipped and glorified in unity with Your Father and Your Holy Spirit, have compassion on us all. (As it appears in the Liturgy of St James the Just)



The hymn itself is a song of praise to the Word of God. It demonstrates the salvific theology of the incarnation of the Word of God and shows how Christ is true God and true Man.

The Byzantines attribute this beautiful antiphon to Justinian. While the Syriac Catholic and Orthodox attribute it to Severus of Antioch.

Emperor Justinian


Severus of Antioch

Now, Severus of Antioch is a zealous non-Chalcedonian and Justinian is obviously a Chalcedonian. The council of Chalcedon defined the 'hypostatic union' of Christ. That is: Christ has two natures, human and divine "each retaining its own properties, and together united in one subsistence and in one single person". The Chalcedonians have (until recently) accused the non-Chalcedonians of heresy (and vice versa). The non-Chalcedonian Churches are: The Syriac Orthodox Church, The Coptic Orthodox Church and the Tewahedo Churches.

What the quoted above antiphon shows is two things:
  1. That the truth of the Incarnation was always believed.
  2. A consistent common belief between Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians regarding the Incarnation.
That the truth of the Incarnation was always believed
It is a reasonable assumption to say that the above quoted antiphon was in the Liturgy of St James the Just at the time of Severus of Antioch. St John Chrysostom may have gotten this antiphon from Antioch and following this it was either adapted to the new (Byzantine) liturgy or might have been placed in it by Justinian a few centuries after. The similarities between the two prayers are just so great that it seems illogical to think that they both didn't come from the same source.

A consistent common belief between Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians regarding the Incarnation
For generations, both these groups of Christians would say the exact same prayer and believe it. While at the same Chalcedonians would accuse the non-Chalcedonians of being Monophysites. And non-Chalcedonians accuse Chalcedonians of being Nestorians. What was simply different between Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians is the formula used. Both, believed the same thing.

Please pray for Christian unity.

By the prayers of the Birth-Giver of God Maryam and Mor Ephrem, God Bless you all.

Edit: the original blog post said the Byzantines attributed the hymn to St John Chrysostom

3 comments:

  1. The Council of Chalcedon was verily the most holy of all ecumenical councils.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How could it be? It wasn't even ecumenical. It was heretical and schismatic.

      Delete
    2. How could it be? It wasn't even ecumenical. It was heretical and schismatic.

      Delete