Hymns of the Church
Part 1: The Trisagion

The Trisagion (Greek: Τρισάγιον; English: Thrice Holy) is an ancient Christian hymn that has entered into the Divine Services and prayers of the Orthodox Church in a profound way. The words of this familiar and beloved hymn – ”Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us” – have become part of our “cradle” consciousness like a sacred mantra and, no doubt, memorized from childhood. They are sung at the Divine Liturgy prior to the reading of the Epistle, at Matins at the end of the Great Doxology, and at Burial Services. They are central to the Trisagion Prayers:
“Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.
Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.
Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us! O Lord, cleanse us from our sins! O Master, pardon our transgressions! O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Your Name’s sake.
Lord, have mercy. (3x)
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages,”
which are prayed at the beginning of virtually every Divine Service, including the Hours, Vespers, Matins, and other Services.

What gives this hymn and these prayers such prominence? According to Church Tradition, during the reign of Theodosius II (408-450) and Patriarch Proclus (434-446), there was a violent earthquake in Constantinople on September 24. As the Emperor, the Patriarch, and the people prayed for divine intercession, a child was lifted into the air, to which the people cried out: “Kyrie eleison” (“Lord, have mercy”). When the child descended, he instructed the people to pray: “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal” – hence the words of the hymn as we know it. Perhaps the significance of this hymn lies in the meeting of heaven and earth. As the child witnessed the singing of the Heavenly Hosts before the Throne of God, so we join Them as we sing these mystical words. As our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, taught us to pray the “Lord’s Prayer,” through the miraculous episode with the child, we are taught to sing praises to the Holy Trinity with the Angels in Heaven.
Dr. Peter Jermihov

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