Saturday, February 10, 2007


Lisa asked last week what an antiphon was. Funny, I knew what an antiphon was, but I wasn't sure how to explain it. So I am going to try, but if anyone has something to add, feel free.

First, the definition of antiphon is

an·ti·phon Pronunciation (nt-fn)
1. A devotional composition sung responsively as part of a liturgy.
a. A short liturgical text chanted or sung responsively preceding or following a psalm, psalm verse, or canticle.
b. Such a text formerly used as a response but now rendered independently.
3. A response; a reply: "It would be truer . . . to see [conservation] as an antiphon to the modernization of the 1950s and 1960s" Raphael Samuel.
[Late Latin antiphna, sung responses; see anthem.]

For example, during vespers, Psalm 4 is one of many Psalms chanted from the congregation. The left side would sing:

"When I cried out, the God of my righteousness heard me
You gave me space in my distress, have mercy on me and listen to my prayer."

Then the right side responds:

"You sons of men, how long will you be hard-hearted?
Why do you love vanities and seek lies?"

Then the left side sings:

"Know that the Lord works wonders for his holy one:
The Lord will hear me when I cry out before Him."

Right side:

"Be passionate, but do not sin;
repent upon your couches for what you say in your hearts."

Left side:

"Offer a sacrifice of righteousness
and hope in the Lord."


"Many say :"Who will show us good things?"
The light of your face, O Lord, was a mark upon us."


"You have put gladness in my heart;
they were filled with the blessing of their wheat, wine and oil."


"In peace I will lay me down and sleep:
for You alone , O Lord, have made me dwell in hope."

An example of the second definition would be singing a prayer that reflect the Gospel reading of the day, then responding with a Psalm that is sung after the prayer. For example, this comes from the vespers from Palm Sunday (John 12:1-18) is read:


The Word of God the Father, the Son coeternal with Him
Having heaven for a throne and earth for a footstool,
has humbled Himself today
by riding into Bethany on an ass.
Wherefore the children of Israel praise Him,
Bearing green fronds and shouting out:
"Hosanna in the hightest"
Blessed is He who comes, the King of Israel!"

then part of Psalm 130 is sung in response:

from the watch of dawn until the night, from the watch of dawn let Israel long for the Lord


Come together, all you children of the New Israel
Which is the church of the Gentile:
Let us proclaim with the Prophet Zacharias:
"Rejoice and exult, Daughter of Sion,
shout for joy, Daughter of Jerusalem.
Behold, you King is coming to you meek,
Riding an ass and bringing salvation.
Feast like the children, bearing the green fronds in our hands, And singing to Him a hymn of praise:
"Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He who come, the King of Israel!

The Psalm sung in response:

For with the Lord there is mercy and with Him abundant redemption, and it is He who will redeem Israel for all his iniquities.

I hope that helps. If you have more questions I'll try to clarify this better.




Anonymous Very Rev. Fr. Gregori said...

Hope the following helps a bit more, although the previous explanation is very good:

An antiphon is a response, usually sung in Gregorian chant to psalm or some other part of a religious service, such as at Vespers or at a Mass. This meaning gave rise to the antiphony style of singing.

The word is of Greek origin, αντί (opposite) + φωνη (voice).

A piece of music which is performed by two semi-independent choirs, interacting with one another, often singing alternate musical phrases, is known as antiphonal. In particular, antiphonal psalmody is the singing or musical playing of psalms by alternating groups of performers. According to the historian Socrates, its introduction into Christian worship was due to Ignatius of Antioch (died 117 A.D.), who in a vision had seen the angels singing in alternate choirs. In the Latin Church it was not practiced until more than two centuries later, when it was introduced by St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, who compiled an antiphonary, or collection of works suitable for antiphonal singing (also known as an antiphonal). The antiphonary still in use in the Roman Catholic Church was compiled by Gregory the Great (590 A.D.). Antiphons are very widely used throughout the various Orthodox Churches.

February 10, 2007  
Blogger Lisa said...

You explained it very well, Renee. This sounds lovely! Seems similar to "lining a song" which is often done here in Appalachia. The only difference is that with lining, the liner gives the line of the song and the rest of the congregation repeats the line. *Smile*

February 11, 2007  
Blogger onionboy said...

And I was going to say it's someone opposed to phons.

February 11, 2007  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Hey! Come see what Alexa made for me! :) What a talent!

February 12, 2007  

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