Singing the Enarxis of the Divine Liturgy

The Enarxis is the beginning of the Divine Liturgy; it ends with the singing of the Trisagion and is followed by readings from the Gospel and other apostolic writings. This article explains how to lead this singing at this first part of the Divine Liturgy, and covers pages 11-26 of our Divine Liturgies book.

Any singing before the Divine Liturgy should come to an end by the time the opening incensation is completed, and the priest is ready to give the opening blessing. The service begins on page 11 of the Divine Liturgies book. You should be prepared to lead, with your books and music in place, and your voice warmed up.

The opening blessing

If you open the Divine Liturgies book to page 11, you will see that the Divine Liturgy starts with the deacon's command ("Reverend Father, give the blessing.") and the priest's opening exclamation, "Blessed is the kingdom....", to which the cantor and congregation respond with the Hebrew word meaning "We agree" or "Let it be so!"

If you are the cantor, this first "Amen" is a critical moment of the liturgy, and sets the tone for the entire service that follows. Your singing will establish the pitch and tempo for the congregation, so it must be clear, loud enough to be heard, and on pitch.

As usual with clergy chant (outside of Lent and services for the dead), the deacon and priest will start and end on the tonic pitch, do.

Once you start singing the response, make sure the tempo is clearly expressed; don't rush or drag. Try to "shape" the response so that it swells slightly in volume in the middle, and tapers off slightly in volume toward the end; avoid any tendency to "blare" or shout when singing!

The Litany of Peace

The deacon (standing before the holy doors) or the priest (at the holy table) will begin the Litany of Peace. See the article on Litany responses for singing this litany and others that occur in the liturgical services.

This litany gives time for latecomers to arrive, and for the people to settle into the service. But it is not an afterthought: praying for the needs of the world is an important part of our role as Christians. Lead each response with the same care, and (to the extent possible) bring to mind each of the subjects of prayer proposed by the priest or deacon as you sing the response.

In the Divine Liturgies book, the two response melodies are numbered with the numeral "1" or "2" in a small circle; this symbol is repeated after each petition to remind you which of the two response melodies is used. Watch your breathing and try to maintain a contant pitch, rather than letting your pitch gradually drop ("going flat").

The First and Second Antiphons

Review the article on the Enarxis at this point if you have not done so. The three antiphons that make up the next part of the Divine Liturgy are a remnant of the processions in which the Christians of Constantinople made their way to church for the Liturgy, and understanding this part of our history will help you lead the singing properly.

On Sundays

If it is an ordinary Sunday, you will lead the singing of the first antiphon of Sunday:

Psalm verse:

Then its refrain:

Then the doxology, and the refrain once more:

Listen to the first Sunday antiphon

Make sure you can use the key signature at the start of the line of music to find the tonic pitch do, and identify the first few notes of the hymn being sung. The opening pitches here are the first three notes of the major scale, do re mi. If you have difficulty figuring this out, PLEASE print off and review the Key signature chart, and read the pages on Musical scales and Musical notation.

This is your first opportunity to change pitch if the opening note provided by the deacon or priest was too high or too low. In general, it's good to maintain the same tonic pitch (do) throughout as much of the service as possible; but it you must make a change, do it clearly, a little earlier than the congregation will start singing, and only make changes at the start of a major hymn or group of hymns.

Also, take the time to look at what you are singing:

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
sing praise to his name, give to him glorious praise.
(refrain) Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us.

You should be singing joyfully, and in way that sounds like you are praising God and inviting others to do so!

Continue into the second antiphon without a break or pause. The melody is exactly the same, beginning on do:

Listen to the second Sunday antiphon

There is NO break between "Save us who sing to you:" and "Alleluia!" In fact, the entire refrain ("O Son of God, risen from the dead, save us who sing to you: Alleluia") should be "shaped" as if it were a single phase, with the volume and intensity rising from the beginning through "risen from the dead", reaching a climax on "save us", and diminishing in volume and intensity from there to the end.

The "Glory..." is not sung the same way as in the first antiphon, since the second antiphon ends with the hymn "O Only-begotton Son" as a perissos, and the "Glory..." will be sung with the hymn that follows it. This is marked in the Divine Liturgies book with a page number within an arrow, surrounded by a circle:

In this case, it shows that the service continues on page 18. Of course, as the cantor, you shouldn't be waiting for this sort of sign to tell you what to do; you should have a sticky note, paper clip, or bookmark at the appropriate page where the version of "O Only-Begotten Son" you will be singing begins.

On weekdays

On ordinary weekdays, after the Litany of Peace, you will turn to page 15 and sing the first weekday antiphon, which is otherwise done just the same as the first Sunday antiphon, and has the same refrain:

Psalm verse:


Doxology and refrain:

This is immediately followed by the second weekday antiphon; the mention of Christ's resurrection is changed to a more general praise of Christ's presence in the lives and actions of his friends and followers:

Again, the "Glory...." that ends the second antiphon will be sung together with "O Only-begotten Son...." The entire refrain is shaped as a single phrase, and there is no break between "save us who sing to you:" and "Alleluia!"

On feasts of the Lord

Feasts of the Lord have their own antiphons, which replace the ordinary Sunday or weekday antiphons. These feast-day antiphons are found with the hymns for the particular feast, and use the same melody as the Sunday and weekday antiphons, with "O Only-begotten Son" coming at the end of the second antiphon. These antiphons are covered in later MCI courses.

The first "hymn": O Only-Begotten Son

The conclusion or perissos of the second antiphon was added to the Divine Liturgy by the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century AD. There are three music settings for this hymn in the Divine Liturgies book, beginning on page 18; the settings are labelled A, B, and C. Follow along in the music as you listen to each version.

Listen to the A setting

Listen to the B setting

Listen to the C setting

When you sing this hymn, each phrase should be sung on a single breath, and connected to the phrase that follows.

Also, notice that this is the first singing by the congregation that doesn't start on do. Make sure you can read key signatures well enough to determine where do is in each case, and what the solfege syllables are for the first three or four notes, so that you begin singing the scale in the right place.

The Third Antiphon

The service continues with the Third Antiphon. We are back to the same melody as for the first and second antiphons, beginning on do; use the appropriate antiphon for Sundays or weekdays.

For Sundays:

For weekdays:

Listen to the third antiphon for Sundays and for weekdays.

Notice that there is NO break between "Save us who sing to you:" and "Alleluia!"; these should be sung together.

While the third antiphon is being sung, the clergy will be making their way through the church, carrying the Gospel book in the Small Entrance. Watch their progress; you may want to speed up or slow down the singing of the third antiphon slightly so it ends a few seconds after the procession arrives at the holy doors and the priest blesses the entrance.

At the end of the third antiphon, we go to page 25 for the Entrance Hymn, which is just a continuation of the third antiphon.

The Typical Psalms and Beatitudes

If you have been following along in the Divine Liturgies book, you may have noticed that we skipped over the "First Typical Psalm", the "Second Typical Psalm", and the Beatitudes. These are replacements for the three antiphons, from the monastic tradition, and may be sung on any Sunday that does not have its own special antiphons (that is, they can replace the ordinary Sunday antiphons but not feast-day ones).

The First and Second Typical Psalms are sung instead of the first and second antiphons, and the Beatitudes are sung in place of the third antiphon. Don't mix and match; EITHER use the three antiphons, OR the Typical Psalms and Beatitudes.

The Typical Psalms can be sung in either of two different ways. Here is the "simple form" of the first and second Typical Psalms:



Here is the "solemn form" of the first and second Typical Psalms; note that they begin on do, but are notated in the key of C major, with no sharps or flats. (This key signature is used only a few times in the Divine Liturgies book).



The conclusion of the second antiphon, "O Only-begotton Son", is sung as usual, and then the third antiphon is replaced with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), sung to the Tone 8 kontakion melody:


Only one verse of each Typical Psalm is sung, making them quite short, while the Beatitudes take longer to sing than the third antiphon; watch the Small Entrance procession carefully to determine if you should slightly increase or decrease the tempo of the Beatitudes. But do not ever rush or drag! Better to have a pause in the music, or make the procession wait at the holy doors, than sing badly.

The conclusion of the Third Antiphon: Entrance Hymn, Troparia, and Kontakia

At this point in service, the clergy and servers should have arrived at the holy doors, and the deacon exclaims:

Wisdom! Be attentive!

Begin singing the Entrance Hymn, while the clergy enter the sanctuary. The Entrance Hymn uses a melody of its own – two different melodies, in fact, and there are also special melodies for feast-days. But the text is simply another verse of the third antiphon psalm, with the same refrain.

Here is the simpler (A) melody for Sunday:


Where the first antiphon began on do, and two of the three settings of "O Only-begotton Son" began on mi, the A version of the Entrance Hymn begins on sol, lending a note of excitement and grandeur to the chant. Remember to treat the entire refrain as one long phrase, with quick breaths at the bar lines, and no gap between "save us who sing to you:" and "Alleluia!".

Here is the A melody for weekdays:


The B setting is a very lovely, minor-key version, which actually changes key after the first phrase. Here is the Sunday entrance hymn in the B melody:


and here is the weekday entrance hymn in the same melody:


(Feast days generally have their own entrance hymns.)

Once the Entrance Hymn has been sung and the clergy have entered the sanctuary, the third antiphon concludes with the singing of the troparia and kontakia that are appointed for the day. The MCI course Introduction to the Typikon explains how to figure out which troparia and kontakia are sung, and the course Introduction to the Eight Tones covers the melodies to be used and the singing of the Sunday troparia and kontakia.

The priest and deacon chant the conclusion to a litany, and the service continues with the Trisagion ("Holy God"). The music for this final part of the Enarxis is covered in a separate article, Singing the Trisagion of the Divine Liturgy.