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ore than a dozen times a day according to the Horologion (or “Book of Hours”) of the Eastern Rite, the Church prays the Trisagion prayers as part of its services. By Trisagion prayers I refer not just to the “thrice holy,” the prayer of the angels found first in Isaiah 6:3, but to the whole set of prayers that begins there and concludes with the Our Father. Each service starts with these prayers, and then returns to them at various points. They form a chiastic structure, like so:

                – Prayer of Angels -

                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/Mercy
                                Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
                                both now and ever and to the ages of ages, amen.
                                                O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us.

                                                                        – O Lord, O Master, O Holy One
                                                                        O Lord, blot out our sins.
                                                                                O Master, pardon our iniquities.
                                                                                        O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.

                                – Mercy/Glory
                                                Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.
                                Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
                                both now and ever and to the ages of ages, amen.

                – Prayer of Men -

                Our Father, Who art in the heavens,
                hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
                as in heaven, so on earth.
                Give us this day our daily bread,
                and forgive us our debts
                as we forgive our debtors.
                And lead us not into temptation,
                but deliver us from the evil one.
                For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,
                of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
                now and ever and unto the ages of ages, amen.

To explore these prayers more deeply, I will start in the center and then move out to the periphery.

The Center: O Lord, O Master, O Holy One

The triad of “O Lord, O Master, O Holy One” refers to a threefold relationship we have to God, which conforms to the threefold pattern of theosis described often by Church fathers such as St. Dionysius the Areopagite and St. Maximus the Confessor.1 In the Dionysian corpus, the three levels are called purification, illumination, and perfection. In the Maximian corpus, you’ll more likely encounter it as practical, natural, and theological philosophy, or else praxis, theoria (contemplation), and theologia.

And “O Lord, O Master, O Holy One” occurs not just at the center of the Trisagion prayers either. The prayer “Vouchsafe” said at Vespers, and again as part of the small doxology at Compline and Matins, also centers on this triad. It will be helpful for us to see how the pattern appears here as well. After an introductory line, “Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this evening/night/day without sin” (the time of day changing according to which service it is), a fivefold chiasmus takes form:

                Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
                and praised and glorified is Thy name
                unto the ages, amen.
                                Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in Thee. [Ps. 32:22]
                                                      Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach my Thy statutes. [Ps. 118:12]
                                                            Blessed art Thou, O Master, give me understanding of Thy statutes.
                                                                  Blessed art Thou, O Holy One, enlighten me by Thy statutes.

                                O Lord, Thy mercy endureth forever; disdain not the work of Thy hands. [Ps. 137:8]

                To Thee is due praise, to Thee is due a song, to Thee glory is due,
                to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
                now and ever and unto the ages of ages, amen.

Here at the center we see the twelfth verse of Psalm 118 expanded to reflect a threefold pedagogy. First we are taught the statutes, according to purification. Then in illumination, we are given understanding of the statutes. Finally in perfection, we are enlightened by the statutes. We should not be surprised to see the enlightening take place in the slot of perfection, not illumination. In a sense all three of these petitions occur within illumination, but they fractally correspond to the wider pattern.

We see that also in the Trisagion prayers, except the three petitions occur within purification instead. Blot out our sins, pardon our iniquities, visit and heal our infirmities — they all refer to facets of purification, appropriate pleas for the beginning of a liturgical service. But as a fractal they also correspond to the wider pattern of purification, illumination, and perfection. The three stages of the spiritual life do not describe a linear sequence but a fractal pattern, as they are all contained within each other.

“Blot out our sins,” sometimes translated as “Wash away our sins” or “Cleanse our sins,” could also be translated as “Expiate our sins.” The verb in Greek is hilastheti, from the same root used in the Septuagint for the cover of the ark of the covenant, for which the term “mercy seat” was invented. This petition is directed toward the Lord (Kyrie).

“Pardon our iniquities” could be translated as “Pardon our lawlessnesses”; the Greek word is anomias, from the privative a– and the word nomos, law. Nomos is used in the description of illumination not just here, but prominently in the first verses of the Psalter. Psalm 1:1–3 can be arranged thus:

                – Purification
                Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly,
                nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the pestilent.

                                  – Illumination
                                  But his will is rather in the law of the Lord,
                                  and in His law will he meditate day and night.

                                                    – Perfection
                                                    And he shall be like the tree which is planted by the streams of the waters,
                                                    which shall bring forth its fruit in its season;
                                                    and its leaf shall not fall,
                                                    and all things whatsoever he may do shall prosper.

St. Gregory of Nyssa testifies to this interpretation in his Treatise on the Inscriptions of the Psalms, which is worth quoting here for a description of this threefold pattern in plain patristic language. He writes,

It is possible, therefore, even in this first hymn to get some idea of what lies ahead of us, and to see how the Word divides virtue into three parts and bears additional witness to beatitude by some suitable analogy for each division.
          Now, on the one hand, it pronounces separation from evil to be blessed, since this is the beginning of turning to what is better. But after this, it calls the meditation on things that are sublime and more divine blessed, since this actually produces the capacity for what is better. Finally it pronounces blessed the likeness to God which is achieved by those who are being perfected through these stages, and on account of which the blessings previously received are mentioned. This latter is intimated by the evergreen tree, to which the life which has been perfected through virtue is likened.2

The prayer “Pardon our iniquities” is still penitential, as is the whole triad at the center of the Trisagion prayers. But contained within the penitence is the larger pattern of which penitence is but the first part. The second part is illumination, and the reference to lawlessness in the second plea reflects that. Accordingly it is directed to the Master (Despota), a tighter, more exclusive form of lordship.

The “infirmities” of the triad’s third and final petition could also be understood as “weaknesses” (astheneias). For God to “visit and heal” them would mean the end of all sin and the perfection of creation. The visitation in particular evokes the prophetic imagery of when God’s judgment is meted out by His mere presence. Throughout the Old Testament, people, and specifically their sins, are subject to God’s visitation in the future tense. Isaiah 10:3 and 1 Peter 2:12 even make mention of a “day of visitation,” suggesting an equivalence with the prophetic “day of the Lord.” This would be the eighth day according to St. Maximus’ contemplation, whereby practical, contemplative, and theological philosophy are signified by the sixth, seventh, and eighth days: “The sixth day is the absolute fulfillment of practical natural activities concerning virtue; the seventh is the completion and cessation of all natural contemplative concepts concerning ineffable knowledge; and the eighth is the transposition and transcendence to deification of the worthy.”3

The word for visit, episkepsei, is moreover a cognate of the word for bishop, episkopos. A bishop is he who visits, in the biblical sense. This connection forges yet another link with our spiritual triad, as St. Dionysius in his Ecclesiastical Hierarchy (chapter 5.1) ranks the sacred ministers of the church according to purification–deacons, illumination–priests, and perfection–bishops.4 Again, the request that God “visit and heal our infirmities” is a call for Him to perfect His creation. A reason for this is given: “for Thy name’s sake.” Those whose sins are blotted out, whose iniquities are pardoned, and whose infirmities are visited and healed, become vessels for God’s Name in creation, the fulfillment of theosis. The petition is made to the Holy One (Hagie), the One who is set apart and pronounced sacred, for deification cannot take place without plain demarcation between the One who deifies and those being deified.

The Intermediate Layer: From Glory to Mercy, Mercy to Glory

To the one God in three persons belongs all glory; to the many creatures He has made pertains mercy. As we move out from the triadic center of the Trisagion prayers, we first encounter an intermediate layer on either side. First, as we move toward the center, we ascribe glory to the Trinity before pleading for mercy from the Trinity. Then as we move away from the center, we thrice plead mercy from the Lord (chiastically identifying any threefold reference to God as trinitarian, which will be relevant when we look at the “thrice holy”), before returning to ascribe glory to the one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

                Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
                both now and ever and to the ages of ages, amen.
                                O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us.

                                Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.
                Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
                both now and ever and to the ages of ages, amen.

These lines can be thought of as a kind of choreography between the one and the many. Glory goes to the One; mercy goes to the many. We move downward from one to many as we approach the prayer’s center; we move upward from many to one as we move away from the prayer’s center. Some chiastic structures resemble mountains and symbolize ascent. Others resemble valleys and symbolize descent. This intermediate layer of the Trisagion prayers suggests the latter.

Continuing this ascent, then, we arrive now at the beginning and end of the chiasmus, like the top and the bottom occupied by the prayer of the angels and the prayer of men, respectively. I’ll address first the very familiar conclusion, the Lord’s Prayer or “Our Father.”

The Bottom: “Our Father”

The inner circle of human disciples around the incarnate Godman had the opportunity to ask Him how they should pray. These words, presumably first given in Aramaic, comprise the response that we the human race received. Transmitted to the Church via Greek translation, they are polyvalent in meaning and form. This is so virtually from the beginning as the evangelists record two different versions of the prayer at Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4. I’ll avoid saying too much about the version in Luke since its textual tradition is particularly diverse. Suffice to say in no edition of the Luke text is included the final line in the Church’s transmission of Matthew’s text, “For Thine is the kingdom (etc.)”. In the Orthodox Church this part is each time said by the priest; at a reader’s service when there is no priest, it is omitted, as in Luke. The rest of the text in Luke — as it was transmitted and proliferated by the Church — matches the text in Matthew except in a different Greek translation. We’ll proceed to look at the Matthew text, preferred by the Church in her services, through the fractal lens of the Trisagion prayers on the whole.

Indeed, the fractal lens of the Trisagion prayers suggests a similar chiastic shape for the Lord’s Prayer that concludes them. This shape can be different from the shapes suggested by the Gospel texts in which the prayer is originally transmitted. Again, it bears emphasizing, these words are polyvalent in meaning and form. In Matthew for example, the longer form of the prayer, along with Jesus’ remarks on the forgiveness of trespasses which are made directly afterwards like scholia, suggest a chiastic center at “Forgive us our debts.” An arrangement of the Matthew text could therefore be made like this (and please forgive the idiosyncratic literal translation):

                Our Father, Who art in the heavens,
                hallowed be Thy name, come be Thy kingdom, done be Thy will,
                as in heaven, so on earth.
                                Our bread necessary for existence
                                give us this day, [— positive providence]
                                                    and forgive us our debts
                                                    as we forgive our debtors.
                                And lead us not into temptation,
                                but deliver us from the evil one. [— negative providence]
                For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,
                unto the ages, amen.

However, in Luke the prayer is shorter, and afterwards Jesus’ remarks concern the giving of bread to a friend who asks of it. This context suggests an arrangement centered on our daily bread:

                Our Father, Who art in the heavens,
                hallowed be Thy name, come be Thy kingdom,
                                done be Thy will
                                as in heaven, so on earth. [— vertical integration]
                                                    Our bread necessary for existence
                                                    give us day by day,
                                and forgive us our debts
                                as we forgive our debtors. [— horizontal integration]
                And lead us not into temptation,
                but deliver us from the evil one.

Demonstrably from the Gospel texts, therefore, the potential for difference in emphasis and interpretation is baked into the original prayer. It even makes sense in these two instances, given the different audiences the two evangelists had in mind. Matthew was thinking of a Jewish audience for his Gospel, and restoring their covenant with God would be foremost in their minds, hence the centrality of forgiveness. But a few verses later in the same Gospel, Jesus counsels his followers not to worry about food and drink and clothing, “For after all these things the Gentiles seek” (Matt. 6:32). And so Luke’s Gospel is written with a Gentile audience in mind. Fittingly then will our “epiousios” bread (translatable as “supersubstantial” or “necessary for existence,” though commonly as “daily”) be central to the Lord’s Prayer, for that pertains to (and transforms) what the Gentiles are accustomed to caring about most.

So let’s turn now to consider what is central to the Our Father in the context of the Trisagion prayers. Its cosmological significance is already ably detailed by Jonathan Pageau in his post “How the Lord’s Prayer Contains All of Creation,” by which analysis the prayer can be seen to integrate the one and the many in a vertical hierarchy the aim of which is the theosis of creation. That theme has been touched upon here in the central upward trajectory of purification, illumination, and perfection (a threefold pattern seen also in the layering of Paradise and Noah’s ark as St. Ephraim the Syrian describes them,5 repeated frequently by Pageau in various places), as well as in the interplay of glory and mercy found at the intermediate level.

But can the center of the Lord’s Prayer be seen to reflect the same fractal pattern we see in the Trisagion prayers? If so, I think it would look like this:

                Our Father, Who art in the heavens,
                hallowed be Thy name, come be Thy kingdom,
                done be Thy will, as in heaven, so on earth.
                              Our bread necessary for existence give us this day,
                                                 and forgive us our debts
                                                       as we forgive our debtors.
                                                             And lead us not into trial,
                              but deliver us from the evil one.
                For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,
                of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
                now and ever and unto the ages of ages, amen.

The Greek word translated here as trial, commonly as temptation, is peirasmos, and it denotes just that: a testing, a proving, a trial — or a temptation, either an external provocation or an internal enticement. The Lord Himself was provoked externally in the desert (and constantly in society, both of which places He willingly went), so if temptation is meant here, the internal enticement is what we pray not to be led into. Regarding trials that are kept external, the Apostle James goes so far as to say, “Blessed are those who endure temptation (peirasmos)” (Jas. 1:12). But not to be tempted internally, not even to require further proving or testing, would be a sign of perfection. To attain such freedom from trial, such perfection, one must first be purified by the forgiveness of debts, and then attain the illumination of forgiving our debtors. Pageau explains the forgiving of others in terms of the necessary integration of horizontal components as one ascends a mountain.6 For the many to attain the communion of the one, this rapprochement must occur. Similarly the identification of the many logoi with the one Logos is a concise description of illumination. Hence, the familiar pattern: Forgive us our debts (expiate our sins), as we forgive our debtors (pardon our lawlessness), and lead us not into trial (visit and heal our weaknesses).

It is not necessary that the prayer be understood this way, but it’s possible. Then flanking that triad we have the request for sustenance necessary for existence contrasting with the request for deliverance from the one who modifies his substance with evil (tou ponerou), evil not being substantial in itself but merely a modifier indicating the negation of substance.

And then in the beginning and end are addressed the Father, the Name, and the Kingdom — or the Glory, the Power, and the Kingdom. And we pray that God’s will be done as in heaven so on earth — now and ever unto the ages of ages, amen. These expressions are far too potent even to begin to cover here. Let’s just try to glimpse a couple things before we burn our eyes from looking into the sun.

St. Maximus the Confessor in his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer sees in the opening lines an invocation of the Trinity, identifying the Name with the Son and the Kingdom with the Holy Spirit.7 This, of course, is not the only interpretation possible. Pageau interprets the kingdom cosmologically, not theologically; for him it refers to all that which is under the rule of the king.8 Grammatically, “Hallowed be Thy name, come be Thy kingdom, done be Thy will” is a threefold parallel structure that is not respected by St. Maximus’ interpretation because “Will” does not, like Name and Kingdom, correspond to a person of the Trinity. Certainly, that grammatical structure need not be adhered to — I only mention it to suggest the variety of the interpretations possible. Suffice to say for our chiastic structure, the attribution of kingdom, power, and glory at the end of the prayer reflects whatever is going on at the beginning of the prayer, and both point to the absolute dominion of the Three Persons of the one triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which the Church makes explicit in her elaboration of the closing words. As God’s energies fill the cosmological hierarchy from the top down in the phrase “as in heaven, so on earth” (the syntax of “on earth as it is in heaven” is nowhere present in any Greek version of the prayer), so grace is referred from the bottom back to the top in the closing phrase “now and ever,” the present time expanding to include all eternity.

The Top: “Holy, Holy, Holy”

The prophet Isaiah was raised to the throne of God and saw six-winged seraphim crying to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory” (Is. 6:3). This heavenly prayer was integrated into temple worship, and its form was encountered again by St. John the Theologian on Patmos. He too was raised to the throne of God, and he heard the six-winged, many-eyed living creatures saying incessantly, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8). Then in Constantinople in 447, in the midst of great seismic activity — as commemorated on the Church calendar on September 25 — a boy was lifted up to heaven from a procession officiated by the holy Patriarch Proclus and the Emperor Theodosius II. When he came back down, he reported seeing the angels worshiping with the prayer the Church has since known as the Trisagion. He was also commanded to tell the patriarch that it should be included in the services without emendation.9

Thus, joining with the bodiless hosts, the Church on earth begins her prayers with precisely the words the boy heard:


                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.

The three holies are repeated thrice, corresponding to the nineness of the angelic hierarchy as seen by St. Dionysios the Areopagite and explained by him in terms of purification, illumination, and perfection. As we’ve seen at the center of both the present prayers and Vouchsafe, the three stages are contained within each other, leading their fullness to be best expressed as ninefold.

God, Mighty, and Immortal, meanwhile, are very suggestive names for the angelic minds to be using. Their interpretation became a matter of theological dispute as the fifth-century schism took shape following the Council of Chalcedon. Peter the Fuller, Non-Chalcedonian patriarch of Antioch, insisted on qualifying the three names with the additional phrase, “who was crucified for us,” thereby suggesting that the three names refer to the one theandric nature of Christ. This position was refuted by Church fathers who insisted on a trinitarian interpretation of the names. As St. John Damascene summarizes in his Exact Exposition 3.10,

We understand the “Holy God” as referring to the Father, and yet we do not restrict the appellation of divinity to Him alone, but recognize the Son and Holy Spirit to be God, also. The “Holy Mighty” we take as referring to the Son, yet we do not strip the Father and Holy Spirit of their might. And the “Holy Immortal” we apply to the Holy Spirit without excluding the Father and the Son from immortality, but understanding all the divine attributes as referring to each of the Persons.10

Biblically the triad has precedent in Psalm 41:2, “My soul thirsted for God, the mighty, the living” — here using “living” instead of “immortal.” But to learn why the angels would use “God” to refer to the Father, “Mighty” to refer to the Son, and “Immortal” to refer to the Holy Spirit, it would help to seek counsel from an authority on how the angels relate to God. St. Basil writes in On the Holy Spirit 16:

The pure, intelligent, and other-worldly powers both are and are called holy because they have acquired holiness as a gift given to them by the Holy Spirit. The written account of the origin of the world revealed to us the creation of the heavenly powers only from what is perceptible, and so the manner of their creation is left in silence. But you have the power to reason from the seen to the unseen, and you glorify the Maker in whom all things were created, whether seen or unseen, whether principalities, authorities, powers, thrones, dominions, or those that remain nameless, if there are some other rational natures. In their creation, consider for me the initial cause of their existence (the Father), the Maker (the Son), the Perfecter (the Spirit). So the ministering spirits exist by the will of the Father, they are brought into being by the energy of the Son, and they are perfected by the presence of the Spirit. Now the perfection of the angels is holiness and abiding in holiness.
          And let no one think that I am saying that there are three persons [hypostases] as sources or that I am asserting the energy of the Son to be imperfect. For the source of being is one, which makes through the Son, and which perfects in the Spirit. And the Father, “who works all in all” is not imperfect in energy; neither is it the case that the Son is defective in creative power, unless it be perfected by the Spirit. Thus the Father, who creates by his will alone, would not need the Son, but nevertheless he wills through the Son. The Son, who works according to the likeness of the Father, would not need a co-worker, but the Son wills that perfection should come about through the Spirit. “The heavens were established by the Word of the Lord, and all their power, by the Spirit [breath] of His mouth” (Ps. 32:6).11

(This quotation goes on and only gets better; interested readers are encouraged to seek it out.)

So as far as creation is concerned, including the heavenly hosts, the Father is “God” as the originating cause, the Son is “Mighty” as the creative cause, and the Spirit is “Immortal” as the perfecting cause. Death (thanatos) is possible to the angels in their potential to be separated from God by an act of their free will. Insofar as they are able to avert this disaster, it is only by the power of the Spirit who perfects their virtue and fixes them in the good; hence the Spirit is called Athanatos. They wouldn’t have the opportunity to fall if they weren’t first given substance, moreover. Only by the Word is that substance created out of nothing, and on account of this feat of force and strength is the Son, the Word of God, called Ishchyros, Mighty. As the Son is begotten of the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father, and as there are not three origins of creation but one, so in the act of creation do the Son and the Spirit defer to their pre-eternal Cause as the one originating cause of creation. And hence the Father is called O Theos, God.

The Trisagion Prayers

Now, how even these angels made perfect in holiness by the Spirit could have cause to beg God for mercy — “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us” — is a wonder that can only serve to manifest the severe supremacy of God. The Hebrew concepts behind the words for “mercy” and “have mercy” usually entail kindness to inferiors. The notion of forgiveness of transgressions need not be implied, but that is certainly the connotation that the Psalms bring to the word (e.g., Ps. 50). Before then, Moses had been told by God, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (Ex. 33:19), so would it even have been worth asking for mercy under the Law? I wonder, did this specific petition to the God of Israel, “Have mercy on me/us,” even exist before King David stumbled upon it? Did the angels learn it from the Body of Christ on earth? Could God’s lovingkindness be known at this level of depth before he began to show favor on fallen men? With the Prophet David a window into the possibilities of repentance opened up that had not been seen before, and its paradigmatic expression is “Have mercy on me.”

                – Prayer of Angels -

                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/Mercy
                                Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
                                both now and ever and to the ages of ages, amen.
                                                O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us.

                                                                        – O Lord, O Master, O Holy One
                                                                        O Lord, blot out our sins.
                                                                                O Master, pardon our iniquities.
                                                                                        O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.

                                – Mercy/Glory
                                                Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.
                                Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
                                both now and ever and to the ages of ages, amen.

                – Prayer of Men -

                Our Father, Who art in the heavens,
                hallowed be Thy name, come be Thy kingdom,
                done be Thy will, as in heaven, so on earth.
                              Our bread necessary for existence give us this day,
                                                 and forgive us our debts
                                                       as we forgive our debtors.
                                                             And lead us not into trial,
                              but deliver us from the evil one.
                For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,
                of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
                now and ever and unto the ages of ages, amen.

In the Lord’s Prayer, delivered to humans personally by God the Son Himself, we are taught to look towards God as sons on the earth to our Father in the heavens, and we pray that His will be done “as in heaven so on earth.” By coupling this prayer with the thrice-holy hymn of the angels pleading God to have mercy on them, we see both that which is above and that which is below uniting together to worship the God who conceives them, creates them, and perfects them.

From these peaks we descend in the intermediate layer from the glory that goes upward to the mercy that goes downward, reaching the center like a nadir that nonetheless rises in threefold purification to attain the perfection of the summit from which it descends. This whole matrix of prayers in this way resembles the Mother of God, who in her complete humility comprises both the lowest point of creation and — through the incarnation of God the Word in her womb — the highest point of creation, more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim. The Word which emanates from her we call God’s Name, and we pronounce it hallowed. It is for His name’s sake that we plea for purification, illumination, and perfection. Creation, brought into being from non-being, stands as an alpine symphony of the one and the many, ever multiplying and uniting, descending and ascending, expanding and contracting. Yet the one from which we the many descend, is it to be understood as Creator or creation? Could there be any continuity of the two? God in His essence transcends the hierarchy of creation, no doubt. Yet in His Name, the Son and Word of God, the unbridgeable is bridged, and the two become unmixed but indivisible. And in His many names — in His energies — He who in His essence transcends the hierarchy of creation, fills it, from top to bottom, now and ever and unto the ages of ages, amen.

  1. For an overview of this topic, see Thunberg, Lars. Microcosm and Mediator, at 332–68. Open Court, 1995.[]
  2. Gregory of Nyssa. Treatise on the Inscriptions of the Psalms, at 84–85. Oxford University Press, 1995.[]
  3. Maximus the Confessor, St. Two Hundred Chapters on Theology, at 75. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2015.[]
  4. See Pseudo-Dionysius. The Complete Works, at 233–239. Paulist Press, 1987.[]
  5. See Ephrem the Syrian, St. Hymns on Paradise, at 88–89. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990.[]
  6. See Pageau, Jonathan. “How the Lord’s Prayer Contains All of Creation,” at 14:54. YouTube, March 12, 2020.[]
  7. See Maximus Confessor. Selected Writings, at 106–107. Paulist Press, 1985.[]
  8. See Pageau, “How the Lord’s Prayer,” at 5:37.[]
  9. See Makarios of Simonos Petra, Hieromonk. The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, Volume One, at 185–186. Holy Convent of The Annunciation of Our Lady Ormylia (Chalkidike), 1998.[]
  10. John of Damascus, Saint. Writings, at 287. The Catholic University of America Press, 1958. I’ve changed “Holy Strong” and “strength” to “Holy Mighty” and “might,” as well as “Holy Ghost” to “Holy Spirit.”[]
  11. Basil the Great, St. On the Holy Spirit, at 70–71. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011.[]