6 thoughts on “Only Begotten Son

  1. This beautiful hymn, invariably sung after the 2nd antiphon in every liturgy, is the work of the Roman Vasilefs (“emperor”), St Justinian I, who lived in the midst of the 6th century. He loved God very much and had a very long reign, serving God as a Christian sovereign. Besides his theological offerings, he sponsored the building of the largest Christian church in the world, Holy Wisdom (Aghia Sophia, in Constantinople–still standing after 15 centuries). Also, he sponsored the erection of the Monastery of St Catherine (the oldest Christian monastery in the world, continuously functioning) at the foot of Mt Sinai.
    Truly, a great man of God and a great hymn to God!

  2. Thank you for the background, Fr Patrick. You can sense St Justinian’s deep faith and love of God embedded in that song. I’m moved to tears virtually every time we sing this song.

  3. A 6th century Non-Chalcedonian Saint wrongfully accused of heresy added more theological prose to this previously written hymn of ‘O Monogenis’ first penned by St John Chrysostom. Their is the legend that Emperor Justinian sang this hymn off the top of his head, but a Syrian Patriarch named Severus of Antioch had deliberately interpreted the theological doctrine at the time used this. So the earlier refrain “Only Begotten Son and Word of God” in One Person in Jesus Christ was used an example to refute Nestorianism and Monophysites. It’s a complicated theolgical history but never the less the hymn goes on:

    Only begotten Son and Word of God, although immortal You humbled Yourself for our salvation, taking flesh from the holy Theotokos and ever virgin Mary and, without change, becoming man. Christ, our God, You were crucified but conquered death by death. You are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit-save us.

    I prefer the Coptic style chanted in Greek as it might be a myth that he wrote it in Alexandria. He was in exile on orders of execution by Emperor Justinian accused of heresy.

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