Psalm 150 – Communion Hymn in the Coptic Rite
Originally, this hymn has four specific tunes that alternate based on the season/time in which the Eucharist is celebrated. This is denoted by Ibn Kabar in Mezbah el Zolma (Lamp in the Darkness) while discussing the rites of the Holy Liturgy.
“Then the rest of the deacons chant Psalm 150 and it has tunes that alternate based on its time. (1) A hymn (tune) for the days, Sundays and Feasts, (2) a hymn for the middle of Friday [Friday in this case means the week], (3) a hymn for the weekdays of the holy 40 fast, and (4) a tune from “Moug” (an old Egyptian village) for Kiahk.”
The same idea is reiterated several times in the book Tarteeb el Bay3a (Order of the Church) compiled by Bishop Samuel of Shibeen el Qanatir. This book combines and compares the order and hymns of several different manuscripts across several different regions of Egypt. It includes portions from the following manuscripts:
- Patriarchal Archives of Cairo 1160 AM (1445 AD)
- Monastery of Al Baramous 1230 AM (1515 AD)
- Monastery of Saint Anthony 1377 AM (1662 AD)
- Monastery of Al Syrian 1414 AM (1699 AD)
- Patriarchal Archives of Alexandria 1432 AM (1717 AD)
- Monastery of Al Syrian 1435 AM (1720 AD)
- Church of Archangel Michael, Sbarbay, Egypt 1584 AM (1869 AD)
The dates are all written according to the Coptic calendar, signified by AM (ano martyri or the year of the martyrs).
- Kiahk (This photo is taken from the Section on the Paramoun of Nativity, in Tarteeb el Bay3a)
“The liturgy continues as usual, and at the time of communion of the holy mysteries after Alleluia in the tune of Kiahk, they chant”
2. Holy 40 Days of Lent (from Tarteeb el Bay3a)
“Liturgy is served until the end, then they chant Alleluia, Praise God and afterwards Blessed is in the tune of fasting and then Lover of Mankind.”
3. Sunday and Feast Day (Apostles’ Feast; from Tarteeb el Bay3a)
“The time of oblations, if the feast is a Sunday, they say Alleluia, Praise God in the tune of Sundays and Blessed are You in the tune of Sundays.”
4. Weekday (Apostles’ Feast; from Tarteeb el Bay3a)
“And if it is during the Friday (used here as the week) they chant: Alleluia, Praise God and Blessed is annually and then the aforementioned hymns until the end of communion.
From these references we can determine that in fact there were four original tunes for Psalm 150 during communion in the Coptic Orthodox Rite. This also alludes to other concepts that I will describe in later posts, including: Sundays being celebrated constantly as a festal occasion, as well as different tunes and rites being followed during the week.