An Explanation of Meghalou

Hidden Treasures | Lent Series

In this episode of Hidden Treasures, we look into what’s behind Meghalou, a hymn said after the Synaxarion reading on Saturdays and Sundays of Great Lent. Check out this video and read the article below to learn more! Read more


This hymn is the signature hymn for the weekends of the Great Fast. Meghalou comes after the reading of the Synaxarion in place where Apekran (Your Name is so Great) or Qen `vran (In the Name..) is chanted annually. The hymn is composed of three verses of undoubted Greek origin. A note on the pronunciation: Meghalou would be the proper transcription of this word, as opposed to Meghalo or Meeghalo as is commonly chanted in modern practice.


Fr. Mettias Nasr suggests that the authorship of this hymn can be linked to whomever authored `Omonogenyc (O Only Begotten..). In the Coptic tradition, authorship is attributed to St. Severus or St. Athanasius the Apostolic. By examining the text of both hymns, they are written and composed in the same artistic spirit. Both are based on the Trisagion hymn and build upon the spiritual meaning of the Trisagion to develop the respective theme of the hymn. The only minor difference is stylistic, where the Trisagion text is quoted before the actual hymn text in `Omonogenyc, but is the opposite in this hymn.

Both point to the wonder of the Incarnation; although the hymns are in a different liturgical and theological atmosphere. This is done to assert that the act of Salvation is one, and that in everything Christ did, all His acts are embodied in His atoning work. This assertion is further supported in the Prayer of the Epiclesis in the Liturgy of St. Basil when the priest prays:

“Therefore, as we also commemorate His Holy Passion, His Resurrection from the dead, His Ascension into the Heavens, His Sitting at Your Right Hand O Father, and His Second Coming from the Heavens.”

Hymn Text

Megalou Ar,y`ereuc ic touc `e`wnac a,ranton. `Agioc `o :eoc.

Literal Translation: The great High Priest, undefiled for ever, Holy God.

Precise Translation: The Pure, Eternal, Mighty High Priest. Holy God.

Reference: “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1).

Contemplation: Not only did God appear in the flesh in the fullness of time, He also appeared taking on the painful role of the Eternal High Priest, being the only one worthy to offer Himself willingly as the Sacrifice. The Fathers gently remind us that it is our “unworthiness” that makes us “worthy.” After repentance, confession, and the absolution, we should run to the altar and partake of the Eternal Sacrifice that shackled Satan. Christ’s Blood is pure and divine, covering all our sins. The minute we doubt His Priesthood, ministry, or Sacrifice, we blaspheme against it.

Kata tyn taxin tou Mel,icedek telioc. `Agioc Ic,uroc.

Literal Translation:   According to the order of Melchizedek, perfect.  Holy Mighty.

Precise Translation: According to the perfect order of Melchizedek, the Whole. Holy Mighty.

Reference: “The Lord has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’” (Psalms 110:4).

Contemplation: Not only is Christ’s Priesthood eternal and perfect, but also rather than relying on blood and animal sacrifices just as in the Tabernacle, the gifts to provide for lasting salvation are bread and wine, just like the offerings put forth by Melchizedek.

`Ocarkw;enta ek `Pneumatoc `Agiou ke `agiac Mariac tyc Par;enou mega to muctyrion. `Agioc `A;anatoc@ `ele`ycon `ymac.

Literal/Precise Translation: Who took flesh by the Holy Spirit from holy Mary the Virgin in a great mystery. Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Reference: “Was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary, and became man” (Nicene Creed).

Contemplation: In a manner which supersedes our minds, the Immortal Wisdom of the Father, the Ancient of Days, took flesh and became a full human, by the womb of a virgin. Truly a great mystery! Indeed, our God is above all physical or mental limits. The full participation of the Trinity was needed so we could never dare say anything about Salvation not being completed.

Note: The careful observer will note that the Trisagion hymn is weaved into this hymn. The Trisagion appears here in its most original form before one of the Church patriarchs added the extensions to combat heresies about the Divinity of our Lord. If all three verses will not be chanted, the best practice is to complete the first verse and then either chant the Paralex (Apen=o=c – Our Lord) or chant the first line of the Trisagion hymn, conclude with ele`ycon `ymac (have mercy on us) and then chant the Paralex.

When is it Chanted?

Officially, the current rite says that this hymn is to be chanted on Sundays and the Last Friday of the Great Fast. These are different textual and cantor sources concerning this hymn:

  • Nahdet el Kanais Deacon Service Book (Latest Edition): “Hymn to be chanted on Sundays of the Great Lent and the Concluding Friday of the Great Lent after the Praxis and Synaxarium
  • Cantor Farag’s Deacon Service Book: “Hymn to be chanted on Sundays of the Great Lent and the Concluding Friday of the Great Lent.”
  • Albair Mikhail’s Deacon Service Book: “Hymn to be chanted on Sundays of the Great Lent and the Concluding Friday of the Great Lent.”
  • Cantor Faheem Girgis: “Hymn to be chanted on Saturdays, Sundays of the Great Lent and the Concluding Friday of the Great Lent.”

It is common in the modern practice of churches to indeed chant this hymn as Cantor Faheem teaches, including Saturdays.

HCOC Servant Albair Mikhail concerning this says, “All books says that Meghalou is to be chanted on Sundays and the Last Friday of the Lent, on the other hand, the rite for Saturdays and the first Monday of the Lent is exactly the same as Sundays. [Logically, then] we should be able to chant Meghalou on Saturdays and the first Monday of the Lent as well.”

He also tells us that the Holy Synod has promised that they will discuss this with the rest of the bishops in the next committee on Pentecost to set this common practice into the official rite for the hymn. The following suggestion put forth:

  • Meghalou to be chanted on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Meghalou to be chanted on Monday the beginning of the fast and Friday the end of the fast


Musical Pattern

Through all three verses of the hymn, there seems to be a recurring pattern that is reflected by the music. The structure can be defined as follows:

  • It firstly states the origin or identity of the Lord. The first ‘part’ shows an aspect of His character.
  • It then moves into a prophetic announcement, drawing our attention into a prophesy or proclamation that has come into the New Testament.
  • Then, the hymn brings to our minds a vision of struggle or a great battle.
  • We are then lifted in conquer and victory over this struggle and the impossible becomes reality.
  • There is now a solemn proclamation affirming some eternal characteristics of our Lord and part of His work in the economy of Salvation.
  • We are now brought into the air of contemplation, meditating on a trait of the Person of Christ that suffered because of His work on earth.
  • We are quickly reminded to remember that He is still Holy and Divine! This station is always a part of the Trisagion.

What an intense, rich, fulfilling spiritual meal we are given every weekend of the Great Fast in this hymn alone! How much we are gently guided to contemplate and praise and share in the grueling work Christ’s fasting under the temptation of the Devil. How often we lose interest in all the melisma and our minds wander!

Hymnological Exegesis

The first musical station is an original piece of music. Reflecting the greatness of our Lord, it is characterized by disjoint sentences. Let us remember that is it impossible for the human mind or tongue to express the greatness of God. Thus, every time we try to comprehend it, we are taken to a next level, which further amazes and mesmerizes us.

Then, it moves into the well-known w nim nai (O Nim Nai – Oh what symphonies – Resurrection hymn before All You Heavenly Orders) tune station. The hymn hearkens us back to Exodus 34:28, when Moses fasted for forty days and forty nights in order to receive the Law. Thus, the New Testament Moses is drawn out into the wilderness in order to prepare Himself for the ministry of the Salvation of mankind. Instead of ending like the tune it comes from, it proceeds into a broken ending to prepare us for the mournful part of the hymn that is coming.

The second half of the station comes from a semi-sad tune of Apekran (Apekran – Your name is great – Annual Hymn for Saints). Here the hymn portrays the ascesis in the desert, the struggle of temptation, and the anguish of fasting. One can only stop and think of the extent of this great spiritual struggle between our Savior and the Enemy.

Suddenly, the hymn ascends a ladder of joyful notes, ending on a somber note. We are reminded in this original music station that His Priesthood is all-powerful and that by His full obedience to the Father in the midst of temptation, He would conquer through fasting and perseverance.

The next station is like a solemn march with notes being very formal and organized. The second part of the station, starting with e, shoots up another ladder of serious proclamation and then ends like the first part of the station. This station is somber and undoubted just as the eternity of the Lord’s Priesthood.

A,ranton (Akranton)and :eoc (Theos) are identical in musicology. These stations borrow a little music from E;be ]`anactacic (Ethve Tee Anastasis – For the Resurrection – Pauline Epistle in Holy Week). Overall, they are gloomy parts. In the former, we meditate on the pure suffering by experiencing the pangs of temptation. In the latter, we remember that God suffered in His Humanity for us and felt the full weight of our physical and spiritual sin. Both of these end with the mournful Pauline tune.

Between these words, there is an Agioc (Agios) which takes on a more proclamatory feel. We are announcing the holiness of God who fasted for us. He is still Holy.

Contemplation on the Theme

St. Clement of AlexandriaExhortation to the Heathen, ch. 12:

“This Jesus, who is eternal, the one great High Priest of the one God, and of His Father, prays for and exhorts men.”

“If, then, we say that the Lord the great High Priest offers to God the incense of sweet fragrance…”

Justin MartyrDialogue of Justin, ch. 33:

“So God has shown that His everlasting Priest, called also by the Holy Spirit Lord, would be Priest of those in uncircumcision.”

St. AthanasiusFour Discourses against the Arians, ch. 14:

“…and when became He ‘High Priest of our profession,’ but when, after offering Himself for us, He raised His Body from the dead…”

“…as a High Priest, having He as others an offering, He might offer Himself to the Father…”

St. Cyril of JerusalemFirst Catechetical Lecture to the Catechumens:

“…and Christ Himself the great High Priest, having accepted your resolve, may present you all to the Father…”

“…eternally anointed by the Father to His High-Priesthood.”

St. BasilLetter to the Caesareans:

“As He was made a way, so was He made a door, a shepherd, an angel, a sheep, and again a High Priest and an Apostle…”

Letter 236 to the Same Amphilochius:

“…whence the Lord, in things pertaining, to God, is both King and High Priest.”

St. IgnatiusEpistle to the Magnesians, ch. 5:

“To those who indeed talk of the bishop, but do all things without him, will He who is the true and first Bishop, and the only High Priest by nature, declare…”

Ibid., ch. 7:

“Do ye all, as one man, run together into the temple of God, as unto one altar, to one Jesus Christ, the High Priest of the unbegotten God.”

Epistle to the Philadelphians, ch. 9:

“The priests indeed are good, but the High Priest is better; to whom the holy of holies has been committed…”


These words fall short of describing the beauty of this hymn as words cannot express the desires and expressions of the Spirit who wrote it. It is so deep and amassing in spirituality. The hymn manages to chart for us the journey of our Lord climbing up the mountain, leaving the wilderness, His priestly work for our Salvation, and then leaves us focused on Him entering Jerusalem. The hymn deftly stops there and hands us over into the arms of Holy Pascha and its hymns, explaining to us the remainder of the journey to the Cross and finally out of the tomb which could not contain our Lord.

Let us remember these simple words next time we stand to chant wither praying for our own salvation or leading our congregations.