Immediately after the Litany of Peace there are hymns sung. They are called antiphons. Originally, they were sung by two chanters or choirs one on each side alternating. The word "antiphon" literally means "opposing voices." This was a tradition that came from the Hebrews and the Old Testament times. These hymns are from the Psalms. Today many only sing the refrains. All are encouraged to sing along and participate.
The first Antiphon is about the Virgin Mary.
By the intercessions of the Theotokos, Savior, save us.
We all feel that many times we are not worthy to lift up
our heads and pray to God. Therefore we ask the
Mother Mary to intercede for us and pray for us, because
she, being close to her Son and God, can speak in our
behalf. This is the meaning of the first Antiphon;
that through her intercessions she may help us so we may
The second is about Jesus Christ.
Save us, O Son of God who rose from the dead, to You we sing: Alleluia.
Having all our hopes in the Grace of our Lord, who was risen from the dead, that He will save us, we sing in His praise, Alleluia. "Alleluia" is a Hebrew word, which the Christian Church adopted, and means: "Praise be unto God."
There is a short petition made after each of these by the deacon.
The last antiphon:
"O Only-Begotten Son and Word of God, although immortal You humbled Yourself for our salvation, taking flesh from the most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, and without change becoming Man; O 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."
This poetic masterpiece is said to have been composed about fourteen hundred (1,400) years ago by the great Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who also built the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople. This 3rd Antiphon in theological terms explains the supernatural Birth of our Lord, defines His two distinct Natures, and declares that He is the second person of the Holy Trinity.
All the service is chanted or sung. Here is a comment from Saint John Chrysostom on the way we should chant in the Church.
"Every time we chant, in order to attract the Grace of God, it is not essential and entirely necessary for the melody to be in accordance with the rules of the melody (we would say with the rules of byzantine music). there should be harmony, in fact there should abe sweet melody––they are essential––nevertheless what is needed above all is for our hearts to be "broken and humbled", so that our chanting would identify with, would become one voice with the angelic hymns and doxologies. And if the one who is chanting is young or old, and if he is someone who cannot sing, and if he is someone who does not have the slightest idea about melody and rhythm, it is not a sin. In Divine Worship there is a different need: For our souls to be vigilant. Our mind should not fall asleep, but should be filled with divine light. Our hearts should beat with compunction. Out thoughts should be robust, vigorous and finally, our conscience should be clear and without guilt. If our inner person is distinguished by all of these, little emphasis should be placed on a voice that is bad or out of tune or husky."
There are no musical instruments used in the Orthodox service. Saint John Chrysostom tells us,
"The faithful Christians who attends Church services in the right way, is a God-created instrument, that, if his soul preserves it without any guilt, clean and spotless, then it is by all means ready to glorify the all-holy triune name of its God and Creator.
The holy hymns and the chanting that causes compunction, are being born by the soul's devoutness, are being fed by its good conscience, and are being accepted by the same All-Holy Triune God in the treasures of Heaven.
The chanting is for the most from the heart and then of the mouth and vocal cords."