The phrases were first added to counter the Nestorian heresy, since
it was considered, correctly, that no Nestorian would be able to
confess that one of the Holy Trinity had been crucified.
Information about the Theopaschite formula is as follows:
The so-called Scythian monks, who came up with the Theopaschite
formula in the late 510s, were accomplished theologians and Latin
As an ecclesiastical matter occasion for controversy came from Peter
the Fuller's addition to the Trisagion, making it read " Holy God,
Holy the Mighty One, Holy the Immortal One who was crucified for us."
After the death of Anastasius the theopaschitic controversy broke out
again. At the beginning of the year 519 there appeared in the capital
many monks (called in the sources Scythic monks, who in the great
schism between Rome and Constantinople had held with Rome) with the
motto " one of the Trinity has suffered in the flesh," which seems to
have called forth opposition. But they found support for their
formula in the sentences of the Henoticon. At Constantinople at that
time all seemed to him worthy, he used it as a means to win over the
Severians and received the sentence into the confession of faith
incorporated into the codex which in 533 he sent to Pope John IL,
which that pope (534) and his successor Agapetus T. (536) confirmed,
while the Acoimetes monks were excommunicated by John, and the fifth
ecumenical council at Constantinople pronounced excommunication
against those who did not confess that " the Lord Jesus Christ,
crucified in the flesh, was true God and lord of glory and one of the
holy Trinity." The right to the admission of the now widely accepted
sentence in the trisagion was not expressed. The extension of the
trisagion remained a peculiar possession of the Monophysites, and in
692 the Trullan council anathematized it (canon 81).
From the Dialogue:
Consequently the expression such as "Who was crucified for us" in the
Trisagion Hymn can be understood in Christological interpretation.
While the hymn without this phrase can be understood both in
Trinitarian or Christological senses.
From Father Meyendorff:
The author remarks appropriately that the controversial addition by
Peter the Fuller of the words "crucified for us" to the Trisagion,
needs not be regarded as heretical as long as the Trisagion, "Holy
God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal," is understood as a prayer to Christ
and not as a hymn to the Trinity.
In Alexandria and the Alexandrian circles the trisagion had become a
Christological hymn before the crisis at Chalcedon, this is evidenced
by the fact that it is first recorded at around the time of Chalcedon
and by the time of Peter the Fuller in 476 the theopaschite phrase
was accepted generally speaking by both Antiocheans and Alexandrians.
I say this because Calendio, the Chalcedonian claimant of the
Antiochean episcopate, accepted it with the modification, O Christ
our King. And the Emperor Justinian also accepted it as being
Orthodox in a Christological rather than Trinitarian context.
The Chalcedonian Scythian monks of Constantinople, before 519, were
using the phrase 'one of the Trinity was crucified' as a test against
Nestorianism and this was accepted as Orthodox in 553 at the council
of Constantinople, but the West rejected it and considered it
Context is everything. If the hymn is used Christologically, as it
always is among the Oriental Orthodox, and was 1500 years ago, then
the additions add to the Orthodoxy of the hymn since they confess
that Christ who is truly God was really born of the Virgin, crucified
and arose from the dead. In fact the Hymn in Coptic use is as follows:
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, who was born of the Virgin,
have mercy upon us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, who was crucified for us, have
mercy upon us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, who arose from the dead and
ascended into heaven, have mercy upon us.
This is completely blameless in a Christological context and no
OO Christian imagines that they are addressing the Trinity when
they sing this hymn. The criticisms made by John of Damascus against
the OO use of the hymn are without value since they arrogantly assume
that since the Chalcedonians are using the hymn without additions in
a Trinitarian sense then everyone else must be using the hymn in a
Trinitarian sense also and therefore be expressing heresy.
A quick search on the Internet shows that the Armenian Catholics also
use the modified Trisagion. These are CATHOLICS, therefore it has
already been accepted by the Romans that the modified Trisagion is
appropriate as a Christological hymn.
If we always try to remember that most people in the 4th/5th/6th
centuries did not wish to profess either the Nestorian or Eutychian
heresy then all of their statements are explicable.
It is a little contradictory of the EO tradition that the Orthodox
teaching that one of the Holy Trinity was crucified is accepted, yet
a Christological hymn expressing that teaching is anathematised. Even
more contradictory is the fact that the Romans can accept the use of
this hymn while I guess the anathema against it remains among the EO.
In Our Lords Love