Polyeleos

The Polyeleos is a hymn of praise to God consisting of verses from Psalms 134 and 135, with added refrains. The refrain after each verse of Psalm 134 is "Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!"; the refrain after each verse of Psalm 135 is "Alleluia! For his love (or: mercy) endures forever. Alleluia! Alleluia!" The name Polyeleos comes from the Greek words for "much mercy", from the repeated mention of mercy in the second refrain. (In some churches, the lamps are lit around this point in Matins, which may have influenced the name of the hymn: in Greek, Polyeleos also means "much oil.") In Slavonic, the hymn is called Polijelej.

The Polyeleos is sung at Matins on Sundays from September 22 to December 19 and from January 15 to Cheesefare Sunday (except for the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee); and on feast days of "polyeleos rank" and above. In some places, it is sung as a "censing hymn" before the Divine Liturgy.

The English text below is the official text used in the Byzantine Catholic Church, and comes from the "Scriptural and Liturgical Hymns" section of The Divine Liturgies of our holy Fathers John Chrysostom and Basil the Great (DL 455). The Slavonic text is taken from the Velikij Sbornik (Užhorod, 1937), transliterated into Latin characters.

Praise the name of the Lord. Alleluia!
Praise him, servants of the Lord.
R. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Chvalíte ímja Hóspodne, allilúja,
chvalíte rabi Hóspoda.
R. Allilúja. Allilúja. Allilúja.
Who stand in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God.
R. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Stojáščii vo chrámi Hóspodni,
v dvorích dómu Bóha nášeho.
R. Allilúja. Allilúja. Allilúja.
Lord, your name stands forever,
unforgotten from age to age.
R. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Hóspodi, imja tvojé vo víki,
i pámjat' tvojá v rod i rod.
R. Allilúja. Allilúja. Allilúja.
From Zion may the Lord be blessed,
he who dwells in Jerusalem.
R. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Blahoslovén Hóspod' ot Sióna,
žívyj v Jerusalími.
R. Allilúja. Allilúja. Allilúja.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
R. Alleluia! For his love endures forever. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Ispovídajtesja Hóspodevi, jáko bláh,
R. allilúja, jáko v víki mílost' jehó. Allilúja. Allilúja.
Who fixed the earth firmly on the seas.
R. Alleluia! For his love endures forever. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Utverdívšemu zéml'u na vodách,
R. allilúja, jáko v víki mílost' jehó. Allilúja. Allilúja.
And he snatched us away from our foes.
R. Alleluia! For his love endures forever. Alleluia! Alleluia!
I izbavíl ny jest' ot vrahóv nášich,
R.
allilúja, jáko v víki mílost' jehó. Allilúja. Allilúja.
To the God of heaven, give thanks.
R. Alleluia! For his love endures forever. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Ispovídajtesja Bóhu nebesnómu,
R. allilúja, jáko v víki mílost' jehó. Allilúja. Allilúja.

On the last three Sundays before the Great Fast, this hymn is immediately followed by the singing of verses from the next psalm, Psalm 137 ("By the waters of Babylon").

Notes

In the official liturgical books, the entire text of Psalms 134 and 135 is provided; in practice, especially in parish settings, only selected verses are sung. There is some variation as to which verses are used.

From Psalm 134, most Ruthenian (Galician and Subcarpathian) sources give verses 1, 2, 13, and 21 (as above). The Papp Irmologion (1970) does not include verse 21, which is in line with that volume's omission of references to Zion.

From Psalm 135, there is more variation. Verses 1, 6, 24, and 26 (as above) form the "core" of the abbreviated Rusyn Polyeleos, with the frequent addition of f verses 12 and 15 in Subcarpathian sources.

Bokshai Prostopinije Užhorod, 1906 verses 1,6,15,24,26
Vecernja i Utrenya L'vov, 1912

verses 1,6,24,26 *

Choma Malyj Izbornik Užhorod, 1924 verses 1,6,12,15,24,26
Velikij Sbornik Užhorod, 1937 verses 1,6,15,12,24,26
Velikij Sbornik Prešov, 1936 verses 1,6,12,26
Papp Irmologion Prešov, 1970 verses 1,26
Ware Festal Menaion (Pan-Orthodox), 1977 verses 1,26
Divine Liturgy Johnstown, 1988 verses 1,6,24,26
Book of Matins Uniontown, 1989 verses 1,6,24,26
Divine Liturgies Pittsburgh, 2006 verses 1,6,24,26

* This version has a different refrain for Psalm 135: "for he is good, Alleluia, for his love endures forever, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia"

The Slavonic text given in the Ruthenian Chasoslov (pages 140-141) provides the complete text of Psalms 134 and 135, but with a significant variation from the above: the refrain for Psalm 135 is the same as for Psalm 134: "Alleluia (thrice)". This may be an importation from the Great Russian tradition. The text in the Chasoslov also differs in some minor points from the Slavonic psalm texts in the other sources, usually around the pair "v" / "vo".

Singing the Polyeleos

The prostopinije tradition provides this melody for singing the Polyeos.