« Antipater of Bostra Antiphon Antipope »


ANTIPHON, an´ti-fon: A term denoting primarily alternating song or chanting, one voice or choir answering another. It was a Jewish custom (Ezra iii. 11; I Chron. xxix. 20; Ps. cvi. 45; Matt. xxvi. 30) and was early introduced into the Christian Church. Basil (Epist., ccvii.), in writing to the clergy of Neocæsarea, mentions the two commonest methods: “Now, divided into two parts, they sing antiphonally with one another. . . . Afterward they again commit the prelude of the strain to one, and the rest take it up.” The latter method could be either hypophonic, when the response consisted of the closing words of each verse or section; epiphonic, when an expression like “Amen,” “Alleluia,” “Gloria Patri” was repeated at the end of a psalm; or antiphonic in the strict sense, when the second body of singers responded to the first half of each verse with the second half, or the two bodies repeated verses alternately. Later the term “antiphon” came to mean merely a verse or formula with which the precentor, or precentors, began, and which was repeated by the entire choir at the end of the song. It determines the mode of the piece, and closes with the key-note followed by the dominant and the evovœ (the last notes of the piece; the name is made up of the vowels of seculorum, amen). The whole antiphon (abbreviated into ana) is now sung both at the beginning and at the end of psalms at lauds and vespers on double feast-days; at other times, only at the end. A collection of antiphons is called an antiphonarium or antiphonale.

The Breviarium Romanum has many excellent antiphons, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church has also made use of them. They are chosen with reference to the content of the psalm or hymn to which they are joined, or they indicate its relation to special days and times. For example, an antiphon to Ps. lxiii. for Christmas is: “And the angel said unto them, fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings"; for Trinity Sunday, “Gloria tibi, Trinitas"; for apostles’ days, “Ye are my friends.” The music of the ancient antiphons is generally appropriate, beautiful, and powerful.

M. Herold.

Bibliography: F. Armknecht, Die heilige Psalmodie, Göttingen, 1855; L. Schöberlein, Schatz des liturgischen Chorund Gemeinde-Gesangs, i. 550 sqq., ib. 1880; W. Löhe, Agende, Nördlingen, 1884; M. Herold, Vesperale, 2 vols., Gütersloh, 1893; F. Hommel, Antiphonen und Psalmentöne, ib. 1896; R. von Liliencron, Chorordnung, ib. 1900.

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