“Thou Who Wast Crucified for us, Have Mercy on us” The Theology of Philoxenus of Mabbug on the Trisagion


In a dogmatic letter written to the Monks of Beth-Gaugal,1 Philoxenus of Mabbug (485 A.D. – 523 A.D)2 urged the “hearers” not to be troubled by the statement “God was crucified for us.”3 This assertion was the catalyst that incited the Trisagion controversy.4 The Trisagion, Greek for “thrice holy”, is a liturgical hymn5 that affirms the holiness of the Omnipotent Immortal God in whom Christians believe. At the crux of the controversy lies the Chalcedonian affirmation (451 A.D.) that Jesus’ weaknesses are attributed to his human nature and his supernatural deeds are assigned to his divine nature.6 Philoxenus of Mabbug was among those who rejected this “blasphemy”7 and worked tirelessly to promote the belief in the passion and death of the consubstantial Son, thus bringing to the fore8 and vigorously9 promoting the “theopaschite”10 formula of the Miaphysite Trisagion: “Thou art Holy, God; Thou art Holy, Strong One; Thou art Holy, Immortal One; (Thou) Who wast crucified for us, have mercy on us.”11

The objective of this paper is to explain the theological underpinning for Philoxenus’ Miaphysite Trisagion as elucidated in his dogmatic letter to the monks.