Vocatives in the Trisagion?

By Iynx, in 'General Latin Chat (English)', Apr 12, 2010.

  1. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    Old Iynx's question today is not purely one of Latinity; the Greek tongue is involved. But I know that many here are accomplished in that language too. So:

    The old prayer known as the Trisagion survived in the Roman liturgy for Good Friday at least as until the days of my youth. It took the form of a curious two-part refrain in the dialog known as The Reproaches, with each part of the Trisagion sung or spoken first in Greek, and then repeated in Latin.

    But “Agios, o Theos” (“Holy God”) is there repeated as Sanctus Deus, though the context would seem clearly to be vocative-- I would have expected Sancte Deus. Later on, in what seems even more clearly to be a vocative context, we find “Agios Athanatos, eleison imas”. Sanctus Immortalis, miserere nobis. Surely this should be Sancte Immortalis?

    Now I have even less Greek than Latin. I do, however, know that the vocative of "Theos" is just "Theos" (Goodwin 195). But shouldn't the Agios (both times) and the Athanatos here end in epsilons?

    Is this an example of the nominative-for-vocative that Goodwin describes? If so, is the Latin just an imitation of the Greek?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Chamaeleo New Member

    Nominative-for-vocative was apparently fairly common. We actually use Latin with stricter rules than the Romans did, sometimes.
  3. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Cygnea, Gena
    Yes, the nominative may replace the vocative, especially in sacral texts. cf. Liv I 24, 7: "... audi tu, populus Albanus ..."
  4. Iynx Consularis

    • Consularis
    It occurs to me that there may be yet another example of this in the old liturgy for Holy Week, from John xx: 28:

    Respondit Thomas et dixit Ei: "Dominus meus, et Deus meus".

    It seems to me that the context would require Thomas' words to be nominative for vocative, and not a nominative-in-exclamation.
  5. JaimeB Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    San Francisco, CA
    Two little things here:

    First: In Greek, I think, "Hagios o Theos" can be construed as a sentence: "God is Holy."

    Second: the other examples from the Trisagion that you cite are not only liturgical Latin (sacral contexts, as you call them), but also occur in each case with a closely-bound adjective, "athanatos" or "ischyros" (immortalis, potens). Could this be affecting the head-of-phrase adjective so that it doesn't go into the vocative? In other sacral texts, you see both: Deus bonus, Pie Jesu.

    When a noun naming God is alone, it is always vocative: Domine, probasti me et cognovisti me...

    As far as I know, just as in Greek the vocative of Theos is Theos, the vocative of Deus in Latin is just Deus: another psalm text begins with this vocative: Deus, Deus meus, quare me dereliquisti? ... (Psalm 22, which Jesus quotes as he is dying on the cross).

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