Greek Orthodox Archdiocese releases standard version of Paschal apolytikion

About a year ago, Vicki Pappas, national chair of the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians, circulated an e-mail asking for people to send her the English translations of the apolytikion for Pascha (Χριστὸς ἀνέστη/”Christ is risen”) that were used in their parishes. This would be in aid of a standard English text for the entire Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Despite not being at a GOA parish, I sent her the translation we use at All Saints.

Somewhere around late fall or early winter, following a St. John of Damascus Society board meeting, she asked if I would be willing to round up a few of my choir members to record the version that they were trying to settle on as the final draft. The recording would serve as a model, principally for priests. After Christmas, I put together a quartet, we learned it and recorded it, Vicki liked it, and said that the Synod still had to decide if it was the final version or not.

Earlier this week, the standard English version of the hymn for GOA was released. You can find it here. Alas, that’s not us singing on the model recording — it would appear that it went through at least one more round of revision, because that’s a different text than what we had, but oh well.

I am appreciative that a Synod would take the time to try to get everybody on the same page with respect to a particular hymn text, and I suppose this is as good as any to start with. I am also appreciative that GOA would go to the trouble of making sure that it is available in both staff notation as well as neumatic notation. There has been some discussion in some circles about how closely it follows proper compositional conventions; I would never dare to argue proper application of formulae with some of the people talking about this, but my guess is that the main point raised was probably known, and that preference was given to where people would be likely to breathe. It’s an issue that I suggest stems from the translation more than anything, and from what Vicki has told me, every nuance of the translation was discussed thoroughly, so what I think I know at least is that it’s a version of the text that says exactly what the Synod wants it to say. I’ll acknowledge that I don’t find this text to be note-perfect compared to how I might translate the Greek; to begin with, in modern English, “is risen”, while it used to be how you do a perfect tense in English, doesn’t really convey the same sense of the action as preterite ἀνέστη or even qam for the Arabic speakers — “Christ rose” would be the literal sense, but that doesn’t really “sing” the same way. “Christ has/hath risen” is an acceptable compromise, since the distinction between simple past and perfect is muddier in English than it is in Greek. And “trampled down upon” seems to me to be a little bit overthought as a way of rendering πατήσας. Still, I’d much rather sing this version than the one that’s normative for my parish, where the Greek melody is left as is, requiring “Christ is risen from the dead” to be repeated, usually with a rhetorical, campfire-style “Oh!” thrown in beforehand — “Christ is risen from the dead, oh! Christ is risen from the dead!” etc. Ack.

In any event, between being willing to argue about a standard text and acknowledging the neumatic notational tradition, there is much I wish the Antiochian Archdiocese would emulate here, and I congratulate GOA on taking the time and energy to at least make the effort, even if there wind up being tweaks down the road. I’m a little disheartened by the response I’ve observed in certain fora that basically criticizes GOA for making their standard version a brand new variant that nobody outside of GOA will ever use, that that’s hardly a unifying move across jurisdictions, not when there are translations that are common to both the OCA and AOANA. Well, maybe, but kudos for GOA for at least trying to get their own house in order first, even if maybe it winds up being a beta test.


8 Responses to “Greek Orthodox Archdiocese releases standard version of Paschal apolytikion”

  1. 1 Lola LB 12 April 2012 at 6:04 am

    Would you happen to have the Greek text? We’re trying to figure out how to sign this Paschal Troparion in ASL. Someone said that it might be best to go back to the Greek version and translate from that. If you’re on Facebook, you can follow the discussion here:

  2. 4 Steve Allen 25 April 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Hm…I disagree about substuting “Christ rose” for “Christ is risen”. “Christ rose” is simple past. There is no subtlety. It makes no difference for those who didn’t pay attention in English class, but for those of us who did, “Christ is risen” necessarily precludes the possibility of His having died again. He is in the -current, continual state- of having been raised. In other words, the -effect- of said raising is still ongoing.

    After all, Lazarus also rose, but we don’t go around saying “Lazarus is risen”, because he’s dead again (although alive in Christ) — we even have the body.

    There is a “present moment” effect included in “Christ is risen” — an immanence, if you will — which is decidedly NOT in “Christ (a)rose.” “Christ rose” takes us from kairos to chronos rather rapidly, in my opinion.

    • 5 Steve Allen 25 April 2012 at 5:04 pm

      Although I suppose you could say that Lazarus “was raised”. On further reflection, I see that your suggestion was focusing on the active vs. passive, rather than the perfect vs. simple. The simple is clearly active, whereas the perfect has the potential to be (and usually is) interpreted rather as a state-of-being verb with an attached predicate adjective, rendering it’s activity muted at best. I actually agree.

      But I still think “Christ is risen” is better because of the kairos vs. chronos dimension.

      • 6 Richard Barrett 25 April 2012 at 5:26 pm

        No, you were right the first time. 🙂 ἀνέστη is a simple past; in Greek what it does is state a historical fact. “Christ ‘stood up’ out of the grave, once and for all, and it’s indisputable. He really did it.” Slavonic I don’t have any facility with, but in Semitic languages you basically have two tenses, one that indicates completed action (“past” or “perfect” tense) and one that indicates not-completed action (which can be used for the future tense and conditionals). qam is a perfect tense; it indicates that the action has been done. It happened.

        English’s verb system is inherited from its Germanic roots, but things have shifted around a bit. One says in German, “Christus ist auferstanden”, and that indicates, as with ἀνέστη, a simple past (German’s preterit basically has fallen out of use). “Christ is risen” follows that same periphrastic scheme, but the “is” really doesn’t actually carry any temporal implications — “to be” is just the helping verb that verbs of motion use in the perfect tense. The problem is, this is archaic — we don’t form perfect tenses like this anymore. Think phrases like “I am come” to mean “I got here” that you hear in movies set in older periods. “Christ is risen” is simply how you translate the simple past of Χριστὸς ἀνέστη in modern English — the trouble is, it’s early modern English, and it just doesn’t mean the same thing anymore.

        This has caused a number of problems, I think — one is the passive/active thing that you raise; Spong spent a number of pages in his books arguing that the New Testament always describes Jesus as “risen”, so it’s a passive reception of the action rather than anything he does. It’s nonsense, but it’s a reasonably accurate understanding of what the phrase actually means in present-day English. The “immanence” and whatnot that you talk about is all very interesting, but the thing is, present ongoing reality isn’t what’s actually being communicated by “is risen” — a factual event in the past is what’s being talked about, which is made clear when you look at the phrase in languages like Greek, Arabic, and even Latin (“Christus resurrexit” — perfect tense).

        But, as I acknowledged, “Christ rose”, even though it is literally what Χριστὸς ἀνέστη means, doesn’t really “sing” — it sort of sounds incomplete (ironic, considering that it conveys a completed action). I like Archimandrite Ephrem Lash’s solution, which is “Christ has risen” — it keeps a Germanic perfect tense while updating the helping verb to what we actually say in the current vernacular.

      • 7 Steve Allen 25 April 2012 at 6:09 pm

        “Risen” is always an active verb, and requires a helping verb (it’s not optional). “Raised” is passive, if coupled with the helping verb, active if not. That Spong actually dedicated time to trying to prove passiveness from “risen” indicates that he is either an idiot or a deceiver.

        Regarding “the immanence or whatnot” — Looks like I’m guilty of baking the interpretation into the actual words themselves, and in doing so making a bad translation.

        In other words, I realize I’m doing exactly what I said above: reading it as a state-of-being verb primarily, with a predicate adjective attached. Reading it this way requires, of course, the assumption of the actual action, and it’s activity vs. passivity to boot (passive would be “Christ is raised”).

        All that to say, “Oooooh, ok, I get what you’re saying now.”

        Given all that, I would be amenable to the Archimandrite’s suggested update to preserve the perfect tense without superadding the present-state-of-being vibe to it.

        I also wholeheartedly agree that “Christ rose” doesn’t sing well. 🙂

  1. 1 Orthodox Collective Trackback on 6 April 2012 at 11:06 pm

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