Posts Tagged 'liturgical texts and translation'

Προς το ερχόμενο καλοκαίρι (Towards the coming summer)

Save for a paper I have a year to write, my semester is over.

I’m registered at the Athens Centre to begin 15 June.

A month from yesterday, I leave my job.

I took my Greek final yesterday.

On 10 June, I leave.


I’m starting to get that feeling in the pit of my stomach, that clenching in my guts that is asking the question, “Okay, big shot. Are you sure you want to do this? ‘Cause, well, it’s money where your mouth is time.”

I’ve got to figure out how to not lose whatever Greek-speaking ability I have over the next month. I’ve also got to figure out how to not get short-timer’s syndrome too badly at work.

We’re doing things right now like getting eye exams and dental appointments while I still have insurance. My own dentist appointment, this coming Tuesday, will be a nightmare, I am certain.

Before I forget, I mentioned earlier that my fabulous, brilliant, wonderful, lovely wife Megan had her own chicken which she could count, and I think that’s all public knowledge now, so I’ll take the opportunity to brag about her: she is a College of Arts and Sciences Forrest E. & Frances H. Ellis Summer Fellow, meaning that she’s being given money this summer to do what she was going to be doing anyway, which is read for her exams — only now there’s the idea that she’ll produce a publishable paper from that reading (which hopefully could be expanded into her dissertation proposal). This is a great thing, and I am very proud of her. For once, possibly even for the first time ever, we both actually have things to do this summer that further both of our interests, God be praised.

I had a good talk with my soon-to-be-Ph.D.-advisor last week, following an in-class presentation. My final paper for his class is going to take a bit to finish because of recent events rather making things a bit complicated, but I was able to present a conference-length version. In broad strokes — since I suspect I will be better off not presenting details of original research for the first time in a wild and woolly medium like this — I am looking at the question of how rhetoric in liturgy helps to build and support community and identity, and how liturgy functions as a communal memory of particular events and people, friend and foe alike. In other words, seeing how liturgy can tell us about more than just when somebody at a certain time swung a censer or elevated the Host — how liturgy itself can be seen as a source which acknowledges, engages and converses with (Iwillnotuse”dialogue”asaverbIwillnotuse”dialogue”asaverbIwillnotuse”dialogue”asaverb) other sources. One of the big things my teacher said was that scholars who focus on liturgy tend to not participate in the broader conversation, and that a liturgical specialist who specifically wants to contribute to the bigger picture has the opportunity to make a significant contribution. It seems to me that what will be important for me is to make sure I’m participating in the specialist conversations as much as I can nonetheless, so that I’m kept honest and not just snowing people who don’t know much about my interests. In that sense, it’s good that Notre Dame is just up the road.

But for the moment, there’s that clench in my gut.

This is one of the craziest things I’ve ever done.

Save for, perhaps, coming to Indiana University in the first place, six years ago.

I think I need some Pepto-Bismol.

The narrative of decline vs. the narrative of continuity in Byzantine music

Such profound hostility to the performing practice of the received tradition made the sanitisation of Byzantine chant a fundamental prerequisite for its acceptance and consumption by Westerners and Westernised Greeks. Conscious emulation of the Solesmes restoration was, as we have already indicated, a particularly ingenious solution to this problem. Adoption of the earliest manuscripts as the sole arbiters of authenticity and without grounding them in a developed concept of performing practice meant that Tillyard, Wellesz, and Høeg were able to bypass entirely the embarrassing “nasal singing” of traditional Greek cantors in favour of a hypothetical reconstruction that was both aurally and methodologically fashionable. With everything distasteful thus reassuringly dismissed as “Arabo-Turkish” accretions, its new Western curators could ensure that Byzantine music “in all its original purity” assumed its rightful place alongside Gregorian chant in the pantheon of European musical history. (Alexander Lingas, “Performance Practice and the Politics of Transcribing Byzantine Chant”, Acta Musicae Byzantinae VI, Iaşi, Romania, December 2003, p. 74)

Full article is here. It’s a barnburner, and tells you not only what Lingas thinks of the “narrative of decline” but also what Greek chant specialists thought of it while it was initially being promulgated in the first place. (A tip of the hat to Basil Crow, who passed this along.)

Mediterranean microtonal melismas are not unAmerican: making time for some musical musings

A few things have come out recently to which I’ve been meaning to respond, and I’m finally able to take a moment to do so.

First of all, the issue of AGAIN which just came out, among other things, reprints Fr. John Finley’s essay, “Authentic Church Music”. This was originally a talk given to the the AOCNA Conference on Missions and Evangelism in 2002, and I have seen it in at least two print publications since then — PSALM‘s newsletter, PSALM Notes, and now AGAIN. It is also, as the link shows, posted on the Antiochian website itself, so clearly Fr. John’s piece has found an audience. Give it a read; I’ll come back to this.

Second, there was this short piece which was run on PBS a couple of weeks ago. I’d love to find a way to embed it, but I haven’t yet, so click on the link, watch it, then come back.

Third, RightWingProf has a couple of posts on music with which I tend to agree. The earlier is here, and a more recent one is here. Go read those, too.

Okay. You got all of that?

I’ve met Fr. John Finley a number of times. I met him at the Antiochian Sacred Music Institute back in 2004, and again at the PSALM National Conference in 2006. I also love his cookbook. He’s a good man, so far as I can tell he’s a good priest, and we know many of the same people. He’s also one of the people to whom I’ve tried talking about the choir school model (an idea which I just seem to have the darndest time communicating in a form that makes sense to anybody but me).

There’s a reason Fr. John’s article has a continuing audience; it is well-written, it expresses a point of view clearly, and it is a point of view which is popular among many American converts to Orthodox Christianity:

Some may negatively assume that such a proposal must necessarily lead to the development of an American Orthodox music, which will sound like Protestant music or the 70’s rock and roll Christian music of the baby boomer generation’s surfer churches. On the contrary, we are hinting at the development of authentic sacred music for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America, a music founded on “that which has been delivered to us”, but which is also the result of our interaction as Orthodox Christians with the surrounding American culture. (emphasis mine)

Fully Orthodox and fully American! Orthodox as the Seven Ecumenical Councils and American as apple pie! Isn’t that what we all want?

The trouble that I have with the article, and what I offer as a critique, is that Fr. John unfortunately buys into what Alexander Lingas refers to as “the narrative of decline” with respect to Byzantine music as part of his argument. Specifically, this paragraph is problematic:

Is the Byzantine music that we sing today really Byzantine, i.e. from the Byzantine era of the 4th through the 15th Centuries? Are we not aware that the Church music of the See of Constantinople was heavily influenced by the demands of the Turks after the fall of the empire in 1453 AD? Are we aware that the authentic music of the Byzantine Church lost its diatonic character and accepted enharmonic and chromatic intervals during this period of the Turkish yoke? Are we aware that the music of today’s churches in the Byzantine tradition throughout the entire Mediterranean region of the world is the result of the codification of these oriental elements by Chrysanthus in the 19th Century and is scarcely 200 years old?

Checking his footnotes, his citations are predictable — Strunk (1977) and Tillyard (1923). It’s an appealing narrative for many folks; hey, you know that stuff in Byzantine music that makes you feel uncomfortable as an American because it sounds, well, Eastern? It’s not actually as Orthodox as the Hellenophiles and Arabicists want you to think! It’s a later development which occurred under the Turkish yoke! It’s a narrative which validates the supposed biases of the “Western ear” (whatever that means) and knocks the practices of various national churches down a peg or two all at the same time — it’s a very economical argument in that regard.

There’s something else it manages to accomplish, too, which is hinted at in the body of the text and made explicit in a footnote:

We should continue the work of transcribing Byzantine notation into modern western linear notation and adopt modern western scale intervals.* We need to simplify the melodies in connection with the texts and encourage congregational participation. We should encourage the harmonization of the melodies. I have heard it said that the great musical contribution of the East is its melodies and the great contribution of the West is its development of harmony. What better place than America to bring these two great traditions together to form something uniquely American in terms of Orthodox Music? This, of course, has already been done in Russia, and will undoubtedly be a powerful influence on what is done in America in this area of musical development.

* This will, given time, effectively conform all Byzantine melodies to a diatonic equal-tempered scale. According to Byzantine Musical theorists, Medieval Byzantine Music was wholly diatonic anyway. So this could be construed as a move back toward a more pure form of Byzantine chant rather than a perversion of it.

So, actually, the more we file the edges and corners off of Byzantine music, the more Byzantine we make it, in fact! Better yet — we also make it more American at the same time. Perfect.

Also present is the fallacy that somehow congregational singing and congregational participation are coterminous. This seems to be one of those assumptions that makes people feel good but for which I have never actually seen any evidence. Don’t take this as me meaning that I’m against congregational singing; I’m not, not at all. What I disagree with is the “everybody sings everything or they’re not participating” model that seems to be the core postulate of many modern liturgists; that makes as much sense to me as saying “everybody paints the icons or they’re not praying with them”.

Now might be a good time to point out that in the last week, thanks to the magic of Inter-Library Loan, I’ve read Towards the Great Council: Introductory Reports of the Inter-Orthodox Commission in Preparation for the Next Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church, published in 1971, back when they thought the next Synod would be occurring around 1974 or 1975. I’ll discuss it in more depth later, but Section 2 of this document is called “Fuller participation by the laity in the worship and life of the Church.” It is all of two pages. This section seems relevant to the present discussion:

…the nature of lay participation in the life of the Church is clearly expressed in her dogmatic and canonical teaching; it is not a question causing special concern to the Orthodox Church and, for the time being at any rate, it does not constitute a burning problem for her. In all conscience the Orthodox church believes that there has never been, nor is there now, a spontaneous movement among the laity to acquire greater rights and duties in the Church, different from those which they have had since the Church’s foundation. For they have always participated actively in worship and administration, in the pastoral work and teaching ministry of the Church, according to the rights and duties clearly laid upon them by Holy Tradition and the Canons. Their main rights and duties, as lay people and members of the Church, are to live in the fullness of the gifts and divine grace within our Holy Church and to witness by word and way of life to Christ the Saviour and to His gospel. (p. 23)

Obviously, this being 1971, this need not be the last word on the subject, but let’s keep in mind that this was in the immediate wake of 1970 Roman Missal taking a pair of pinking shears to the Mass in the name of “active participation,” and the Commission which drafted this document appears to be intending to head off any such attempts in the Orthodox world.

I must disagree with Fr. John about Byzantine notation and intervals; on a practical level, I might suggest that we might have an easier time getting the Greeks on board with the mission in America if we would stop treating their music as something we just found on the bottom of our shoe that somehow we have to fix and rescue from itself.

On a technical level, I wholeheartedly disagree about harmonization of Byzantine melodies. They function modally, not tonally; you cannot harmonize them according to conventions of Western functional harmony without eliminating the distinctives of the eight-mode system and reducing it to effectively two modes. This already happens when the well-meaning beginning isocratima thinks that the Second and Fourth Modes are intended to be major in character and mistakenly drones away on ni because it sounds like a tonic. The attempts at harmonizing many of these melodies which I have seen have been well-intentioned but nonetheless unfortunate; part-writing errors abound, to some extent unavoidably because the melodies are simply not conceived in the same way as melodies which follow Western conventions. Unavoidable though they may be, they still look, and sound, like part-writing errors.

On a level of Orthodox spirituality — here’s one idea: how about we immerse ourselves in the received tradition before we start trying to “fix” it? Might not something emerge organically over time if we were to do that? That’s not to say that we can’t try things to see if they work, but my thinking is that we’d be best off doing so in continuity with the tradition, not at variance from. If we want to make Byzantine music conceptually more accessible to Western ears, the first step is recomposing melodies to fit the English texts according to Byzantine conventions, not just sanding off the corners of pre-existing melodies and shoehorning in the English. There are increasingly good models for doing so — we should follow them.

From the standpoint of scholarship — at the very least, I would encourage Fr. John to at least familiarize himself with, and subsequently engage, the scholarship which recasts the narrative into one of continuity rather than decline. A place to start might be Lingas’ essay “Medieval Byzantine chant and the sound of Orthodoxy” in the book Byzantine Orthodoxies, Louth and Casiday, eds.

This brings me to the PBS piece on Emily Lowe at Holy Cross in Linthicum, MD. I am not certain if I’ve met Ms. Lowe; I met several people from Holy Cross at the Antiochian Sacred Music Institute back in ’04, and she looks familiar, but I honestly can’t remember. She has a lovely voice; the church is beautiful, and they’ve got her singing one of the signature hymns of Sunday Matins. It’s also kind of fun seeing people like Kh. Frederica Mathewes-Green and Terry Mattingly in the choir.

The problem is when things like this are said (which I copy here from the transcript):

During the time of the Ottoman Empire, the Greek chants took on sort of a very Middle Eastern character, and that’s when you hear this sort of dissonant, odd sounding things:  (singing) Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, glory to thee oh God.”  It sounds very foreign to Western ears.

Again, there’s that narrative of decline and cultural captivity with respect to Byzantine music. Granted, there are a lot of people in the Antiochian Archdiocese who teach that, including Fr. John, so it’s not a huge surprise, but my guess is that if the PBS documentarians were to have interviewed somebody like John Michael Boyer, they would have had a different set of quotes.

Ms. Lowe describes herself in one of the comments on the video’s page as “a piano teacher who just loves to sing”. I’m going to guess we have a lot in common; we’re what you might call armchair Byzantine musicologists. We’ve read a lot, we’ve heard a lot of recordings, been to a PSALM event or two and/or the Sacred Music Institute at the Antiochian Village, and we do our best with what we have, which are, as a rule, the Kazan transcriptions. I know I haven’t yet had a chance to actually study with a chant teacher who genuinely knows what they are doing and has direct contact with the received tradition, and my hunch is that neither has Ms. Lowe. The practical reality for me is that there isn’t anybody within a 4-5 hour drive for me to learn from; the closest person about whom I know is protopsaltis at Holy Trinity in Nashville, TN.

All of that is to say, if PBS came knocking on my door, I’d tell them I’m the wrong guy, everything I know I know because I read it in a book or have imitated a recording, I’m not an expert, I’m not an authority, and that they need to go talk to somebody like Boyer or Leonidas Kotsiris in Nashville, who have studied with great teachers (who were themselves students of great teachers and who have been singing these services in this idiom since they were blastocytes), and are themselves teaching it and passing it on. I would tell them they need to talk to people, not who are trying synthesize water from hydrogen and oxygen, but who have actually drunk from the well, if not marinated themselves in it.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m absolutely not attacking Ms. Lowe here. I have bags and bags and bags of admiration for her. She’s clearly wonderful, and a huge asset to Holy Cross. She does what she does very well, loves to do it, and offers it humbly in the service of Christ. That should be the big takeaway from this video, and it should be a model which all of us who use our voices in the service of the Church follow. It would be an honor to sing a service with her, anytime, anywhere. The trouble is the editors of the video presenting the content as authoritative and normative when it isn’t.

Finally, for the most part, all I really have to say about RightWingProf’s posts is — right on, brother. I take issue with a lot of the four-part writing which is out there for English translations for many of the same reasons he does. I don’t think it has to be that way; I think passing 7ths and 2nds can work okay, but they can’t be used as a sentimental harmonic trick.

There are a few little points I wish to engage, however.

I tend to disagree that professional choirs are somehow undesirable. Yes, fine, the Rachmaninoff Vigil is going to be too much for a parish choir as a rule. However, if you’ve got a cathedral choir that can pull it off — defined, as far as I’m concerned, as being able to sing it well and prayerfully — I don’t see a problem using it liturgically. My overall discomfort is that we approach a mindset that says, “You’re too good of a musician to serve the Church with the fullness of your gifts.” I can’t imagine telling an architect or an iconographer that, but we seem really comfortable telling singers that. No, it’s not a concert, but there’s a dichotomy between worship and performance which I think approaches being a false dichotomy at some point. My belief has always been, with respect to that dichotomy, if you sacrifice one for the other, you will do neither well. I completely own that I say that as a former Anglican, however, and that this informs my point of view.

I also fundamentally disagree with the blanket assumption, constantly asserted by many, that Slavic music is “more accessible to American ears”. If sung well, in English, with a melody that actually fits the text in terms of stresses and meter, Byzantine music is plenty accessible to American ears. By contrast, Slavic music sung poorly with stresses and meter distributed in such a way as to do violence to the English text is going to be just as inaccessible to the American ear as people so frequently proclaim Byzantine music as being. This is not a slam against Slavic music or Orthodox music in the Slavic idiom; I’m a big fan of Fr. Sergei Glagolev (who was kind enough to inscribe my volume of his music at PSALM in 2006), and the Kurt Sander settings I’ve sung I’ve really liked. All I’m saying is that I think it is an error to say that somehow one national idiom of Orthodox music is fundamentally more accessible than another and to privilege that idiom based on that assertion. There may very well be reasons to privilege particular idioms in particular contexts, but I don’t think this one holds up at all, and I think recent recordings of Byzantine chant in English bear that out.

Along similar lines, and to repeat a point made earlier, not everything needs to be sung along with by the congregation. Yes, it’s church, not a concert; I might reply by saying it’s church, not a campfire singalong. Melisma serves a particular function in the Byzantine idiom — frankly, that of following the rubrics. ἀργὰ καὶ μελὠς, “slowly and melodically”, is sometimes what the rubrics call for. It is not the aberration many would make it, so I can’t agree that it should be absolutely avoided in the parish.

That said, a parish choir needs to fight its weight. Period. If a choir can’t sing it well and prayerfully, they shouldn’t sing it at all. So, from that standpoint, I agree that there is nothing wrong with “keeping it simple,” insofar as what we mean by that is that the music should be no more complicated than what the choir can sing well and prayerfully. In all likelihood, that’s probably going to mean keeping things a lot simpler than we might otherwise like for the time being — heck, we use the Antiochian Village camp music book as the normative setting at All Saints — but it doesn’t necessarily follow that choirs and congregations can’t ultimately grow into certain kinds of repertoire.

If I were helping to start a mission, what I would be very curious to try, if I had 3-4 other singers who were up for it and who could sing it well and prayerfully, plus an acoustic which would complement it at least somewhat, is using the Thyateira translation with the Boyer/Lingas Byzantine arrangements, as found on The Divine Liturgy in English, as the standard music, and setting it up from the get-go in an antiphonal formation. The idea would be to make a particular traditional practice normative from the get-go so that people are used to it from the start, rather than the mission making it up as they go along. I’ve seen what that can look like, and I can’t quite shake the idea that it is self-defeating and ultimately serves to paint missions into corners.

Perhaps it is good that I am not helping to start a mission.

Philotheos Kokkinos and the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council

According to Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash), both in his article “Byzantine Hymns of Hate” in the book Byzantine Orthodoxies (ed. Fr. Andrew Louth and Augustine Casiday) as well as on his website of liturgical texts, the hymnody for the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council is by Philotheos Kokkinos, a 14th century Patriarch of Constantinople. The Greek text, as Fr. Ephrem says in “Hymns of Hate,” notes in the rubrics the presence of “Philotheos” as an acrostic in in the Theotokia of the Canon at Matins.

So why aren’t these texts contained in the critical edition of his poetic works, which appears to contain all the rest of his hymnody? Where can I find this Petroula Kourtesidos to ask?

Exercises in translating liturgical Greek: “With these blessed powers…”

I’ve been getting something of a double-dose of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil this Great Lent; our priest has decided to follow the practice of doing a Saturday of Souls Divine Liturgy every Saturday of the fast, and he has done so with St. Basil’s.

He serves the Saturday liturgies without a deacon, so all of the prayers wind up being read aloud, more or less sequentially, and he told us on the first Saturday of Souls to use the opportunity to contemplate their content, that, as he put it, the story of our salvation is told very beautifully in those prayers.

With that in mind, and knowing that I needed to start preparing for a diagnostic exam in Greek this fall (also in Latin, but never mind that now), I thought that a very appropriate way to contemplate the content of St. Basil’s was to do my own translation of part of it — in particular the long prayer starting just after the Thrice Holy (the Sanctus, if my giving the Latin name of a section helps) and leading into the Words of Institution. I also decided that, in order to maximize the educational utility, I would pretty much look up everything, even words I knew, and force myself to get to know alternate definitions. For verbs I didn’t know, I would write down their principal parts. As much as possible, I would also analyze syntax and make sure I wasn’t just divining meaning based on familiarity with an English version. To that end, I would refer only to an English version (in this case, that printed in the Liturgikon published by the Antiochian Archdiocese) if I got absolutely and totally lost.

First I had to come up with a text; I’m going to look for an Ieratikon when I go to Greece (along with so many other things — one thing I’d be really curious to see is a textbook for Ancient Greek written in Modern Greek), but in the meantime, some digging produced this site as a source. I copied the text to a Word document, blew it up to 14pt, triple spaced it, printed it off, and armed with my good friends Hardy, Gerald, Henry George, Robert, Frederick, Walter, William, and Felix, off I went.

Just so we’re clear: this isn’t a critical edition or a translation intended for scholarly or literary use. At best this is a working document, intended primarily as an exercise for my own benefit, but in the spirit of the other Greek resources I’ve provided, if there is a way it can benefit other people, then terrific. Just know ahead of time that “Well, Richard Barrett says this…” is not likely to to win any arguments.

So, on this last Sunday of Great Lent on which the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil is offered, here’s the Greek text:

Μετὰ τούτων τῶν μακαρίων Δυνάμεων, Δέσποτα φιλάνθρωπε, καὶ ἡμεῖς οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ βοῶμεν καὶ λέγομεν· Ἅγιος εἶ, ὡς ἀληθῶς, καὶ πανάγιος, καὶ οὐκ ἔστι μέτρον τῇ  μεγαλοπρεπείᾳ τῆς ἁγιωσύνης σου, καὶ ὅσιος ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἔργοις σου, ὅτι ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ κρίσει ἀληθινῇ πάντα ἐπήγασες ἡμῖν· πλάσας γὰρ τὸν ἄνθρωπον, χοῦν λαβὼν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς, καὶ εἰκόνι τῇ  σῇ, ὁ Θεός, τιμήσας, τέθεικας αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ Παραδείσῳ τῆς τρυφῆς, ἀθανασίαν ζωῆς, καὶ ἀπόλαυσιν αἰωνίων ἀγαθῶν, ἐν τῇ τηρήσει τῶν ἐντολῶν σου, ἐπαγγειλάμενος αὐτῷ, ἀλλὰ παρακούσαντα σοῦ τοῦ ἀληθινοῦ Θεοῦ, τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν, καὶ τῇ  ἀπάτῃ τοῦ ὄφεως ὑπαχθέντα, νεκρωθέντα τε τοῖς οἰκείοις αὐτοῦ παραπτώμασιν, ἐξωρίσας αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ δικαιοκρισίᾳ σου, ὁ Θεός, ἐκ τοῦ Παραδείσου εἰς τὸν κόσμον τοῦτον, καὶ ἀπέστρεψας εἰς τὴν  γῆν ἐξ ἧς ἐλήφθη, οἰκονομῶν αὐτῷ τὴν  ἐκ παλιγγενεσίας σωτηρίαν, τὴν  ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ Χριστῷ σου· οὐ γὰρ ἀπεστράφης τὸ πλάσμα σου εἰς τέλος, ὃ ἐποίησας, ἀγαθέ, οὐδὲ ἐπελάθου ἔργου χειρῶν σου, ἀλλ’ ἐπεσκέψω πολυτρόπως, διὰ σπλάγχνα ἐλέους σου. Προφήτας ἐξαπέστειλας, ἐποίησας δυνάμεις διὰ τῶν Ἁγίων σου, τῶν καθ’ ἑκάστὴν  γενεὰν εὐαρεστησάντων σοι, ἐλάλησας ἡμῖν διὰ στόματος τῶν δούλων σου τῶν Προφητῶν, προκαταγγέλλων ἡμῖν τὴν  μέλλουσαν ἔσεσθαι σωτηρίαν, νόμον ἔδωκας εἰς βοήθειαν, Ἀγγέλους ἐπέστησας φύλακας. Ὅτε δὲ ἦλθε τὰ πλήρωμα τῶν καιρῶν, ἐλάλησας ἡμῖν ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ Υἱῷ σου, δι’ οὗ καὶ τοὺς αἰῶνας ἐποίησας, ὅς, ὢν ἀπάγαυσμα τῆς δόξης σου, καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεώς σου, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα σοὶ τῷ Θεῷ καὶ Πατρί, ἀλλά, Θεὸς ὢν προαιώνιος, ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ὤφθη, καὶ τοῖς   ἀνθρώποις συνανεστράφη, καὶ ἐκ Παρθένου ἁγίας σαρκωθείς, ἐκένωσεν ἑαυτόν, μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, σύμμορφος γενόμενος τῷ σώματι τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν, ἵνα ἡμᾶς συμμόρφους ποιήσῃ τῆς εἰκόνος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ. Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἡ ἁμαρτία εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον, καὶ διὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ θάνατος, ηὐδόκησεν ὁ μονογενής σου Υἱός, ὁ ὢν ἐν τοῖς κόλποις σοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ Πατρός, γενόμενος ἐκ γυναικός, τῆς ἁγίας Θεοτόκου καὶ ἀειπαρθένου Μαρίας, γενόμενος ὑπὸ νόμον, κατακρῖναι τὴν  ἁμαρτίαν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ, ἵνα οἱ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ ἀποθνήσκοντες, ζωοποιηθῶσιν ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ Χριστῷ σου, καὶ ἐμπολιτευσάμενος τῷ κόσμω τούτῳ, δοὺς προστάγματα σωτηρίας, ἀποστήσας ἡμᾶς τῆς πλάνης τῶν εἰδώλων, προσήγαγε τῇ  ἐπιγνώσει σοῦ τοῦ ἀληθινοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ Πατρός, κτησάμενος ἡμᾶς ἑαυτῶ λαὸν περιούσιον, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, ἔθνος ἅγιον, καὶ καθαρίσας ἐν ὕδατι, καὶ ἁγιάσας τῷ Πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ, ἔδωκεν ἑαυτόν ἀντάλλαγμα τῷ θανάτῳ, ἐν ᾧ κατειχόμεθᾳ, πεπραμένοι ὑπὸ τὴν  ἁμαρτίαν, καὶ κατελθὼν διὰ τοῦ Σταυροῦ εἰς τόν, ᾍδην, ἵνα πληρώσῃ ἑαυτοῦ τὰ πάντα, ἔλυσε τάς ὀδύνας τοῦ θανάτου, καὶ ἀναστὰς τῇ  τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, καὶ ὁδοποιήσας πάσῃ σαρκὶ τὴν  ἐκ νεκρῶν Ἀνάστασιν, καθότι οὐκ ἦν δυνατὸν κρατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῆς φθορᾶς τὸν ἀρχηγόν τῆς ζωῆς, ἐγένετο ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων, πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, ἵνα ἦ αὐτὸς τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι πρωτεύων·  καὶ ἀνελθὼν εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς, ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης σου ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, ὃς καὶ ἥξει, ἀποδοῦναι ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ. Κατέλιπε δὲ ἡμῖν ὑπομνήματα τοῦ σωτηρίου αὐτοῦ πάθους ταῦτα, ἃ προτεθείκαμεν ἐνώπιόν σου, κατὰ τὰς αὐτοῦ ἐντολάς. Μέλλων γὰρ ἐξιέναι ἐπὶ τὸν ἑκούσιον, καὶ ἀοίδιμον καὶ ζωοποιὸν αὐτοῦ θάνατον, τῇ  νυκτί, ᾗ παρεδίδου ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ζωῆς, λαβὼν ἄρτον ἐπὶ τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀχράντων χειρῶν, καὶ ἀναδείξας σοὶ τῷ Θεῷ καὶ Πατρί, εὐχαριστήσας, εὐλογήσας, ἁγιάσας, κλάσας.

Ἔδωκε τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ Μαθηταῖς καὶ Ἀποστόλοις, εἰπών·  Λάβετε, φάγετε. Tοῦτό μού ἐστι τὸ Σῶμα, τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν κλώμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν. Ἀμήν.

Ὁμοίως καὶ τὸ ποτήριον ἐκ τοῦ γεννήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου λαβών, κεράσας, εὐχαριστήσας, εὐλογήσας, ἁγιάσας.

Ἔδωκε τοῖς   ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ Μαθηταῖς καὶ Ἀποστόλοις, εἰπών· Πίετε ἐξ αὐτοῦ πάντες. Τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ Αἷμα μου, το τῆς Καινῆς Διαθήκης, τὸ ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν καὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυνόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν. Ἀμήν.

Τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν  ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν· ὁσάκις γὰρ ἂν ἐσθίητε τὸν Ἄρτον τοῦτον, καὶ τὸ Ποτήριον τοῦτο πίνητε, τὸν ἐμὸν θάνατον καταγγέλλετε, τὴν  ἐμὴν Ἀνάστασιν ὁμολογεῖτε. Μεμνημένοι οὖν, Δέσποτα, καὶ ἡμεῖς τῶν σωτηρίων αὐτοῦ Παθημάτων, τοῦ ζωοποιοῦ Σταυροῦ, τῆς τριημέρου Ταφῆς, τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν Ἀναστάσεως, τῆς εἰς οὐρανοὺς Ἀνόδου, τῆς ἐκ δεξιῶν σοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ Πατρὸς Καθέδρας, καὶ τῆς ἐνδόξου καὶ φοβερᾶς δευτέρας αὐτοῦ Παρουσίας.

Τὰ Σὰ ἐκ τῶν  Σῶν, σοὶ προσφέρομεν κατὰ πάντα, καὶ διὰ πάντα.

And here is my intentionally literal, uncleaned-up, unpoetic translation:

With these blessed powers, benevolent Master, even we the sinners cry out and say: Holy are you, so truly, and all-holy, and there is no measure for the majesty of your holiness, and devout are you in all your works, so that in true justice and judgment you built all things for us: for forming man, taking dust from the earth, and to your image, God, honoring, placing him in the Paradise of delight, immortality of life, and for enjoyment of good ages, in the observance of your commands, promising to him, but (man), ignoring you, the true God, having created him, and by the deception of the serpent being led away, being put to death with his kinsmen by means of his own transgressions, (you), banishing him in your just verdict from the Paradise into this world, and returned him unto the earth from which he was taken, planning for him the salvation of regeneration in your Christ himself: for you were not turned away from your handiwork unto the end, (your handiwork) which you made, O good (one), neither did you forget the work of your hands, but you looked after him in many ways, through the affection of your mercy. You sent prophets, you performed deeds of power through your saints, (the saints) well-pleasing to you according to each generation, you spoke to us through the mouth of your servants the prophets, (the ones) foretelling to us the salvation about to come, you gave the law unto (our) aid, you appointed angels (as) sentinels. And when the fullness of the times came, you spoke to us in your Son himself, through whom you formed even the ages, who, being (the) effulgence of your glory, and (the) outward appearance of your essence, and bearing all things by means of the word of his power, did not consider it robbery to be equal to you, the God and Father, but, God being pre-eternal, was seen on the earth and associated with men, and was enfleshed from the holy Virgin, emptied himself, taking the outward appearance of a slave, being made of the same form in body as our humble station, in order that he might make us of the same form as the image of his glory. For since through man sin entered into the world and through sin death (entered the world), your only-begotten Son, who being in your bosom, the God and Father, born from woman, (namely) the holy God-bearer and ever-virgin Mary, born under the law, consented to pass sentence on the sin in his flesh in order that the dead in Adam might be made alive in your Christ himself, and becoming a citizen in this world, giving orders of salvation, absolving us of the error of the idols, he drew near in the knowledge of you the true God and Father, procuring us for himself (as) a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and cleansed in water and consecrated to the Holy Spirit, he gave himself in exchange for death, in which we were confined, having been sold under sin, and going down through the Cross into Hades in order that he might fulfill all things of himself, he destroyed the distresses of death, and rising on the third day, and making a path for all flesh (of) the resurrection from the dead, because the originator of life was not able to be seized by corruption, he became the first portion of them having fallen asleep, first-born from the dead, in order that he might be first, all things in all things. And going up into the heavens, he sat on the right hand of your majesty in the heights, who even will come to recompense for each according to his works. And he left behind for us these remembrances of his salvific suffering, which we have set forth before you, according to his commandments. For, being about to go to his voluntary, famed, and life-giving death, on the night in which he was handing himself over on behalf of the life of the world, taking bread in his holy and undefiled hands, and showing forth to you the God and Father, giving thanks, blessing, consecrating, breaking:

He gave to his holy Disciples and Apostles, saying: Take, eat. This is my Body, which is broken on behalf of you unto forgiveness of sins. Amen (Let it be).

In the same way, taking the cup of the fruit of the vine, mingling, giving thanks, blessing, consecrating:

He gave to his holy Disciples and Apostles, saying: Drink out of this, everybody. This is my Blood, which is of the New Covenent, which, on behalf of you and many, (is) poured out unto forgiveness of sins. Amen (Let it be).

Do this unto me for remembrance: for as often as you are eating this Bread, and drinking this Cup, you proclaim my death, you profess my resurrection. Remembering then, Master, his salvific Sufferings, his life-giving Cross, his three-day Burial, his Resurrection from the dead, his Ascension into the heavens, his sitting at the right hand of the God and Father, and his glorious and fearful second Advent:

We offer to you Your (things) of Your (things), on behalf of all (things) and through all (things).


In general, this text is an exercise in tracking participles. As you can see from the English, it’s really hard to figure out what goes with what when you don’t have inflection (that is, agreement in gender, number, and case) to tell you. It also demonstrates very clearly the Greek preference for participles over finite verbs, and how, in a cleaned-up English translation, participles would need to be re-spun into finite verbs that have relative pronouns as their subjects and objects in order to aid understanding. (I would do that here, except that I still have the voice of my first Greek teacher in my head telling me, “Translate what it says, not what you think it means” and “That’s an English problem, not a Greek problem”.)

There are three words in this text which you won’t find in BDAG, and then there are some variants with which BDAG won’t help much, either. σαρκωθείς, as I noted earlier, is found in Sophocles; ἀοίδιμον and ἀχράντων you will find in the “Middle Liddell”. Also, κρίσει, despite looking like an Attic dual, is a dative singular, thus identical in meaning to κρίσῃ. Similarly,  ἀπάγαυσμα is the same as ἀπαύγασμα, which is how the word is spelled in Hebrews 1:3. I don’t know enough to be certain if these are just common Byzantine variants or what; that’s my assumption, but somebody who actually knows what they are doing with Byzantine Greek hopefully can chime in here.

φιλάνθρωπε — translating this as “philanthropic” seemed to me to a) be a cop-out b) not really have the meaning in English that it does in Greek. Translating it as “man-loving” would be literally correct, but also not quite have the right connotation in English. BDAG gives “benevolent” as a possibility, so I went with it.

καὶ ὅσιος ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἔργοις σου — in this entire, very long, sentence, if we see a nominative masculine singular noun, adjective, or participle, and we can’t otherwise figure out how to make sense of it, we can see if it makes any sense if we pick up the εἶ from the beginning, adding “are you”. That works here, giving us “and devout are you in all your works” instead of the less-clear “and devout in all your works”. Since there’s only one thing something nominative, masculine, and singular could possibly agree with here, it makes sense anyway, but this helps to solve “the English problem”.

νεκρωθέντα τε τοῖς οἰκείοις αὐτοῦ παραπτώμασιν — I have yet to see an English transation which picks up τε τοῖς οἰκείοις at all, and I’m not sure why this is. I have taken it as a dative of accompaniment.

Ἀγγέλους ἐπέστησας φύλακας — the Antiochian translation says “thou didst appoint guardian angels,” which gets across the meaning, but φύλακας is properly a noun rather than an adjective, and given that it is separated from Ἀγγέλους, I have taken this as a double accusative — to appoint somebody (as) something. The translation on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website also reads it this way.

καὶ κατελθὼν διὰ τοῦ Σταυροῦ εἰς τόν, ᾍδην, ἵνα πληρώσῃ ἑαυτοῦ τὰ πάντα, ἔλυσε τάς ὀδύνας τοῦ θανάτου, καὶ ἀναστὰς τῇ  τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, καὶ ὁδοποιήσας πάσῃ σαρκὶ τὴν  ἐκ νεκρῶν Ἀνάστασιν — this is very interesting, because the text doesn’t use a dative of means to describe how Christ descends into Hades, but rather uses διὰ + gen., which literally means “through”, similar to Latin via. I assume this is so that there is poetic resonance with ὁδοποιήσας πάσῃ σαρκὶ τὴν  ἐκ νεκρῶν Ἀνάστασιν, “making a path for all flesh (of) the Resurrection from the dead”. Do note that, as with the Paschal apolytikion, it is not “from the dead” as from death as a stateνεκρῶν here is plural. Christ is risen from the place where all the dead people are.

ἀοίδιμον — the Antiochian and GOArch translation uses “ever-memorable”; the word is not to be found in either BDAG or Sophocles, but Liddell & Scott gives “sung of, famous in song or story”. I have thus gone with “famed” as something which is equivalent in meaning but doesn’t weigh down the translation.

τῇ  νυκτί, ᾗ παρεδίδου ἑαυτὸν — παρεδίδου is imperfect indicative active, meaning that Christ was handing himself over on a progressive and/or repeated basis. This is interesting; it suggests that during the whole night he was having to yield himself up, not just when he allowed himself to be arrested.

Tοῦτό μού ἐστι τὸ Σῶμα…Τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ Αἷμα μου — 1 Cor 11:24. Ah, the big doctrinal question — and it depends on what your definition of “is” is, doesn’t it? Given that I belong to a Communion which proclaims the Real Presence in the Eucharist, my definition of “is” should be obvious, but besides that, I will point out that given that Greek doesn’t require the verb “to be” to express a predicate, the presence of the verb “to be” as well as a demonstrative pronoun come across very much as, “No, really, I’m serious, this actually is my Body and Blood.” Yes, fine, go ahead and trot out John 10:9, ἐγὼ εἰμι ἡ θύρα, but that fits in with the very specific Old Testament reference of “I AM”. There’s no corresponding “THERE IS” so far as I know.

Τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν  ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν· ὁσάκις γὰρ ἂν ἐσθίητε τὸν Ἄρτον τοῦτον, καὶ τὸ Ποτήριον τοῦτο πίνητε — ποιεῖτε is a present imperative; that is, rather than “do this once,” which would be an aorist imperative, it’s more like “be doing this continuously”. Additionally, the syntax of ἐσθίητε and πίνητε is that is present to show progressive/repeated aspect, subjunctive because it is in a present general temporal clause, showing simultaneous action (I think — I am assuming that ὁσάκις ἂν works the same way as ὅταν, a supposition which I believe to be backed up by Smythe’s Greek Grammar, 2383.A). This is simply a quote of 1 Cor 11:25-6, but given that the Greek makes very clear that the eating of this bread and drinking of this cup takes place on a continuous basis, it is unclear to me how one might argue that the celebration of the Eucharist as an ongoing liturgical act is unscriptural.

Μεμνημένοι — BDAG gives μέμνημαι as the perfect indicative active principal part of μιμνῄσκομαι, but also notes that is present in meaning. Thus, I translate it here as “remembering” (as the GOArch translation does) instead of “having remembered” (as the Antiochian translation does).

I invite questions, corrections, discussion, or feedback otherwise.

Lauding two great resources and mourning another

The bad news first: ReGreek, which was a really useful online New Testament Greek resource, has gone the way of the dodo. I’m still not sure I totally understand all the intricacies of what happened, but it sounds not dissimilar to the legal flap between Warner Bros. and Fox over Watchmen — basically, permission had been given to use something (in this case, a version of the UBS critical text) by somebody who did not have the right to give permission. That may be a crude and inaccurate representation; see here and here for more information. Alas. This means I’ll actually have to look things up and analyze forms when I read the New Testament now… sigh.

On the other hand, another really fantastic, if old-school, resource which just came to my attention is the Google Books online verson of E. A. Sophocles’ Glossary of Later and Byzantine Greek from 1860. I discovered this while doing my own translation of the long prayer of consecration in the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil (which will be its own post here shortly). I have to take a diagnostic Greek test this fall, so I’m taking the opportunity to work through various texts, looking up even the words I think I know just to familiarize myself better with various nuances, principal parts of verbs, etc. Anyway, I came across  the word σαρκωθείς, and while its meaning was obvious both from context as well as knowing what σαρκ- means and also being able to clue into the fact that there was a theta at the end of an aorist stem (that means it’s formed off the sixth principal part of the verb, that is, the aorist passive), but I nonetheless wanted to find it in a dictionary. Well, Messrs. Liddell, Scott, Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich were collectively no help, so I started searching for the word online. This search led me to the Sophocles, which, as expected, gave me the dictionary form σαρκόω, meaning “enflesh”. It otherwise seems like an excellent resource, and I will be adding a link to it under the Greek Resources tab. (Although, when I post on the prayer of consecration, I’ll have to talk about the two words which weren’t in BDAG or Sophocles but were found nevertheless in Liddell & Scott.)

Finally, the Dynamic Horologion and Psalter just rocks. Period. The service texts generated appear to assume that a priest is not present, and not quite all the service text variables are worked in yet (stichera at “O Lord I have cried” during Vespers, for example), but it nonetheless seems incredibly useful.

AGAIN, again — postcript

My Divine Liturgy in English review generated a letter to the AGAIN editor over a not-unexpected issue — that of the use of “Holy Strong” in the Trisagion. Here are the highlights:

I’m uneasy with regards to the language [Cappella Romana] would institute. Changing the music is one thing; changing the language it’s written in is another thing entirely.

It’s important we don’t discard and/or replace the words that stir mind and soul, just to smooth some inconvenient bumps that have come about with the coupling of the Byzantine chants to English. If the truth be told, there’s a strong benefit inherent in the older English words. Simply because it takes an act of self will to use them, just like enter our church buildings leaving the physical world for the spiritual. The uncommon older words in our worship allow for the erecting of a similar barrier for the mind allowing separation from the offal baggage of our degenerate common day to day language. It’s a mistake to replace the word mighty with the word strong; to do so is to lose the Divine Authority inspired by the first in exchange for the wrongly elevated physical insinuation of the second.

Whatever the history regarding these two words, as well [as] the translations that have brought us to this point, the fact is the word strong is no longer capable of instilling the divine contemplation needed to lift the mind from the physical to reflect on the mystery of the spiritual. Our modern English speaking society throughout the world has mitigated this awe inspiring word by making an idol of strength.

Mighty, another word that carries much the same thoughts as the word strong once did, is currently used in the Liturgy. It has been for the most part spared the jaded attention of our society. Retaining its potency it bears well its burden, conveying the authority, the astonishment, the respect required of us. It commands us to humility, and as much as our puny minds can attempt, to contemplate and reverence the trenchant* power of our triune God.

If people don’t understand the meaning of such words, we should follow the example of our early church fathers that developed though God given inspiration the Divine Liturgy and a system of enlightening the ignorant, and educate them.

So when we think of our risen Lord seated at the right hand of the Father, do we want to glimpse him in the Divine Authority of his Majesty, or as…a glorified strongman?

Holy God. Holy Mighty. Holy Immortal; have mercy on us.

Phillip, your brother in Christ

* Keen, Sharp, vigorous, intensely perceptive, Penetrating, clear-cut, Distinct

My response:

Dear Phillip,

Thank you for your reflections on the translation of the Trisagion as sung by Cappella Romana. I am agreed wholeheartedly that it is a mistake to replace or discard words capriciously. What might help clarify things for you is that Cappella Romana followed the official translation of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira; that is to say, Dr. Lingas and co. did not write their own translation or change words as they saw fit. Archimandrite Ephrem Lash, neither an amateur nor a shrinking violet when it comes to the matter of rendering biblical or liturgical  texts into English, was the chief architect of the Thyateira translation, and he has a detailed essay regarding the proper translation of the Trisagion, found here:

In any event, the two most salient points might be:

  1. The Greek word “ischyros” is translated as “strong” virtually every other place it is used, and in other liturgical languages (such as Slavonic) the equivalent of “strong” is employed rather than “mighty”; “krataios” is the word which better corresponds to “mighty,” as in “Pantokrator” – “All-Mighty” being how that is often rendered in English.
  2. Translating “ischyros” as “mighty” in the translation of the Trisagion, ironically enough, appears to date back to the 1772 translation of Dr. John King, a Protestant. The earliest known English translation, that of Dr. John Covel in 1722, uses “strong.”

I hope this helps!

In Christ,

Richard Barrett

No denying it’s a sensitive matter; this is a tricky instance where a translation of a prayer, regardless of its relative merits, has taken on a life of its own beyond that of its source. The 20th century certainly demonstrated that you mess with the language in which people pray at your own risk. On the other hand, Phillip makes the excellent point that in such cases an effort should be made to educate the people, and I think Fr. Ephrem’s essay does that quite well. The other side of that bargain is just that the people need to be willing to not refuse the instruction out of hand.

For my own part, I’ll note that I don’t consider myself my own authority on Greek, particularly not where these kinds of issues are concerned. I’ve been there for Fr. Ephrem Lash sight-translating a Gospel reading from Greek during a Liturgy without realizing he wasn’t reading from an English version until I was told later, so if he says “Holy Strong” is what the prayer actually says and means, I don’t think I have too much of a basis to disagree with him.

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