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 state — νεκρῶν 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.