Posts Tagged 'Pascha'

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.


Lazarus Saturday, Holy Week, and Pascha at All Saints Orthodox Church, Bloomington, Indiana

Here is the schedule for tonight through next Sunday at All Saints in Bloomington. If All Saints is the closest Orthodox church to you and you’re an Orthodox Christian, please, by all means consider yourself welcome. If you’re not an Orthodox Christian, absolutely, by all means consider yourself welcome as well. If you’ve never been to an Orthodox service before, this is the week to do it. Please come find me and say hi — I’m the big guy in a black cassock chanting.

Friday, 6 April

  • Akathist to St. Lazarus at 6:00

Saturday, 7 April

  • Baptisms/Chrismations at 9 a.m.
  • Divine Liturgy at 10 a.m.
  • Great Vespers with litia and artoklasia at 5:00 p.m.

Sunday, 8 April

  • Palm Sunday Matins at 8:50; Divine Liturgy at 10:00
  • Bridegroom Matins at 6:00pm

Monday, 9 April

  • Presanctified Liturgy at 9:00am
  • Bridegroom Matins at 6pm

Tuesday, 10 April

  • Presanctified Liturgy at 9:00am
  • Bridegroom Matins at 6pm

Wednesday, 11 April

  • Presanctified Liturgy at 9:00am
  • Holy Unction at 6pm

Thursday, 12 April

  • Divine Liturgy of Holy Thursday at 9am
  • Matins for Holy Friday (Reading of the 12 Passion Gospels), 6pm

Friday, 13 April

  • Royal Hours, 9am
  • Great Vespers of Holy Friday, 3pm
  • Lamentations, 6pm

Saturday, 14 April

  • Divine Liturgy of Holy Saturday, 9am
  • Rush, Paschal Matins, and Divine Liturgy, 10pm

Sunday, 15 April

  • Agape Vespers, 12pm

Following Agape Vespers, there will be a lamb roast (complete with a spit in the back yard) at my house. If you’re interested in coming to that, please e-mail me at rrbarret AT

Finally some news about Orthodox Hoosiers

Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen!

I have a rather large handful of things to write about here, but we’re at that point in the semester where everything has to be done within the next couple of weeks. I anticipate having my papers done ahead of time much as with last semester, so hopefully I’ll get something up soon. Holy Week, Pascha, recovery from Pascha, and then all of my work for school has just been a prohibiting factor — but I haven’t abandoned the blog by any means. Just having to prioritize.

In the meantime, thanks to the not-insignificant assistance of the overall incarnation of awesomeness John Berry, Orthodox Hoosiers(discussed briefly in these posts) now has the beginnings of an online presence. Please go over and check it out; it’s only a beginning, but any thoughts you’ve got about what should be up there and/or how things should look, please by all means let me know. We’ve got to start somewhere.

Why cantors and choir directors are cranky right now

With a tip of the hat to Steve Robinson, I give you…

King Kliros!!!!!

And yes, it’s true, we’re a bit stressed right now. Let me just pass on a few reasons why, in hopes that it gives you some perspective.

1) We’ve got a week coming up full of services for which we’re responsible, we don’t have a clue who is going to be at any single one of them to help, and we probably won’t know entirely until about 15-20 minutes into each service.

2) There is no Paschal rehearsal schedule that can adequately cover the reality that no more than half of the choir is likely to be at any rehearsal. This means there is no amount of rehearsal that can prevent some number of trainwrecks, because inevitably the potential trainwreck spot you covered at rehearsal A was the rehearsal that persons B and C, most prone to trainwrecking at that particular spot, did not attend. This also means that all of the musical things you hoped to do something with, no matter how much you rehearsed them, are going to be useless because not everybody was there to rehearse those bits, and the people who weren’t there will just sing what they’re used to singing, regardless of how you try to conduct it.

3) There is also no Paschal rehearsal schedule that can adequately prepare for the reality that no matter how much you try to find out in advance who is singing with you, there will always be two or three people who show up five minutes before Rush and say, “Hey, mind if I sing?”

4) There is no Paschal rehearsal schedule that covers the fact that the music that you do lives way too high for your tenors and sopranos, but if you repitch it will be too low for your basses. The alternative, different music that would be appropriate for the singers you have, would get you your head handed to you by the people who have an emotional connection to this music that is incomprehensible to you.

5) It’s Lent, so just like everybody else, we’re fasting and struggling too, in addition to the above points.

If you would like to not contribute to our stress level, what would be helpful is this:

1) Come to every rehearsal and every service, tell us if you’re coming or not coming so that we know in advance, come on time, and encourage everybody you know to do the same. I know you’re busy. So is everybody else. So am I. If you’re sick or have to be out of town, that’s one thing. If you’re of the opinion that you have better things to do than rehearse, then why are you in the choir in the first place?

2) Do not think, “It doesn’t matter if I’m missing.” Yes, it does. I have had to cancel rehearsals this Lent because enough people have just not bothered to come for the time to be productive.

3) If you’re part of another ministry that meets during what is the choir’s normal rehearsal time and has a significant overlap of membership with the choir, please bring up the possibility of rescheduling those meetings during Lent so that we aren’t having to hold rehearsals with an even more severely compromised membership than usual. See point of crankiness #2.

4) Ask your friendly neighborhood choir director, “What can I do to help?” We don’t hear that nearly often enough.

5) Last but certainly not least, please pray for us! These next ten days or so of all days.

Just some food for thought.

On Bright Friday: Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

This is the time of year, the last week before dead week, when I typically find myself scratching my head, thinking, “Where the heck did the school year go?”

Heck — where did April go?

Tomorrow will be the first Saturday here at home when I haven’t had to set an alarm since February. Note to self: next year, when you’re asked if you’re up to 8am Saturday Liturgies all throughout Great Lent, say “no”.

Anyway… getting home after the trip to Seattle, I was ragged to say the least, but I was nonetheless returned to your regularly-scheduled Byzantine Holy Week, already in progress. To say it was bizarre I’m not sure really covers it; being in the midst of a death in the family (and recovering from bronchitis before we left), and having missed, more or less, Palm Sunday, plus all of the Bridegroom Matins services, as well as having broken the fast while traveling, during Western Easter no less, to just drop in with Unction on Wednesday and return to fasting for all of five days just felt weird. Also, since my experience of Orthodox Christianity has been very much in the context of my marriage, having my wife gone made it even weirder. By the time people were yelling “CHRIST IS RISEN!” late Saturday night, I just had to admit — “Sorry, not feeling it this year.”

Which makes it a good thing that the Resurrection of Christ does not particularly depend on my feelings, I suppose.

Agape Vespers Sunday morning found me missing a perfect fifth at the top of my voice and in possession of an extra major third at the bottom. Such was the case for much of my choir. Folks, I will write a separate blog post about this later, but let me beseech, implore, plead with, beg you — for the health, sanity, and vocal longevity of your choir and cantors, when you decide upon a mission space or build a church, however temporary you plan for it to be, acoustics and an intentional, non-negotiable place for your choir and cantors are not a “nice to have”. They are a “need to have”. Low drop ceilings with acoustic tiles and carpets cannot be considered a reasonable option, because then your choir and cantors, who likely won’t be trained singers in the first place and who won’t have any way of adjusting for how an acoustically dead space messes with your hearing or your singing — to say nothing of your priest, particularly during Holy Week — will have really no option in the long haul but to yell through services against the room or just not be heard — and frankly, you probably won’t be heard terribly well anyway. As well, to haphazardly jam the choir into a corner they were never meant to occupy, where they are walled in by, well, a wall, the congregation, the solea, and the plane of a deacon’s door, particularly on Pascha when you’ve got extra choristers as well as people’s baskets encroaching on what is already too little space — well, it just doesn’t work very well, from any standpoint. Do not tell yourself, “Well, the space is temporary, so we’ll just make do while we have to,” either — temporary is a guest with a habit of staying late.

But I’ll come back to that another time.

After Agape Vespers, I was prepared to go home, make my Paschal nachos, bottle beer, catch up on some homework, and then go pick up my wife at the Indianapolis airport at 10:30pm.

Did you hear that? That was God elbowing me in the ribs, saying, “Gotcha good, didn’t I?”

At 3:30pm, I got a phone call from Megan at the Seattle airport. The short version is that, thanks to weather, the Chicago-to-Indy leg of her flight had been cancelled, and because it was a FAA-imposed delay which caused the cancellation, there really wasn’t much United Airlines was willing to do beyond to say, “Have a nice night at O’Hare and we’ll get you on standby the next day… at some point.”

“All you have is carry-on luggage, right?” I asked.


“OK. I’ll see you in Chicago.”

I quickly called friends to let them know that nachos would have to wait, and I left at 4:30pm (EST) to try to intercept the 8pm (CST) flight.

Thanks to an eight-mile backup on northbound highway I-65 (the left lane was closed for construction, although no actual construction was occurring that I could see), I finally got there about 9:30pm (CST), or 10:30EST — the time I was supposed to pick her up in Indianapolis in the first place.

We got home around 3:30am (EST), making it an impromptu eleven hour round trip. Thankfully, Megan was up to driving most of the way home so I could sleep, since I had to go to work the next morning.

It was a great start to the week.

I am, however, finally caught up with all of the Greek homework that I missed while I was sick and subsequently out of town, as well as ready, more or less, for the conference paper-style presentation of my research project for the history seminar I’ve been in this semester. It will be a work in progress, and I’ve already said I’ll need an incomplete for the full paper given all the surrounding circumstances, but I at least have something to show people, and I think it’s reasonably interesting. I think. In short, it has to do with how Coptic and Byzantine liturgical texts show us how each Church builds its communal identity relating to, and institutional memory of, the Council of Chalcedon with the rhetoric employed in the relevant hymnody, synaxarion readings, and even in fixed portions of the Liturgy such as the Commemoration of the Saints in the Coptic rite, and so on.

We’ll see how it plays in Peoria. I don’t think I can assume any liturgical knowledge whatsoever, so a good chunk of my time is having to be taken explaining various segments of the different services. Hopefully eyes won’t glaze over too much.

So, besides not having gotten enough sleep in two months and coming up on the end of my part-time status as a student, I can say that I appear to have a chant teacher while I’m in Greece, I have my renewed passport, and we have Megan booked to come out to Greece for the last 9 days or so that I am there.

I had received some suggestions about chant teachers, but held off acting on any of them until a particular individual got back to me. This person finally did, saying, “Well, here’s how you get in touch with Lycourgos Angelopoulos as well as Ioannis Arvanitis.” The catch with Πρωτοψάλτης Λυκούργος, alas, is that he speaks Greek and is “able to communicate in French”; I’m not sure I want to depend on languages which are works in progress for this kind of instruction, so I sent an introductory e-mail to Arvanitis in Greek (proofread by my friend Anna Pougas, so that I wasn’t inadvertently telling him “έχω τρία αρχίδια” or anything like that) and in English. He wrote back in English, saying yes, I’ll be here, here’s my number, call me when you get to Athens. We’ll see what can actually be done in seven weeks, but I’m looking forward to actually getting to learn even the most basic of basics from somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about and who has had the real thing in his ear and his blood for his whole life.

Anyway — life is slowly returning to manageable levels. At least until it’s time to leave my job and go to Greece for the summer.

Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!


I found this ad in a newspaper last week. It doesn’t matter which newspaper, and I’ve intentionally removed any marks from the ad that would identify the church who placed it, because I want to deal with the content, not the agent.

So, maybe it just demonstrates that I’m not the target audience, but I have to be honest: I don’t get it.

There are exactly two details here which tell you that this has anything to do with Christianity; the presence of the words “Easter” and “God”. The cityscape and overall generic postmodern presentation certainly don’t tell you that, and there is nothing else about the ad which says in any way, “This is the day on which we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ after His Crucifixion and three days in the tomb, and we celebrate this because if Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain and we are the most pitiable of all men.” Instead, particularly with the attributes being pointed up of “AWESOME MUSIC” and “CASUAL STYLE”, this might as well be an ad for a nightclub. Okay, fine, the ad tells us that the teaching is “RELEVANT” (whatever that means — relevant to whom?), but does it tell us that the teaching is Christian? Are we supposed to be relevant and assume the whole Christianity part will take care of itself, or vice-versa?

“REAL GOD”? What does that even mean? As opposed to the “FAKE GOD” you’ll find anyplace else?

What, in fact, does this actually do to proclaim the Gospel which Easter recognizes, commemorates, and celebrates?

There is a joke where somebody has to explain to St. Peter what Easter is in order to get into heaven. The person has to think about it a bit, but finally says, “Well, let’s see — that’s where Jesus is in the tomb, right?”


“And the stone rolls away…”

“So far so good.”

“…Jesus comes out…”


“…and if he sees his shadow, there are six more weeks of winter.” Ba-dum-pum.

If we want that to remain a joke with a clever punchline rather than the reality, we have to do a lot better than this. I do not doubt the sincerity of the community who placed this ad, but we either know, and are proclaiming, what we’re celebrating — that is, the Risen Christ — or we aren’t. I’m sorry, but this just plain doesn’t cut it.

If the trouble is a category error on my part — as my godson Lucas likes to put it, if I’m trying to figure out what color Tuesday is — and/or at thirty-two I’m just too much of an old fuddy-duddy to get it, then please, enlighten me.

“His name was Spiro. My children got very close to this lamb.”

Oh. my. Lord.

(Hat tip to Fr. Joseph Huneycutt and thanks to Anna Pougas.)

Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit!

 In Old English: “Crist aras! Crist sodhlice aras!”

In Modern English: “Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!”

In Modern South Central Indiana English: “Christ done riz! Sho’ ’nuff!”

I have a fairly long blog post or two in me, as well as notes for Lesson 3 of Hansen & Quinn, but it’s still going to have to wait until after this week. Last week being Holy Week and this week being Finals Week… yeah. Next week.

Brief updates, however (with explanations to come):

  • Lazarus Saturday saw the reception of six into the Orthodox Christian faith at All Saints; four by Baptism, two by Chrismation. Two of those baptized were my wife’s and my new godchildren, Matthew and Erin. Theirs is a good story, and the morning (not to mention the subsequent Holy Week) was a beautiful welcoming home (as it were) for them. I have pictures and I’ll post some eventually.
  • I started a new job on Monday of Holy Week. The new job is a Very, Very, Very Good Thing; truly, a major blessing. That said, I don’t ever recommend starting a new job during Holy Week. I also don’t recommend Finals Week being Bright Week, and I particularly don’t recommend having a Latin final at 10:15am on Bright Monday, but sometimes there’s little we can do about these things in a fallen world.
  • My mother was with us for most of Holy Week (starting with Unction on Wednesday evening) and Pascha. She survived, and would like to come back and do it again… someday.
  • I’ve decided to take the Reading French for Graduate Students course this summer. I’d like to refresh my French, particularly now that I’ve had a couple of years of Latin and Greek and actually understand some of the grammatical concepts and could actually explain to somebody what a subjunctive is.

Okay. More later.

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