Daily Archives: June 6, 2019

Liturgical English and Missionary Needs

Introduction

The English-speaking world is divided by various forms of English: American, Australian, British, Canadian, Irish and New Zealand. For example, even the name of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) differs. In American English, with its German-influenced grammar, it is called ‘outside of Russia’, in Britain ‘outside Russia’. American also uses the archaic (for Britain) ‘in behalf of’ instead of the British ‘on behalf of’. However, most of our liturgical translations have been done in the USA. And we are profoundly grateful for them, especially for the amazing and always grammatically correct work of the ever-memorable Brother Joseph (Isaac) Lambertson. Eternal Memory to him! Today, we need translations which avoid literalisms, archaicisms, Latinisms and Hellenisms.

Literalisms

In liturgical translation we should avoid word order that is unnatural for English and complicates clarity and understanding. This means avoiding unnecessary inversions, such as ‘Him do we praise’, as opposed to ‘we praise Him’, or ‘ever didst thou’, as opposed to ‘thou didst ever’, or ‘for a good God art Thou’, as opposed to ‘For Thou art a good God’. This includes, with rare exceptions, avoiding inverting adjective use (we are not French!), such as forms like ‘light Divine’ as opposed to ‘Divine light’. Byzantine Greek (and therefore Church Slavonic) word order does not work in an established and codified language like English, where it sounds unnatural and unclear.

Similarly, the literalist translation of ‘philanthropos’ as ‘Lover of Mankind’, rather than ‘Who loves mankind’ clumsily introduces the word ‘lover’ into liturgical English. Calling the Mother of God ‘Mistress’ instead of ‘Sovereign Lady’, is equally clumsy.

Archaicisms

There can be no question of not using ‘thou’ and its verb ending est (in reality pronounced ‘s’) in translations: the ‘you’ form is simply not a translation, but an ideological  modernization. On the other hand, archaicisms need to be rejected, since they only obscure the meaning. For instance, the ‘eth’ ending of verbs for the third person singular (‘he cometh’) is an archaicism. In the 17th century, although the ending was still printed as such by printers, it was already pronounced ‘s’, as it has also been written ever since.

Similarly, the use of the archaic imperative ‘do thou break’ instead of ‘break’ or ‘hear ye’ instead of ‘hear’ is unnecessary. The old form of the subjunctive, ‘pray that he come’ was long ago replaced in contemporary English with ‘may’ – ‘pray that he may come’ etc. Forms such as ‘unto’ instead of ‘to’, upon’ instead of ‘on’, ‘wherewith’ instead of ‘with which’, ‘thither’, ‘hither’ and ‘whither’ instead of ‘to there’, ‘to here’ and ‘to where’, ‘wherefore’ instead of ‘therefore’, ‘in that’ instead of ‘as’, could be avoided. Such archaicisms simply obscure meaning.

Latinisms and Hellenisms

Simple and poetic English, retaining its Old English roots, is always preferable to Latinate Victorianisms, sometimes very obscure, favoured by such as the Episcopalian translator, Isabel Hapgood. Thus: ‘assemble’ could be replaced by ‘gather’, ‘carnal’ by ‘fleshly’, ‘disperse’ by ‘scatter’, ‘distribute’ by ‘give out’, ‘effulgence’ by ‘shining forth’ or ‘radiance’, ‘emit’ by ‘give out’, ‘illumine’ by ‘enlighten’, ‘incorporeal’ by ‘bodily’, ‘inundate’ by ‘flood’, ‘lambent’ by ‘softly shining’, ‘laud’ by ‘praise’, ‘luminary’ by ‘beacon’, ‘manifest’ (adjective) by ‘plain’ or ‘clear’, ‘manifest’ (verb) by ‘show forth’ or ‘reveal’, ‘rescue’ by ‘deliver’, ‘solicitous’ by ‘attentive’, ‘suspend’ by ‘hang’, ‘traverse’ by ‘cross’, and ‘unoriginate’ by ‘without beginning’ or ‘from everlasting’,

Since the terms of Patristic Greek (often itself only a translation from Hebrew or Aramaic) was translated into Patristic Latin from the end of the second century on, there seems to be no reason at all to use Hellenisms. Thus, ‘asceticism’ can be replaced by ‘ascetic life’, ‘chant’ (a clumsy attempt to translate the Hebrew ‘psaltizo’, even though Slavonic uses the ordinary word to sing – ‘pet’’) by ‘sing’, ‘hymnody’ by ‘hymn singing’, ‘Hypostasis’ by ‘Person’ (already used in Latin in the fourth century), ‘noetic’ by ‘spiritual’, ‘invisible’ or ‘of the heart’, ‘stichos’ by ‘verse’, ‘theologize’ by ‘make theology’ and ‘Theotokos’ by ‘Birthgiver of God’ or sometimes simply ‘Mother of God’.

Conclusion

Looking now to future generations and refining the extraordinary pioneering translations of previous generations, mainly begun in the 1960s and 1970s, we have to take into account the pastoral needs of our contemporary flock. Our need for English is because the children of our flock, whatever their national origins, use English as their common language. We need a liturgical English which is both faithful to the spirit of the original but also grammatically correct, clear and accessible.

 

 

Our Orthodox Identity and the Future Configuration of the Russian Orthodox Church

Our identity as Orthodox Christians is in our belonging to and confession of the Faith of the One Church of God, founded in Jerusalem by the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in 33 AD. This Faith of the Church is incarnated in Christian Civilization, the one and only Christian Empire which forms the Orthodox World, the Orthosphere. Today, in conditions of persecution by Western Secularism, this Christian Orthodox Empire, the reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven, stretches from Jerusalem and the Middle East to the greater part of Europe outside its apostatic Western tip, across Siberia to the Alaskan coasts, covering one eighth of the Earth’s inhabited surface. However, this world also includes our oases, which act as Embassies of the Christian Empire, all over the Planet. Our physical passports show many different nationalities, but our spiritual passports show that we belong to this One Global Church and Faith.

For example, our church in Colchester is built of timber and iron from England and the main doors carry Orthodox crosses which were fashioned from an old fishing boat from Felixstowe, the town named after the seventh-century Apostle of the English East, St Felix. However, inside the church there are icons and sacred artefacts from across today’s Orthodox world. Thus, the iconostasis comes from Moldova, the two kissing icons by the holy doors are from Crete and other items in the church come from Carpatho-Russia, Siberia, Poland, Macedonia, Romania, Cyprus, Serbia, Syria, Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro.

We do not belong to those Civilizations which never received the Word of Christ, either because they existed before His Unique and Transfiguring Revelation and so far have still not known Him (the interconnected Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism), or else because they rejected Him for worldly and nationalistic reasons after His Loving Revelation (the interconnected Judaism, Islam, Western Secularism). The latter, its tentacles now spread around the world, is the fruit of the strange and deluded deviations from the Orthodox Church, known as Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, which rejected the Church of God and Her Orthodox Christian Faith. Unlike them, our Christian Empire is not the worldly Empire of Rome. This was the mistake of Old Rome and much later of New Rome, both of which succumbed to local racial nationalisms: Latin-Germanic (Catholic-Protestant) and Greek, both of which claimed to have authority superior to (the ‘first without equal’ heresy) that of the Kingdom of God. But the thisworldly Kingdom of Rome is not the Kingdom of God.

The various territories of the world are cared for by the fourteen Local Orthodox Churches, all part of the Christian Empire. Eleven of these cover only tiny canonical territories, for instance, Palestine and the Jordan (the Church of Jerusalem), Czechoslovakia, Albania, Cyprus, Poland, some Greek islands and immigrant enclaves (the Church of Constantinople), Georgia, Bulgaria, Greece, ex-Yugoslavia and migrations (the Church of Serbia) and Romania and migrations. The other three Local Churches cover much larger territories: most of the Arab world and migrations (the Church of Antioch) and the Continent of Africa (the Church of Alexandria).

The Church of Russia is a special case, as it totals 75% of the faithful and consists of two parts. The territory of the first part, administered from Moscow, covers the vast majority of the Eurasian Continent, excluding the above territories of the twelve much smaller Local Churches also in Eurasia, their immigrant outposts in Western Europe and also, in the future perhaps the British Isles and Ireland. This Eurasian landmass, in fact one Continent, is thus almost all administered from Moscow, although parts of it, like the Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Latvia, Japan and China, are largely autonomous. Indeed, they yet become fully independent, as have done the Churches of Poland and Czechoslovakia.

However, the second part of the Church of Russia, once called the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA), which evolved into today’s Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), is centred in New York. This has come to be specialized in the care of Russian Orthodox in the three remaining Continents of the world, outside mainland Europe, Asia and Africa, that is, in North America, South America and Oceania. Perhaps its vocation is to become the Orthodox Church of the Anglosphere and Latin America, as such using five languages: English (the USA, Canada, the British Isles, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand), Spanish and Portuguese (Latin America and the Caribbean), with some French (Quebec and some Caribbean islands) and some Dutch (Surinam and some Caribbean islands).

If this is to be the case, perhaps ROCOR will one day change its name again to correspond to this new reality, which has evolved and become visible especially over the last decade. Perhaps its name will change to something like ROCALA: The Russian Orthodox Church of the Anglosphere and Latin America. True, at present, ROCOR still has a few parishes in countries allied to the USA in Asia and in Western Europe (the vast majority of these are in Western Germany). The future of these parishes may in a generation from now become administration from Moscow. This would be in exchange for the parishes in the Americas (from which both Moscow bishops were expelled last year), Oceania and the British Isles and Ireland, where there are a few parishes still illogically administered from Moscow and not New York. Thus, as regards Great Britain, at present there are only three established parishes with property administered from Moscow, two small ones in Oxford and Manchester, which are ROCOR foundations, and the large one in London, which members of ROCOR helped found. In the post-Brexit world it would be illogical for Moscow to have a jurisdiction here, though until recently the opposite was true. Mistakes have been made on both sides.

Not all is clear, but it seems that in the future, as the geopolitics of US withdrawal from Eurasia after the defeats and disasters of its over-reach in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Ukraine and Syria, and Trump’s statement that NATO is obsolete, we may see all Russian Orthodox in Europe and Asia administered from Moscow. Those in the English-speaking world and Latin America may, however, come to be administered from New York.

May Thy Will be done, O Lord!