Rorate Caeli

Something interesting from Greece...

It is common for the Eastern Orthodox to claim that they uphold the use of the vernacular in liturgical offices. However, the reality is more complex. Greek Divine Liturgies, for instance, continue to be sung in  the  now-archaic Greek of the Septuagint and the New Testament -- which, it is often said, is hardly understood by younger Greeks -- rather than in the modern Greek vernacular ("Dimotiki" or Demotic Greek). In Slavic countries, the great majority of "canonical" Eastern Orthodox (and some Greek Catholic) Divine Liturgies continue to be sung in Church Slavonic rather than in the different vernaculars of those countries. Not that this is a problem for tradition-minded Roman Catholics!

However, in the past hundred years or so, and especially in more recent decades, there has been a growing push in the Orthodox Churches to initiate liturgical reforms, specifically the translation of the Divine Liturgy into modern or colloquial vernacular languages. In the last few years, the Holy Synod of the State Church of Greece has repeatedly condemned attempts to celebrate part or all of the Divine Liturgy and other liturgical services in modern vernacular Greek.(See this for a condemnation issued in 2010, and this for a condemnation made in 2002.) Nevertheless, these statements have not succeeded in putting an end to calls for the introduction of vernacular Greek into the Greek Orthodox liturgy.

At any rate, on January 16, 2011 a Greek Orthodox bishop decided on his initiative to read from the Old Testament in modern Greek rather than in the original Greek of the Septuagint, and so...

On January 16, 2011 an intense clash resulted in Volos during the Great Vespers service for the feast of Saint Anthony the Great where Metropolitan Ignatios of Dimitriados was serving.

During the Old Testament readings of the Great Vespers, the Metropolitan decided to read the portion from the Wisdom of Solomon in the demotic vernacular language rather than the Septuagint original. Immediately people began to shout: "Your Eminence, not in the demotic. Read the reading in the ancient language." This was followed by yelling and tension within the church during the service. The Metropolitan in vain tried to resume the reading.

"You must know that some are videotaping at this time in order to create trouble. They want to show there is a reaction", said the Metropolitan over the microphone.

He continued: "I must tell you that the texts of the Old Testament are didactic and are not prayers of the Church. I, at this time, have yet to read prayers in the demotic, even though I could have done so as have done other bishops." (That the singing of Biblical pericopes or readings in the liturgy is a prayer first and foremost, and only secondarily didactic, is also upheld by many Traditionalist Roman Catholics. CAP)

The voices of the protesters would not cease however. The Metropolitan then shouted over the microphone: "Please do not be agitated, do not be agitated."

A priest also standing at the Beautiful Gate then asked the people to isolate these matters and take them outside for the others to worship in peace.
The Metropolitan then said that he would read the text in both demotic and ancient Greek, but only during the reading of the demotic did there arise new tensions.

There is a video of the incident in the lower part of the original post.

24 comments:

awatkins69 said...

Wow, I saw the video. It wasn't "just a few people" who were upset. If that's what they do when the Scriptures are read in a slightly different dialect, I wonder how they'd react to liturgical dance.

Jordanes551 said...

If the lections and pericopes are didactic and not prayers, why does the Church recommend that they be chanted -- and why do Eastern Catholics not only chant the pericopes, but do so ad orientem?

Giovanni A. Cattaneo said...

The orthodox love to throw in our faces the fact that wherever they went they translated the Bible in to that language.

Ivan said...

LOL at the liturgical dance comment

H.B. Palmaer said...

Will nothing withstand the modern world?

There is no way one can make the supernatural relevant to a culture (a way of living everyday life) that is intrinsically naturalistic, materialistic and superficial. The good Bishop will try to impose the vernacular for readings only. But he won't be able to stop it at that. Once you start, there is no ending to it.

Once you start adapting instead of transforming and permeating the culture around you, once you start genuflecting to the modern world, you're done with.

Ben Vallejo said...

First of all the translations to the vernaculars started when there was no Orthodox church. What we had was the One Holy Catholic Church which we still affirm in the Creed.

But the vernaculars evolved into the vernaculars of today and that is at the root of the problem.

Even in English we have the same problem but that can be remedied by familiarizing the people on what the language is. For example, the officiant at an Anglican Use evening prayer said the Creed as rendered in earlier versions (1662) of the Book of Common Prayer (which the BODW allows). Some people asked later what "Very God of Very God" means.

Now that is closer to the Latin "Deum verum de Deo" than what we use as "True God from True God". There is a difference in nuance between "Very" and "True". "Very" reflects on an essence that is with the subject, while "True" may just be a cold statement of fact.

And so these people got a bit of Latin introduction through the Prayers from the Anglican tradition.

We in the West have not much difficulties with the vernacular from Latin since the western languages still use so many Latin words.

The unfortunate thing is the irrational "fear" of Latin in the Latin rite. This I believe stems from ignorance and poor catechesis.

What Catholic traditionalists do is to promote Latin by dispelling this fear among the vast majority of Catholics.

Anonymous said...

The bishop said something to the effect of young people requesting sacred texts be in language they can understand. Are the young so much less capable of learning language, that even related languages have to be dumbed down? It is amazing that the "young people" everywhere are portrayed by some to be complete idiots. If people, and the "young people" as well, have some basic knowledge of older languages, they would have a much stronger knowledge of their own vernacular.

Also the bishop, like many before him is wrong: texts don't need to be dumbed down, rather the "young people" need to be "smarted up."

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say Ben Vallejo's comments ring so true. When one looks at the language of the 1662 BCP and it is said in its entirety, it is more Catholic (despite a few phrases which would need adjustment) than the current Roman Missal and the up and coming Roman Missal. Reason been is the 'essence' is just as vital as the 'truth' and also the subjective in liturgy just as important as the 'objective'. The problem we have in the English world today is our language has been dumbed down which will culminate very soon. The same has happened in Sweden with their language and The Netherlands where in all three languages we tend to use pluralistic and there de-humanised and unholy language for our Lord. We need to claim it back and once again become heralds of The Mass of All Ages but most of all, we need to once again become a learned people unwilling to genuflect to modernity and humanism.

Jack said...

\\In Slavic countries, the great majority of "canonical" Eastern Orthodox (and some Greek Catholic) Divine Liturgies continue to be sung in Church Slavonic rather than in the different vernaculars of those countries. \\

Actually, the Bulgarian and Serbian Orthodox Churches use a lot of their vernaculars, especially in the fixed part of the services; a lot of the propers simply have not been translated yet.

Both the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches use modern Ukrainian--probably to distinguish themselves from Russians.

In the Great Russian Council of 1917, it was agreed to replace Slavonic gradually by modern Russian, though conditions made that difficult.

Jordanes551: The whole idea of uttering holy words, especially in public, in an ordinary speaking voice was unheard of in human history until the Low Mass (missa privata) was invented by the West.

Before the invention of electronic magnification, chanting the readings was the best way of making them heard in a large church.

And Eastern Catholics (and Orthodox) frequently chant the readings versus populum. It simply depends on local use.

Finally, not all modern Greek vernacular is "dimotiki".

There is also the "katharevousa" ("puristic"), which has not totally disappeared.

In fact, many native Greek speakers have said they have NEVER understood the Divine Liturgy and other services fully UNTIL they heard them in English.

Liturgical Cow said...

The first thing the Orthodox did when they open their mission here in Indonesia, is providing liturgy in local language.
I don't know custom of other Orthodox body, but here the Constantinople and ROCOR church chant the scripture versus populum.

Even in areas where the churches do still using 'classical' language, it is still vernacular to some degree. We can argue that Latin is 'classical' to Romance languages family. But Latin is a total import to Chinese, Japanese, Indonesia for instance.

Jack said...

\\I don't know custom of other Orthodox body, but here the Constantinople and ROCOR church chant the scripture versus populum.\\

In the Muscovite practice, the Deacon chants the Gospel from the midst of the name facing the Altar, but if a Priest celebrates without a deacon, he chants it from the Royal Doors facing the people.

However, when I attended liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral in NYC (Moscow Patriarchate), the Deacon chanted the Gospel from the Pulpit facing the people. Actually, there were two Deacons: One who chanted it Slavonic, and the other who chanted it in English. (Just another example of local use.)

Cola di Cola said...

Bravo! Our Orthodox brothers know how to stop someone who is to big for his britches.

Jack said...

\\Even in areas where the churches do still using 'classical' language, it is still vernacular to some degree.\\

Good point.

St. Jerome deliberately translated the Vulgate into "vulgar" (hence the name), ordinary Latin, rather than the literary idiom.

It was very much the "Good News for Modern Man" of his day.

When the Romanian Orthodox Church has to issue a new edition of the liturgical books, they are carefully revised to remove all expressions or words that have changed meanings or might be misunderstood due to the current use of that language.

And--FWIW--the Romanian Greek Catholic Church went to modern Romanian before the Orthodox did (the latter had been using Slavonic, oddly enough).

Jordanes551 said...

The whole idea of uttering holy words, especially in public, in an ordinary speaking voice was unheard of in human history until the Low Mass (missa privata) was invented by the West.

Have you ever been to a Low Mass, Jack? If you have, why would you claim that the holy words of the liturgy in a Low Mass are uttered in an ordinary speaking voice?

Are you aware that in the traditional Latin Mass, the lections are read in Latin, facing the altar, not read to the congregation? Why is that?

Before the invention of electronic magnification, chanting the readings was the best way of making them heard in a large church.

That may be true, but it's not the reason the Church began to chant the lections.

Jordanes551 said...

St. Jerome deliberately translated the Vulgate into "vulgar" (hence the name), ordinary Latin, rather than the literary idiom. It was very much the "Good News for Modern Man" of his day.

Complete rubbish. "Vulgata" means "common," not "vulgar." It was commissioned to be, and quickly became, the "common" Latin translation of the Scriptures -- but it certainly was not written in vulgar, street Latin. This notion of yours, though common (and vulgar), has been found to be false. The Latin of the Vetus Latina as well as St. Jerome's Vulgate was not the regular, ordinary Latin spoken day-to-day. There is no comparison whatsoever between the Vulgate and the free and careless paraphrase, "Good News for Modern Man." That you would even consider such an analogy shows how little you know or understand about this matter.

Jack O'Malley said...

Just to follow up on Jordanes' (correct) point: the Vulgate is largely a word-by-word translation of the NT Greek and would hardly have been considered "vulgar". Fidelity to the text was paramount with Jerome. It is of course not paramout with the ICEL dunces, whose translation skills, if applied to the Commentarii de bello Gallico, would alter the geography of France beyond recognition.

The (Old Church) Slavonic is likewise very litteral and contains stylistic forms largely foreign to the (then) contemporary language. It was never a vernacular or a vulgar tongue. It was over time modified into various recensions (for example, Russian Church Slavonic) but still preserved a remoteness from the common speech.

Also, in the post that contains the video link there is another link to a warning by Elder Paisios which is very insightful regarding the loss of historical memory in the lands of Christendom. We forget or outright contemn our precious heritage. Cavete! The Mohammedans do not forget.

bruno said...

IF THIS WAS JUST ABOUT THE YOUNG PEOPLE, THE OLD PEOPLE WOULD BE A PART OF THE DECISION PROCESS TOO. It is only about the Bishop.

bruno

Carlos Antonio Palad said...

"Actually, the Bulgarian and Serbian Orthodox Churches use a lot of their vernaculars, especially in the fixed part of the services; a lot of the propers simply have not been translated yet.


Both the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches use modern Ukrainian--probably to distinguish themselves from Russians.

In the Great Russian Council of 1917, it was agreed to replace Slavonic gradually by modern Russian, though conditions made that difficult."

Jack:

I'm perfectly aware that the UGCC largely uses Ukrainian, although some of their priests still use Church Slavonic. That is why I said "some Greek Catholics" in contrast to "great majority of canonical Eastern Orthodox" in Slavic areas.

As for the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches that you refer -- the "Kyivan Patriarchate" and the "Ukrainian Autocephalous" -- these large churches, it is true, use Ukrainian. They are also not recognized by any of the universally-recognized nine Orthodox Patriarchates and the other five (or six, depending on which Patriarchate does the counting) autocephalous churches, which is why I used the qualifier "canonical" in my post -- I simply didn't take them into account when doing my counting. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, as I've been informed and as I've read for myself, still largely uses Church Slavonic. The question of whether the two autocephalist Ukrainian churches ought to be recognized as canonical Orthodox Churches or not, is none of my business.

As for the Council of 1917, many of its resolutions remain un-implemented, and Kochetkov and other Russian liberals notwithstanding, there are no signs that the Moscow Patriarchate will be implementing a wholesale shift to Russian soon. I actually have an upcoming post on this, with translations of some of Metropolitan Hilarion's recent statements on liturgical language.

As for Bulgaria and Serbia: yes, they now use the vernacular there. But they haven't totally abandoned Church Slavonic either. When the massive Moscow Patriarchate is combined with the not inconsiderable Orthodox elements in the Balkans and non-former-USSR Eastern Europe that still use Church Slavonic, they certainly amount to a great majority.

By the way, Jack: I wish you'd stop being so condescending and insulting in your posts. Stop assuming that Roman Catholics are always ignorant of the East.

Jack said...

\\As for Bulgaria and Serbia: yes, they now use the vernacular there. But they haven't totally abandoned Church Slavonic either. When the massive Moscow Patriarchate is combined with the not inconsiderable Orthodox elements in the Balkans and non-former-USSR Eastern Europe that still use Church Slavonic, they certainly amount to a great majority. \\

Many MP parishes in the USA use English.

\\By the way, Jack: I wish you'd stop being so condescending and insulting in your posts. Stop assuming that Roman Catholics are always ignorant of the East.\\

I'm sorry. I don't intend to be insulting.

But many Roman Catholics ARE ignorant of the Eastern Churches and their usages as one of the early posts on this thread reveals.

Stephen said...

I would suggest that the animating approach for Orthodox is that the liturgy and its fruits be "accessible" for this and every generation. Accessible in the same way the Holy Mysteries are, approached in fear and trembling, and not without some level of ascesis. One does not climb a mountain without exertion, and this is the Orthodox understanding of "participation". To look for a comparable Western view, perhaps it can be extending in a way Chesterton's definition of tradition to be not just "the democracy of the dead" but also "that of the yet to be born." As you in the West have experienced, one just can't go messing around with the liturgy without grave impact, even if approved by a Pope or a Metropolitan.

To underscore the point, in Japan the Orthodox use a very precise translation made by the Apostle St. Nikolai from Church Slavonic into late 19th century Japanese, which itself is no longer much in use, sort of like reading Shakespeare. One has to work a bit to understand it, but then once enmeshed in the tradition, one can assume great freedom from error in the words, due to the brilliance of St. Nikolai in understanding the nuances between Christianity and Buddhism, Shintoism, etc, such that he was able to light a true candle. A real miracle for one man to do what he did really.
http://www.orthodox-jp.com/maria/Nikolai-JAPAN.htm
And he never stopped working to ensure accuracy, a modern day St. Jerome, really. Their approach was the same - deny the self and all one's passions in approaching Scripture and Liturgy, read it and approach it in humility that we must be changed and not it, and and pass it on unchanged.

Carlos Antonio Palad said...

"Many MP parishes in the USA use English."

I'm talking about Slavic countries.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was an Orthodox Reader in Slavonic - even he had no idea what he was reading. Likewise my grandmother never understood services - eventually they wound up Anglican because the Liturgy was meaningless.

Many Greeks will tell you they had nearly no idea beyond symbolic (ie much later) interpretations of what was going on - and are functionally illiterate in Scripture as a result.

The greatest failure of the Russian Church has been the failure to leverage modern Russian - whatever fairy tales you may want to believe, this is a legacy of the Communist disaster, not right-thinking Christians.

Anonymous said...

At St. Boniface Church in Pittsburgh, we have recently been informed by our Latin Mass Community Chaplain that whenever he deems the daily Mass readings to be too long, he will read them in English from the altar and not at all in Latin. After recently instituting a daily Mass, this is a very disappointing development.

John Martich said...

As an American born Serbian Orthodox Christian in the US I applaud H.B. Palmaer for his/her eloquence: "Once you start adapting instead of transforming and permeating the culture around you, once you start genuflecting to the modern world, you're done with." Unfortunately many Serbian Churches in the US have attempted to translate to English the Holy words of our ancestral Saints. Almost 50 years ago our local priest said 'there should be a sense of mysticism to the Liturgy. It causes one to absorb the meaning." He wouldn't believe what is happening today.