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Translating the liturgy into English


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#21 Ryan

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 11:53 PM

I could make a case that Japanese is remarkably rich in nuances of expressing intimacy. Should we adopt Japanese, in that case? The point is that, the richness of Elizabethan English is ultimately irrelevant if nobody gets that richness. "Thee" and "Thou" now mean "we are extremely distant from each other and must maintain that distance for Thou art so very very very very very very very very very very very high above me and Thou stayest so very far way from our polluted and sinful world, for Thou art distant and far and Thou must be addressedeth in the mosteth formaleth of languageseth for to have be stressingeth how fareth Thou art frometh me-eth.


That is sore ill-spoken.

#22 Ilya Zhitomirskiy

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 06:41 PM

. In the US, ROCOR and the Antiochians seem to adhere most closely to "Elizabethan" English (with some simplification and modernization of usages). The Greeks, ACROD, and others adopt the more contemporary idiom (addressing God as "you"). My own jurisdiction, the OCA, addresses God as "thou" but addresses the Theotokos and other saints with "you," presumably because the translators think of "you" as less formal, contrary to its earlier connotation of respect. I personally think this third way might be the least preferable option, for its inconsistency.

However, the Diocese of the West (OCA) was long led by Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald), a very strict former military man who made the use of Elizabethan English mandatory in DOW churches. Now, the Diocese of the West and Diocese of the South mostly stick to Elizabethan style English, not to the standard OCA language.

#23 Kusanagi

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 11:20 PM

Elder Sophrony claimed that when we conduct the liturgy using everyday language, we lower the level of our communication with God.

“He believed that ordinary language carries meanings and images from our daily reality that usually lack the element of holiness and purity. On the other hand, when we address ourselves to God in a language that has, as it were, an exclusive usage within the boundaries of the Ecclesia, the very words and sounds of that language evoke sacred feelings and images that facilitate communication with God. A special language that offers precise and exclusive meanings can automatically be experienced as the language of the Ecclesia. It carries greater spiritual force.”

http://www.pravoslav...glish/47599.htm

#24 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 11:58 PM

I very much agree with what Kusanagi has posted. As we know, the great hymnographers of the Church who gave us our holy texts were saints. It was saints who evangelised in non-Orthdox places by translating the services into local languages: SS Cyril and Methodius, St Herman of Alaska and St Innocent; then there was St Nicholas of Japan. Elder Sophrony is widely accepted as a saint though awaiting canonisation. He chose Early Modern English (the correct term for 'Elizabethan'/KJV English) as the proper form of English for prayer and worship. For me, that is conclusive. He stands in the tradition of other saints such as those I have mentioned.

#25 J. Coleman

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Posted 20 September 2012 - 10:29 PM

Speaking of the liturgy in English, I thought this might be of some interest. It's a blob entry on "Journey to Orthodoxy" that makes the case for an all-English liturgy for American Orthodox Christians (or Ethnic English-speaking OCs living in America):

http://journeytoorth...nglish-liturgy/

Excerpt:

One of the major obstacles to the twenty first century becoming the Orthodox century is the language barrier. In many American Orthodox parishes the Sunday Liturgy is either in a foreign language or a mixture of English and non-English. Orthodox parishes with an all-English Liturgy tend to be in the minority. This blog posting addresses why we need all-English worship services, what can be done about the present problem of people exiting through the backdoor, and how we can help make the twenty first century the Orthodox century.


- Jade

#26 Father David Moser

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Posted 20 September 2012 - 10:58 PM

Speaking of the liturgy in English, I thought this might be of some interest. It's a blob entry on "Journey to Orthodoxy" that makes the case for an all-English liturgy for American Orthodox Christians (or Ethnic English-speaking OCs living in America):

http://journeytoorth...nglish-liturgy/

Jade


ACtually this is a repost of the original article found here

I was not terribly impressed with this article as it goes through some of the same tired old arguments that have been on the internet and in the discussions in parish halls and seminaries for the last 20 years or so. I happen to think that there are a lot of parishes that have English services (not just the liturgy) and that the appearance in the last 20 years of English language sources for liturgical materials (there are at least 2 sources in print for every necessary service at the present) has greatly facilitated this.

But I will also say that for those who learned to pray in another language, that non-English services are often a boon - a chance to pray in unity with the Church as they were taught as children. If you think its easy to pray in English just because you are fluent, its not. Prayer comes from the heart and the language of the heart is learned at an early age.

Yes, all English services are a good thing and should be encouraged, however, services in Greek, Slavonic, Arabic, Serbian etc, etc. are just as important and necessary.

Fr David Moser

#27 Richard A. Downing

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 07:23 AM

I don't have any Slavonic, and only a very little Common Greek, and certainly can't think in those languages - would that I could! However, I do find that while saying the Jesus prayer for long periods sometimes my mind just will not stay on the job, then a short period of saying the same prayer in Slavonic helps. In a strange way, since I have to focus on the words, my intent to hold my mind engaged with the words is more easily achieved. Aren't we marvelously made?

Love, Richard.

#28 Phoebe K.

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 01:25 PM

Speaking as a native English speaker who has only ever spoken modern English, for my generation middle English is vertuly inpenetrable, as the fundamental meanings of words have shifted greatly meaning that to those of us in the younger age-group middle English is as accesable to most as Greek. having studied middle English I can understand it to some extent but most of my peers have only ever met it studying Shakespeare at school. When the book of common prayer was written (the Edward, Elisabeth (1652) and the Charles 1662) books are all suterly different and reflect the evolution of the language. The Prayer book was written in the language of the people so that all could participate in the services, sticking to this now archaic and for most inpenetrable form of English would not help people come to the true faith as they cannot comprehend what is being said.

There has been a significant language shift in English since the 19th century and within another 10-20 years middle English will be the preserve of historians and linguists. Jesus spoke in the language of the people and the missonarys translated the gospel into the language of the people, if you want formality Queen's English (the British form) would be acceseble to English speakers yet maintain a formality in worship without being inaccessible to people.

Phoebe

#29 Ryan

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 03:12 PM

The Book of Common Prayer is in (early) modern English. Middle English is something else.

I was never raised in the tradition of BCP and KJV English, but I think it's an exaggeration to call it "impenetrable." Take a random sentence out of the KJV and chances are it will be readily understandable to any English speaker. Literate Anglophones should be familiar with Shakespeare and our other classic literature. These peerless expressions of beauty should not be relegated to high school textbooks.

That said, I don't think there is any inherent loftiness is employing "thou" or "thee." Some people think as if addressing God as "you" is a debasement into a vulgar tongue. What makes language lofty are the ideas it expresses and the eloquence it expresses them in- the Orthodox hymns are inherently lofty, whether they address God as "thou" or "you." The language of "O Heavenly King" could never confused with everyday speech, even if rendered in contemporary English. So if, for the sake of ready intelligibility, Orthodox churches adopt a more modern translation, I don't have a problem with that.

#30 Ilya Zhitomirskiy

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 11:20 PM

Bryan hath forgotten that the proper second-person ending is -(e)st, not -(e)th. It behooveth us to cleave to the ways of our fathers, and not to change therefrom, save when there are reasons for doing so. If anyone care to understand, KJV can be accessible.

#31 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 01:01 AM

It is important to remember that 'thee' and 'you' are respectively singular and plural, and modern English, having 'you' for both fails to make that distinction. This is important when addressing the Holy Trinity in prayers: using 'Thee' preserves the correct theology of the Trinity as One God. There are also passages in the Gospels where Christ is addressing the disciples and then addresses one of them, and using 'you' or 'ye' for the former and 'thee' or 'thou' for the latter makes this clear, whereas in modern English this change is unclear or the translation strains to find a contruction to make this clear.

#32 Father David Moser

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 01:15 AM

I was cleaning out my browser bookmarks and came across this link. I think it might help keep some thees and thous straight.

#33 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 02:39 AM

The link includes this: "Several groups continue to use these pronouns today as part of their daily speech (although with different grammar), including residents of Yorkshire". Where I come from, this is certainly the case but only among 'the lower orders' (so my aspirational mother told me off if I used them at home).

#34 Fred B.

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Posted 26 July 2013 - 05:44 PM

I only recently learned that in Early Modern English, "thee/thou" is singular and "you" is plural.  I was confused at the seemingly erratic use of "thee" and "you" in HTM translations until I learned that gem of information.  Knowing how the words work has helped me understand the hymns better, and I now really appreciate the usefulness of the greater variety of pronouns that we have since lost in Modern English.  

 

However, that left me very confused about OCA translation practices.  I was told by an OCA parishioner that her priest had said that only God should be addressed with the formal "thou", and that is why the Theotokos and everyone else are addressed with "you".  I find it hard to believe that OCA translators would not understand the grammatical rules governing Early Modern English, and so I am wondering what is the logic behind OCA pronoun translations?



#35 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 July 2013 - 06:20 PM

To clarify, the pronouns 'thee' and 'thou' and so forth are both singular and informal (like the Greek  'σου' and the French 'tu').  'You' is both formal and plural (as in the Greek 'σας' and the French 'vous') .  We address God as 'Thee' (and 'σου') because He is our friend.  As brothers and sisters in Christ, we should arguably always use the singular/informal in languages which continue the distinction, but, of course, this does not happen.  I am not familiar with OCA texts but the idea of addressing God as 'Thee' but the Mother of God as 'you' is nonsense.  It is imposing a mistaken linguistic theology upon the language which it does not bear.  As in the texts used by HTM and the Monastery of St John the Baptist, Essex, there should be fidelity to the norms of early modern English.  As an example of what can go wrong take the 'Common Bible' based on the RSV.  There, in Exodus chapters 3 and 4, we have the linguistically and theologically bizarre and illogical spectacle of God addressing Moses in the formal 'you' and Moses addressing God in the informal 'thee'.  (The LXX uses 'σου' for both.)


Edited by Andreas Moran, 26 July 2013 - 06:24 PM.


#36 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 26 July 2013 - 06:45 PM

I meant to add that the use of 'thee' to address the Holy Trinity, just as the Greek uses 'σου᾿, preserves the doctrine of the unity of the Holy Trinity whereas the use of 'you' is ambivalent and theologically confusing.



#37 Fred B.

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 02:19 PM

Thank you for that additional information concerning the Holy Trinity.  I had not thought of it, but that makes perfect sense and adds to my appreciation of the grammatical nuance of early modern English.  



#38 Reader Luke

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 03:46 PM

To clarify, the pronouns 'thee' and 'thou' and so forth are both singular and informal (like the Greek 'σου' and the French 'tu'). 'You' is both formal and plural (as in the Greek 'σας' and the French 'vous') . We address God as 'Thee' (and 'σου') because He is our friend. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we should arguably always use the singular/informal in languages which continue the distinction, but, of course, this does not happen. I am not familiar with OCA texts but the idea of addressing God as 'Thee' but the Mother of God as 'you' is nonsense. It is imposing a mistaken linguistic theology upon the language which it does not bear. As in the texts used by HTM and the Monastery of St John the Baptist, Essex, there should be fidelity to the norms of early modern English. As an example of what can go wrong take the 'Common Bible' based on the RSV. There, in Exodus chapters 3 and 4, we have the linguistically and theologically bizarre and illogical spectacle of God addressing Moses in the formal 'you' and Moses addressing God in the informal 'thee'. (The LXX uses 'σου' for both.)

Obviously officially in dictionaries, Thee and Thou may be informal, but today, I think they are understood as very formal, being higher language not used anymore in English.

I dot think we are imposing formality to Thee and Thou, the formality already exists in common understanding, even if it isn't so in dictionaries and not understood as such by linguists.

Honestly, I'm absolutely against trying to preserve English as it should be according to various dictionaries, we should be flexible and allow changes, especially to current words as terminology.

Also, as for the original topic, I think we need a little flexibility in liturgical texts. Churches using Byzantine Chant cannot use the same text as those using Slavic Chant. I've read different English texts for some hymns, and some of them will never fit Byzantine Chant, and those translations shouldn't be imposed on churches using Byzantine Chant.

Look at differences in translating the first stasis of the Lamentations service.
It could start:

"O my sweet Lord Jesus, my salvation, my life. How art Thou now by a grave and its darkness hid?"
"O Christ, the Life, you were laid in a tomb."
"In a tomb, they laid You, O Christ the Life."
"In a tomb, they laid Thee, O my Christ who art Life."
"In a grave, they laid Thee, O my Christ and my Life."

Some of those translations flow better with Byzantine and some with Slavic, and as such, I don't think we should be reduce to one translation.

Edited by Devin B., 29 July 2013 - 03:55 PM.


#39 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 04:59 PM

I just want something that is understandable, singable/chantable, and consistent. Oh and not "laughable" like " … and there goes the sea monster that You made to play with … "

 

If people don't understand what they are praying, they don't know what they believe.



#40 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 06:49 PM

I was not thinking of dictionaries but of the norms of the English language.  I don’t know who thinks that ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ have become formal instead of informal, or how such an idea could have come about, but it is most definitely not correct.  (As I have mentioned before, the use of ‘thee’ and thou’ is still widespread in the north of England and certainly is used to mean the informal.  Where I came from (south Yorkshire), we had a saying, ‘don’t thee and thou them as doesn’t thee and thou thee.’)  We are not ‘trying to preserve English as it should be according to various dictionaries’ but to employ a mode of expression for worship which enables us to hymn with God ‘with fitting voices’. 


It is all very well to talk about ‘flexibility’ but where does that lead?  Does it mean that with every passing change in the usage of English, liturgical texts must be altered?  There should be fixity of form as there is in other liturgical languages.  The great advantage of early modern English in that regard is that it is far closer to modern English than Church Slavonic is to modern Russian or Koine Greek is to demotic Greek.  I repeat what I have said before: in my experience, even foreigners such as my wife have almost no difficulty in following early modern English. 


As for what chant to use, there are, I believe, established methods of adapting Byzantine chant to English; HTM has done this.  Having said that, it is very much the case that in most English language parishes, Russian melodies are, as Metropolitan Kallistos has said, found to be most suitable for English texts.
 


Edited by Andreas Moran, 29 July 2013 - 07:04 PM.





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