Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Creating a "liturgical English"


  • Please log in to reply
25 replies to this topic

#1 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 01 September 2011 - 12:07 PM

In various threads, we have discussed various issues concerning the liturgical use of language. A common theme is that "everyday" English is not appropriate for worship and that the history of the Church supports the use of specialized liturgical language. Some people seem to use this as an excuse to keep the Liturgy in the "old" language, be it Greek or Slavonic, because English is not subtle enough or evolved enough or whatever.

Much ado is made of how Greek is the language of the philosphers and that much of Slavonic is merely transliterated Greek.

So my question for discussion is this. HOW do we devise this liturgical English? Rather than simply "waiting" for it to happen, what steps can be taken to make it happen, even as steps were taken to create "Slavonic"? I suspect we are not far from there now. We already use many Greek and occasionally Slavonic words. English is good like that. We appropriate words from other languages all the time. What needs to be developed/added/created (beyond the inconsistant use/misuse of "thee" and "thou" and "thine" and perhaps avoidance of the dreaded "yohoo")?

Are there not positive, specific steps that can be taken now to come up with a suitable English and a common standardized English translation of the Divine Liturgy and other services of the Church based on what exists now, or do we have to wait until some "new" form of Engish is invented? If the Ecclesiastical Assembly does NOTHING else, this would be possibly the biggest achievement of all.

We have spent a lot of time talking about the alleged shortcomings of using English. What are some specific ways to fix them? Other than not putting the Pooh in charge of doing the writing, obviously.

Thoughts?

Herman the Pooh

#2 Ryan

Ryan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 837 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 01 September 2011 - 12:21 PM

Read lots of good English poetry, learn how it works, learn how to write it, practice it. That's really the most important thing, and I don't think many of our translators have done it. I've come to think that stuff like "thou" and "thee" is not really what distinguishes good "liturgical" English, but an attention to the sound of language, to the taste and feel of English words, to rhythm and eloquence. And I think this can be accomplished whether we address God as "You" or "Thou", just like doggerel can be written with "you" or "thou."

While I realize there have been some criticisms of his work with regard to its accuracy and occasional word-choice, I think Archimandrite Ephrem Lash's translations represent good English style: http://www.anastasis.org.uk/index.html

#3 Rdr Daniel (R.)

Rdr Daniel (R.)

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Validating
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 704 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 01 September 2011 - 12:46 PM

I would say first of all maybe we are not truly upto this it took two saints for Slavonic. But I agree we need to come up with something which is better than what we have at the moment.

I think we need to look first of all at the English, I would say we need to strip it back to its roots what English words are still around today most of them are the normal everyday words that are easily understood. There are also words that could easily be formed from words that exist already the placing of two English words together makes the word a lot easier to understand.

We would then need to build it up there are many Greek words in English and many more come via Latin into Old English that have been used since when England was still Orthodox. Then we can look at transliterating some of the Greek words that can not be translated into English without some loss of meaning.

Consistence is key the K.J.V. is very good in that it is close the text, but it is not always very consistent in translating a word.

A very important thing I think is when translating the Holy Bible we look at what the Holy Fathers say about it we must familiarize our self with their commentaries and not just relay on modern biblical scholars for the translation. I'm not sure about how to do this with the Divine Liturgy.

And finally still I think the style must not be that of normal everyday speech it must move the hearer/reader into another frame of mind. Like we have a formal, non formal English, this must be unique. I think retaining archaicness is good for this plus the thou/ye you/thee does better reflect the Greek.

In Christ.
Daniel,

#4 Dcn Alexander Haig

Dcn Alexander Haig

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 323 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 01 September 2011 - 04:43 PM

That God speaks in words renders all words sacred: whilst I do not propose that this means we can use just any English, it is possible that we end up saying that nothing is adequate. The thou-you debate carries on around us and seems to be used as an excuse for everyone to do their own thing: I would propose that there be two "official" texts, of which all use one - one using thou's and the other you's. These two should be in conformity with each other, but necessarily with 'thee' replacing 'you': the two styles of English have different ways of expression - a different rhythm - and should not be used interchangeably.

In this way we could have consistency of text, with a service coming either from a traditional or modern English, and texts such as the Symbol of Faith would be standard for all (English speaking) Orthodox.

With love in Christ
Alexander

#5 Theodora E.

Theodora E.

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 184 posts

Posted 01 September 2011 - 05:54 PM

As a choir member and one who does a lot of reading in church, I like the rhythms of the KJV/RSV. More poetic. And I'm used to reading good English literature and poetry - Austen, Dickens, Shakespeare. I like the Psalms in the KJV much better than anything else, although I'm memorizing the RSV translation, since that's what the OCA uses in worship. Thee/Thou is what I prefer and doesn't trip my tongue up.

#6 John S.

John S.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 53 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 01 September 2011 - 06:33 PM

Are there not positive, specific steps that can be taken now to come up with a suitable English and a common standardized English translation of the Divine Liturgy and other services of the Church based on what exists now, or do we have to wait until some "new" form of Engish is invented?


Herman,

I think the short answer is that developing a single ecclesiastically endorsed translation of the divine services in liturgical English for use in divine services would be a very great blessing. But this is very unlikely to happen so long as the English-speaking Orthodox world is fragmented jurisdictionally. That unity will likely have to come before a unity of translations . . . and that is a completely separate matter!

In the meantime, we can enjoy the array of translations for what they do offer: an insight into the text and the original languages not otherwise available to those not fluent in them.

- John

#7 Rdr Daniel (R.)

Rdr Daniel (R.)

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Validating
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 704 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 01 September 2011 - 06:56 PM

I think the short answer is that developing a single ecclesiastically endorsed translation of the divine services in liturgical English for use in divine services would be a very great blessing. But this is very unlikely to happen so long as the English-speaking Orthodox world is fragmented jurisdictionally. That unity will likely have to come before a unity of translations . . . and that is a completely separate matter!



But English speaking Orthodox will never have anything but fragmented jurisdictions as even if there is a new patriarch for America he would not have any authority over the rest of the English speaking world. So say a Patriarch for America and the Patriarch of Constantinople having jurisdiction of the British Isles, and something for Australia, this would still be fragmented. Hopefully an English Translation would go beyond any one of these. Another reason not to use everyday English which is very different in each country.

In Christ.
Daniel,

#8 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 01 September 2011 - 07:08 PM

I suspect that a "suitable" corpus of Orthodoxy hymnody and service books, once produced, would be quickly appropriated by English-speaking people most everywhere. So much easier to buy something that already exists (if itis, indeed "good enough") than create it (again) from scratch.

I would really like to see this at the top of the EA "to-do" list!

Herman the "i don't expect much" Pooh

#9 Kosta

Kosta

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,517 posts

Posted 02 September 2011 - 01:54 AM

I think some words should not be translated. Keep it as Theotokos not mother of God. I cant stand when GOA churches dedicated to the feast of ' Koimoisis Tis Theotokos" is translated in the front of the church as "Assumption of Mary". Where it says Hades it should remain and not be translated it as hell. The word Logos should remain and not be translated into english as 'lexi' (greek for word), etc.

#10 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,823 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 02 September 2011 - 10:26 AM

I cant stand when GOA churches dedicated to the feast of ' Koimoisis Tis Theotokos" is translated in the front of the church as "Assumption of Mary".


I quite agree with you, Kosta, that it is indeed a mistake to use Assumption of Mary to denote this feast, as it does not accurately describe its central theme, not does it give due honour to the Mother of God. But there is no need to use Koimisis in the English-speaking world, Kosta. The word Dormition is perfectly accurate to describe the Virgin's earthly repose.

The word Logos should remain and not be translated into english as 'lexi' (greek for word), etc.


Umm, where have you seen lexi in English hymnography, Kosta?

#11 Richard A. Downing

Richard A. Downing

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 240 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 02 September 2011 - 12:10 PM

Beloved,

Not being qualified to speak on this topic, except as a native English English speaker (as opposed to American, Canadian, Indian, or other native English speaker), I venture these impious thoughts:

We could start by anathematizing any publisher who produces a Bible without also publishing an Epistle Book (Apostol) and Altar Gospel from the same translation! :-)

Joking aside, as a reader (albeit not one ordained as such by the bishop), I find it frustrating that the only Epistle Book I have found to buy in English is in King James - it's a right pain when the Vespers readings are all over the books, like yesterday. Actually I like KJV, but others in my diocese with more experience - and lots more holiness - than me, don't. Until we agree on a translation of the New Testament, Psalms, and OT Odes, we are not going to agree on the Service Book.

Despite it's centrality in the mind of the laity, and perhaps most of the non-monastic clergy, the Liturgy is probably the wrong place to start. I would want to look at English speaking monasteries that have been going for at least a hundred years, and look at what they are doing at Orthros, Vespers and the Hours - but there is a problem with this as there are very few English speaking monasteries at all. I very much doubt, therefore, that we will get anywhere until there are.

The point that I'm trying to make is that it is in the USE of the words in the liturgical life of a community of English speakers that a liturgical English will develop. I don't think that we can invent it in any other context. Oh, yes we can talk about what we prefer, like the use of the word Theotokos, or Logos, but to do so out of the community of worshiping-togetherness is just translators ruminations.

Love, Richard.

#12 Theodora E.

Theodora E.

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 184 posts

Posted 02 September 2011 - 06:02 PM

Richard, you want the Apostol from St. Tikhon's Seminary Press in the US. It's Russian use. The translation is somewhat based on the NEW King James Version, which is the basis for the Orthodox Study Bible. It chants nicely, which I can attest from often using it in my OCA parish. So, modern English, but not "cold." No Thee/Thou.

For Greek use, Holy Cross Press (Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary) in the US has an Epistle book that is modern English. I've heard it used and it's not bad. No Thee/Thou.

#13 Anthony Stokes

Anthony Stokes

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 413 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 02 September 2011 - 06:36 PM

Hopefully, the committee set up by the Assembly of Bishops to do a part of this in America will actually do it. I am curious as to how they will decide what to do, though. Here is the committee's description, taken from here - http://www.assemblyo...mmittee-liturgy:
[h=1]Committee for Liturgy[/h] [h=3]Description[/h] The Committee for Liturgy is expected i) to catalogue and compare various translations, rubrics, Typika, and liturgical books; and ii) to develop and suggest a common translation of basic liturgical texts (e.g. the Symbol of Faith, the Our Father, etc.).
[h=3]Membership[/h] Met. Constantine (UOC)- Chairman
Met. Evangelos (GOA)
Bp. Ieronim (ROCOR)
Bp. Benjamin (OCA)
Bp. John (ROCOR)
[h=3]Committee Liaison[/h] V. Rev. Nicholas Ceko
[h=3]Consultants[/h] 1. Archimandrite Daniel Griffith
2. Fr. George Bazgan
3. Fr. Serpahim Gisetti
4. Fr. Nabil Hanna
5. Fr. Peter Jackson
6. Dn. Nikolaj Kostur
7. Dn. Daniel MacKay
8. Fr. Paul Lazor
9. Fr. Alban West
10. Paul Meyendorff
[h=3]Terms of Reference[/h] What is to be accomplished

  • Establish a digital catalogue of all English-language liturgical texts (together with rubrics and typika), whether in use or not, from all the jurisdictions/presences in the USA, including non-canonical groups, (England, Canada and Australia can be considered as well)
  • Compile any and all official English language translations in current use among the jurisdictions/presences
  • Establish an ad hoc group in order to compare various translations of liturgical services in use
  • Catalogue and compare the rubrics and typika in current usage
  • Develop and suggest a common translation of basic biblical and liturgical texts (e.g. the Symbol of Faith, the Our Father, etc.)
  • Examine the theological understanding of the Liturgy to bring new insights in an era where the Church has in many ways been reduced to an association, the Holy Eucharist to just one among many other mysteries, and the Liturgy to a ceremony.
How it is to be accomplished

  • Establish connections to the various seminary libraries in order to establish a digital matrix of the extant English language liturgical material
  • Ascertain from synodal or equivalent authorities from each jurisdiction/presence any and all official , endorsed and/or promulgated texts
  • Create a mode (e.g. a “hexapla”) of comparison of like texts and rubrics
  • Establish an ad hoc group of translators that can develop recommended English language translations of basic texts
With whom it is to be accomplished

  • Any official committees already in place within the jurisdictions
  • Seminary librarians and liturgical professors, as well as Orthodox professors of liturgy at other institutions.
  • Translators recommended by Bishops of the Assembly and any others who surface through a survey of current translation activity among the jurisdictions
Sbdn. Anthony

#14 Kosta

Kosta

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,517 posts

Posted 03 September 2011 - 06:50 PM

Olga, i agree Dormition or Repose is good enough. There is a parish dedicated here to the Dormition of the Theotokos under the GOA and the church is named the Assumption of Mary. About 15 years ago attending their greek festival i wasnt sure what this feast in Orthodoxy was, since i never heard of 'Assumption of Mary'. After asking around, it was about the 6th or 7th parishioner who was able to give me the name of the church in greek. Most of them were 2nd and 3rd generation greeks and only knew the Aug 15th feast as Assumption of Mary and none seemed to be familiar with the english title Dormition of the Theotokos.
The word, 'Word' in english would be translated back into greek as lexi and doesnt convey what the greek is saying. English is simply a poor theological language. I even hope that the asian word Tao can become so prevalent in the west that we say in the beginning was the Tao. Even that is more accurate.


On a side note, There was a huge comitee in place for the OSB and still produced a subpar study bible. I wont hold my breath but u never know.

#15 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,823 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 03 September 2011 - 10:03 PM

The word, 'Word' in english would be translated back into greek as lexi


But was lexi used in conversation, or as liturgical text? I would be horrified if the latter was the case.

#16 Ryan

Ryan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 837 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 September 2011 - 04:41 PM

The word, 'Word' in english would be translated back into greek as lexi and doesnt convey what the greek is saying. English is simply a poor theological language.


I don't agree. The language of Shakespeare and Milton is perfectly suited for expressing theological subtleties. Whether it translates Greek well is a separate question- I think sometimes a talismanic quality is ascribed to Greek with a concurrent devaluation of English. A lot of the bad translations show more interest in a literal translation of Greek rather than an accurate translation of the theology/ spirituality into good English.

Is there is anything in the use of "Word" that is somehow particularly erroneous or misleading about the dogmatic reality being expressed? The question isn't what it translates to in Greek but what it conveys in Truth. I'd say it's in good company with the Latin "Verbum" and the Romanian "cuvânt".

I even hope that the asian word Tao can become so prevalent in the west that we say in the beginning was the Tao. Even that is more accurate.


I don't see how the Chinese word for "way" would be any more accurate than "word" for translating "Logos."

#17 Dcn Alexander Haig

Dcn Alexander Haig

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 323 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 September 2011 - 05:13 PM

All translations are lies, as the saying goes, but I agree with Ryan that so long as the meaning is transmitted then we are on the right path. For example in using either Logos or Word one would have to explain both in an English context - using Logos in that respect does not help in the communication of the Faith, in going out into all nations as we heard in this morning's Matins Gospel reading.

As a further example, I prefer using the word 'Theotokos' rather than translating it as 'Mother of God'. For some reason, 'God-bearer' has not been widely used but this would resonate when we hear the word 'prototokos' - something I noticed this morning in the apolytikion (mode 3). Perhaps these things will become more standardised over time.

In Xp
Alexander

#18 Ryan

Ryan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 837 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 September 2011 - 06:27 PM

I think the problem with "Godbearer" is that "bear" can have two meanings- giving birth or carrying. It's bound to cause confusion when we talk about the "God-bearing Fathers." I personally like "Godbirther"...

#19 Thomas Brunson

Thomas Brunson

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 41 posts

Posted 05 September 2011 - 01:25 AM

Ryan,
While it is true that the word bear has two meanings, it is also well known that the Theotokos both carried God with her body, and gave birth to God, and at the same time was God-bearing as in God-bearing Fathers. We understand what these words mean so there is really no confusion except maybe to someone who is not Orthodox, but that can be changed by educating them as to what these words mean. Also I really don't understand what the big deal is, God understands our languages that we use as Orthodox in our Liturgy, most important he understands our hearts and our sincerity in our worship and finds that acceptable because we do receive the Body and Blood of Christ each time we celebrate the Divine Liturgy in our various languages. I don't see that God has a problem with our English usage as long as it is done with love and not profanity. +Thomas

#20 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 05 September 2011 - 12:45 PM

This is not so much about private prayer, but about corporate prayer. The language we use is not "for" God, but for us. It is very important if we indeed accept lex orandi lex credendi. How we express what we believe becomes what we believe and if we express it badly, we run the risk of believing "badly".

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users