Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Blogger is being its usual self and won't publish comments. Below is a comment left by a reader (he is in fact a Lector in the Orthodox Church) in my post Please do as I say!

I fully accept that Han was using the words ‘sin’ and ‘discipline’ in a Roman Catholic sense for the purpose of argument. According to his own, earlier, explanation—this was “Because Catholics tend to talk about sin in forensic categories, and because Catholics have historically dealt with fasting ‘discipline,’ as JM put it in his post, within the framework of sin”. Indeed, in his most recent post, Han mentioned another example of Roman Catholic legalism: the distinction it attempts to make between “mortal” and “venial” sins. No real criticism of Han was intended on my part; and, again, I commend him on, what I considered, a most erudite exposition. My only concern was that Orthodox readers—understanding ‘sin’ and ‘discipline’ in the sense that the Church does—might take exception.

I must also commend Han on having pre-empted me: he selected the very same two passages that I should have chosen in a response to Bryan. I think that those passages speak for themselves. Nevertheless, the pedant in me cannot resist the temptation of questioning the translation of the Prayer of St John Chrysostom that Han quoted. Following that translation, I am required to state that “I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who CAMEST into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first.” The word that I have emphasized indicates the use of the second-person singular at that point. This represents a serious grammatical error: the THIRD-person singular should have been used. First, one addresses Christ in the second person: “I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God”. One then states what He is: “[He] who CAME into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first.” One may find numerous examples of the correct use of this particular construction in the Coverdale Psalter and the Authorised Version of the Bible. The translation of this prayer with which I am most familiar uses of sin the expressions “witting and unwitting” and “known and unknown”. These strike me as more satisfyingly Anglo-Saxon.

Finally—lest I be accused of hypocrisy—, I must bring myself to task. I stated that “The amount of food eaten at any particular meal-time has never been restricted by the Canons of the Church.” I have, since, recalled that both the Typikon and the Lenten Triodion specify that at the end of the Vesperal Liturgy of St Basil on Holy and Great Saturday the cellarer is to distribute six figs or dates to each of the brethren. That is in addition to a specified amount of bread and quantity of wine.

Nevertheless, it is a moot point whether this particular collation represents a “meal” as such. It is analogous to the distribution of bread and wine during the ‘Great Reading’ between Great Vespers and Mattins at an All-Night Vigil. Exactly the same prayer of blessing is used—though on Holy Saturday there is no blessing of oil (uniquely, this is a Saturday on which oil may not be consumed)—; and, in both cases, the brethren remain in church, and do not retire to the refectory.

The Artoklasia (the breaking and distribution of bread together with wine) really serves the purpose of sustaining the faithful through a service that is, in theory, meant to last through a long winter night. During the summer months, the distribution of this bread and wine is postponed until the end of the Liturgy. A rubric in the Pentecostarion prescribes “that beginning with the Sunday of Saint Thomas, the breaking of the bread doth not take place after the Blessing of the Loaves, due to the brevity of the night.” On Holy Saturday, the figs, dates, bread and wine are, likewise, provided for the sustenance of the faithful—who would, otherwise, not eat, in theory, between the meal after the Vesperal Liturgy on Maundy Thursday afternoon and that after the Paschal Liturgy celebrated very early on Easter Sunday morning.

On the other hand, the Typikon—in Chapter 35—does refer to the Artoklasia at a Vigil as a third meal. Normally, two meals per day—one after the Liturgy (if any) and another after Vespers—are prescribed. On stricter days of fasting, one meal—after Vespers (or after a Vesperal Liturgy on those days that such be celebrated)—is prescribed.


  1. I cannot imagine who the author of this might be; I can only say that I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed.

  2. L.O.

    Just for the information of the author of the post, with whom you agree, the translation is the one used by the OCA. I do not know who did the translation, but it is almost certainly translated from the Slavonic, and in the Slavonic, the word is "prishedii" (penultimate "i" being the letter yery). The Svit Prayerbook (published by the Metropolia in 1959) translates this as "Who didst come." The Old Orthodox Prayerbook published by the Old Believers in Pennsylvania also translates this as "Who didst come." My Church Slavonic is none too good, so I don't know if these translations are accurate, but it seems that those in the know believe that the verb is a second person aorist. The Greek is "elthon" (with the "o" being an omega. My Greek is none too good so I don't know if this is in the second or third person, or if this is the aorist or the perfect. The translation of the Divine Liturgy published by Holy Cross Seminary translates this as "who came."

    In any event, I get the sense that the translator read the line to be "I believe, O Lord, and I confess, that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, [Thou] who camest into the world..." There is precedent for this in the translation of the Gloria in the first Book of Common Prayer, which translates [correctly] "qui tollis peccata mundi..." as "who takest away the sins of the world." I believe that this is still grammatically correct, and it shows up a whole lot in Roman collects which have the basic formula: "O Lord, who didst do something awesome back in the day, grant also to Thy servants that we too may be likewise blessed, through Jesus Christ...ages of ages. Amen."

  3. Alas! My own knowledge of Church Slavonic grammar is woefully inadequate—much to my shame, since my first language was a Slavic one. I think that the word пришeдый is an active past participle and a verbal adjective in no particular grammatical person—that is my feeling; but I am, to some extent, guessing. How one translates that literally into English, I do not know. In the Diocese of Sourozh, our provisional English translation gave “Who CAME into the world”. A few years ago this was changed to “Who CAMEST into the world”, much to my disgust. The Coverdale Psalter, for instance, gives “Thou art the God that DOETH wonders” in one place. I have never felt easy when I have heard this “corrected” to “that DOEST wonders”. This has happened in the recent ROCOR re-working of Coverdale’s translation; the Boston Psalter gives “Thou art God Who workest wonders”.

    May I thank Han for a highly informative and thought-provoking post?

  4. I have pondered these matters further, and have come to some conclusions.

    The examples that Han has given all involve a use of the vocative that must, necessarily, be followed by a verb in the second person. “Dómine Déus, Agnus Déi, Fílius Pátris. Qui tóllis peccáta múndi, miserére nóbis” can ONLY be translated in a form like “O Lord God, O Lamb of God, O Son of the Father. [O Thou] Who TAKEST away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” Contrast this with “Ecce Agnus Déi, ecce qui tóllit peccáta múndi.” (Behold the Lamb of God; behold Him that TAKETH away the sins of the world.) "O Lord, who didst do something awesome back in the day, grant also to Thy servants that we too may be likewise blessed, through Jesus Christ...ages of ages. Amen." likewise represents a use of the vocative.

    If, on the other hand, we were to say “Thou art the Lamb of God”, we could only follow this by something like “[Thou art He] that TAKETH away the sins of the world.”

    So, I maintain that constructions like “I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who CAMEST into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first” or “Thou art the God that DOEST wonders” are, quite simply, WRONG. I think that we may blame such misuses on a lack of familiarity with Early Modern English forms. After all, if we were to render the above passage in a modern form using the second person plural, we should have “I confess that You are the Christ[…], Who came into the world […]”. Third person singular and second person plural both take the form “came”; some recent translators appear to have mistaken “came”, in this context, for a use of the second person, rather than correctly identify it as a use of the third person.

    Once more, I thank Han for a stimulating discussion.

  5. L.O.--

    This reminds me of a question once posed to Fr. Vasily at the Onion Dome: "What is the correct response to the Paschal greeting, 'Christ is risen!' I have heard 'truly He is risen', 'indeed he is risen' which is it?" Answer: "You are correct that there is only one proper response to the Paschal greeting, and that is 'voistinu voskrese'"


  6. More seriously, I think you are right about the word being a participle. Having done a bit more research, it appears that elthon is the second aorist active participle, which apparently has no English equivalent.

  7. My own preferred form of the response to the Paschal greeting in English is “Verily Risen!” To my knowledge, no one else uses this; and it actually betrays my usual principle of favouring Saxon words over those of Romance derivation. Nevertheless, I think that it retains some of the “rhythm” of Воистинну воскрeсе.

  8. I suppose that a more Saxon form might be “In Sooth Risen!” Old English used the word ‘Soþlice’ instead of ‘Amen’ for various prayers recited in the vernacular. Nonetheless, I still maintain that, the more Romance, “Verily Risen!” has a better “rhythm”.

  9. What is the point of 'Verily Risen' having a better rhythm if no one else uses that form? Is not the point of the greeting and its response the proclamation between believers of the joy of the Resurrection. If someone has to think of the form of reply it seems to defeat the purpose of the greeting.

  10. I think that no-one would question that the Paschal Greeting can only be rendered in English in the form “Christ is Risen!” On the other hand—as already mentioned above—, there exist at least two English translations of the response that are in widespread use. When one is greeted with “Christ is Risen!”, one is at complete liberty to respond as one sees fit.

    As I have commented elsewhere, currently virtually no two English-speaking Orthodox are able to recite the Creed together in English using the same words.

    If we are eventually to “thrash out” a universally accepted English translation of the liturgical texts, then it is, precisely, the sort of discussion that has been entered into above that will determine a beautiful, literary, yet accurate, form. We cannot leave such work to committees; the scholars that produced the Authorised Version of the Bible, sadly, have no rivals today.