In the process of preparing text to be sung in our services, I often run across questions about the meaning. I try my best to reword unclear passages so they will make sense to the hearer, who, in almost all cases, will only get one chance to hear that particular text, and that, sung by the choir, no less. It is a bit of a musical, poetic, biblical, historical puzzle.
Sometimes the unclear passage is a reference to something in the saint’s life: “thou didst offer an incense of sweet savor with thy martyr’s hand” (Barlaam, 19Nov). We understand the words, but it raises questions in our minds. Sometimes, it is an unclear combination of the saint’s life and and a particular scripture passage; the irmos portions of Matins do this fairly often.
This coming Sunday, we will be celebrating the prophet Zephaniah. Something about the kontakion hymn for him, and the quote from the prophecy included in it, caught my eye and I looked it up. I just copied the words into the search engine, and was a bit surprised to find the results listed as Zechariah…a different Z-prophet. This is a problem I have not seen before.
Continue reading “Zephaniah – Zechariah – same difference”
I just love the interaction between Christ and the lawyer that we see in Luke 10. Christ asks: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The lawyer replies: “You shall love the Lord your God from all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Christ says: “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”
This man is an expert in the Law; he knows his stuff, and more than that, he has a right understanding and a good interpretation of it. He understands that these two “laws”—neither of which come from the Ten Commandments, nor even from sections that we would usually consider law—that these two truly encompass the whole law of God. “Do this and you will live.” The parable that Jesus tells is to re-emphasize the rightness of what the lawyer said, but also to lead him to a full understanding of those two “laws”.
Continue reading “Apply Wine and Oil”
For something the Orthodox Christian uses every day, the choice of prayer book can make a big difference. I have been using the St. Tikhon Monastery Press Orthodox Christian Prayers prayer book for quite a while now, and will share some thoughts on it, so you can make a more educated decision when trying to choose a prayer book for yourself.
Initially, I would like to share some of the features of this prayer book for those who wonder if they should order one and do not have a chance to pick one up and thumb through it, but then eventually, I would also like to share some of my little “hacks” for the book: things like marking tones to aid in singing and how I use some of the information included here that most prayer books do not have.
Continue reading “What Prayer Book to Buy”
If any of us were asked to define it, we likely would not give a very biblical answer…or a very Christian answer. And by “Christian” I mean, defining it as Christ does in the words of the Gospel reading this Sunday.
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Knowing God is eternal life. If eternal life were just living forever, as a matter of length of time, then those in hell, those in punishment, those outside of the grace of God, also have eternal life. That is forever, too, but obviously not what Christ means by “eternal life”. Eternal life is not about length of time.
Continue reading “What Is Eternal Life”
We prepare to celebrate All Saints of North America this Sunday. The hymnography is mostly fine, but needs two major updates. One, relatively easy to fix: it is quite limited in the names it mentions, probably a product of when the service was written. That is fairly easy to fix, and not necessitating a mention of every name, for that would also soon be out of date, but to focus on more prominent or categorical additions.
The second issue needing an update is that that the wording of the service in its current form has in mind only immigrant saints, and we need to see that this is a living faith which has produced and continues to produce saints among the native-born people of the Americas. Within that issue, it is also a problem that though “men and women” is mentioned in various places, it still sounds past-tense, speaking of the immigrants; though we do not have canonized women saints in America, yet, we must intentionally commemorate the women among the all-saints of our lands, for All Saints is all about the saints we do not know about. Just think Matushka Olga.
Continue reading “Updating Hymnography for the American Saints”