Zephaniah – Zechariah – same difference

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”

Updating Hymnography for the American Saints

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 That is fairly easy to fix, and not necessitating a mention of every name, for that would also soon be out of date, but to focus on more prominent or categorical additions.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”

Service for St. Tikhon of Moscow

We celebrate the glorification of our beloved father Tikhon tomorrow, who did much to establish and organize the Church in America, but also guided the Russian Church through some of the most tumultuous times in its history, the Russian Revolution.

It is likely too late for this to be of help to anybody for this particular Sunday in October of 2022, and it reveals to you all how late these things are prepared here in Bend, Oregon, but hopefully, it will be of use later. I was tempted to not go to the trouble of “cleaning this service up”, but there were just too many awkward phrases that would not be understood, especially when sung in our services, that I could not resist going through and rewording: moving phrases around, placing particular words to be emphasized by the music, and similar other changes.

Continue reading “Service for St. Tikhon of Moscow”

How to Pray after the Shooting in Bend

It is important that we pray, but hard to know what or how to pray, especially in such difficult circumstances. The following prayers are intended to give us a way to pray both for the peaceful repose of those who died, and also for those effected by this dreadful event. If you do not have access to this, you could also just pray the psalm by itself, or even more simply, the Jesus Prayer: Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

40-Day Prayer for the City of Bend

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us. Amen. Glory to thee, our God, glory to thee.

O heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who art everywhere present and fillest all things, treasury of blessings, and giver of life: come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O good one.

Continue reading “How to Pray after the Shooting in Bend”

Women in Orthodox Hymnography

Without a doubt, the spirit and tone of some of our hymnography comes across wrong to today’s hearer, especially when it comes to women. I do not condone the rewriting of hymns to just to pacify modern sensitivities, but rewording (and even just re-punctuating) can often bring out the original, beautiful intent of the text.

Here is one example and how I reworded it:

The tears of Mary were not shed in vain; for, behold! she was counted worthy of having angels instruct her and Jesus Himself appear to her. But, as a weak woman, she thought earthly thoughts. Wherefore, she was turned away and commanded not to touch Christ. Yet was she sent as a herald to Thy disciples, bearing glad tidings to them and announcing Thine ascension to the portion of the Father. With her count us worthy, 0 Lord and Master, of Thine appearance. (The 8th Evangelical Sticheron from Sunday Matins)

Continue reading “Women in Orthodox Hymnography”