Traditional Faith and Language: An Appeal to Orthodox Hierarchs of English Speaking Flocks

Traditional Faith and Language: An Appeal to Orthodox Hierarchs of English Speaking Flocks

January 8, 2022
Signatures: 109Next Goal: 200
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Why this petition matters

Started by Kaleb of Atlanta

Greek-speakers have the language of that “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12) before us which participated in traditional (Κοινε) Greek Divine Liturgies. They have that which the Three Holy Hierarchs spoke to God, the Pillars of Orthodoxy, and the Apostles themselves.

We Anglophones speak with God using the language of irreverent Hollywood media.

What we ask is to be included in that fruitful phronema which has guided the Orthodox Church before in her evangelism and worship amongst the nations, securing traditional English for our parishes.

The liturgical text translations of Nicholas Orloff (1890’s), Fr. Seraphim Nassar (1930’s), and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware (1970’s) all used “King James” English. Even our Orthodox Saints were no stranger to “King James” English. Isabel Hapgood’s Service Book (1906) was blessed by Saint Tikhon, Apostle to America, and funded by Tsar Saint Nicholas II.

We believe this is the Orthodox way.

So strongly did Greek-speakers themselves believe the same about language that they ushered in the deadly Gospel Riots (Ευαγγελικά), when the newspaper Akropolis published a translation into modern spoken Greek (Δημοτική) of the Gospel of Matthew.

Lift Every Voice and Sing, sung across America and known even as “the Black National Anthem”, uses traditional English – Early Modern English.

Even more widespread, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, known as the unofficial American anthem, is the same.

Both well-known songs include Christian ideals, and in accordance with this, there is used a sort of “elevated” language.

For Native English speakers (and otherwise who would simply attend about a few weeks’ worth of services), traditional, Early Modern English is no impediment to growth in Orthodox love and piety –it is the opposite – it will greatly help its facilitation.

Listen to the Our Father in any English-speaking Church! Who would dare to “revamp” or “improve,” or even “modernize” the spirituality contained in the phrasing of the most historic prayer in the world? We ask that any clergyman, any parish council member, and any parishioner join us in finally making known that we want traditional English in our worship. Not for superficialities or aesthetics for aesthetics’ sake. We have this desire and intention for the words of the prayer given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself – “Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” We end the text of this petition with a link for further research at the end and a snippet recollected by Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol with Dr. Markides on the witness of St. Sophrony of Essex, another great luminary of our modern times: 
“We must avoid addressing ourselves to God in a superficial casual way. For this reason Elder Sophrony goes so far as to say that the language we use in prayer must be different from the ordinary language of everyday usage. That is why he insisted that the language of the liturgy should not be translated into the contemporary spoken vernacular.‘ A lot of people today would strongly object to that suggestion,’ I pointed out.’ They demand that church services be conducted in the spoken ordinary language so that they can understand what is being said.’ Why did Elder Sophrony hold to such a position? Elder Sophrony claimed that when we conduct the liturgy using everyday language, we lower the level of our communication with God.‘ How is that so?’ I asked. 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” (Markides, Kyriakos C., Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality, Random House-Doubleday, NY, 2005).

King James English and Orthodox Worship by Fr. John Whiteford:

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Signatures: 109Next Goal: 200
Support now