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A Dignified and Proper Language?

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Written by Basil on 06/13/2003 3:56 PM. Filed under:


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I’m happy to see that The Christian Activist has returned to cyberspace. Just as cool, I found an interesting feature article by Vladyka, his emminence Dmitri, Archbishop of Dallas and the Southi.e., our bishop. He discusses the state of English translations of the Byzantine rite and why they are in such a state of disrepair, plus some of the implications and results of that disrepair for the faithful.

As I am still reading this article, I have very little in the way of comment, except that I take great exception to the assumed equivalence of “archaic language” with language that is “traditional, dignified, artistic or poetic, reserved for and appropriate to worship, in other words, a religious language.” It is a gratuitous assumption, and it undermines the serious question at hand. Indeed, in the battle over language, I do not believe that anyone doubts that we should have a proper, dignified, elevated, poetic language for our services. The question is, “What exactly counts for such language?”

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2 Responses to “A Dignified and Proper Language?”

  1. Huw Raphael Says:

    I think the line needs to be drawn both ways. Certainly I have seen many *bad* faux Auld English tanslations inside Orthodoxy. The Jordanville Prayerbook is a good example – as are some passages in the Psalter According to the Seventy. There is no assurance that Old-style is good, just as there is none that new style is bad (or vice versa). ECUSA’s 1979 BCP, apart from theological issues, has good, usable versions of both styles.

  2. Wayne Leman Says:

    Wow, or should I say, “of a truth”! :-)

    My family goes back many generations in Russian Orthodoxy. It was difficult for some when Russian was no longer spoken enough in our little American community to continue using Russian (actually, Old Church Slavonic) in the liturgy. The change was made to English.

    And when I grew up, I did my university studies in linguistics and became a linguist. One of my great interests is language used in liturgy and Scripture translations. This is, indeed, a subject worthy of deep discussion and debate. Sacred things are worthy of being spoken of with dignity. And yet, as you have pointed out, it is not necessary to use archaic language to speak in sacred ways.

    I started a blog recently which addresses some of these very questions as they have to do with English translations of the Bible. I think you can get to my blog by clicking on a link next to this post, if you would like.

    Blessings,
    Wayne