EDITOR’S NOTE (Nick Stamatakis). An Amazing voice, singing Byzantine Psalms – the first one in Greek!! This is an AMAZING performance – a real gift from God!! And proof that anyone can sing in Greek our beautiful Byzantine music!! Are you listening up there in the Boston Seminary? Let me remind all of you that our superb “Protopsaltis” George Bilalis years ago had started his Romeiko Group in the American South, where Americans of different denominations sang Byzantine Music in English and Greek!
BEAUTIFUL! Thank you!
Her voice and the hymns are so goose-bump beautiful, I could listen to her forever.
This is a very simple example of what a bit of authentic willingness can achieve…It’s really not hard for anybody to learn & understand the “few hundred” Greek words in Liturgy…”if” they really wanted to.
While it is certainly important to proclaim Orthodoxy in English (and all other languages) as well, in order to reach out to the non-Greek community, it is also important to remind folks that despite many valiant efforts, there does not exist a single “100% universally accurate & accepted” English translation of services, troparia, writings of the Fathers, etc…nor does English have the ability to accurately convey nuances of meanings of every Greek word out there… It gets even more complicated when you consider a lot of the troparia were “poems”, with meter and rhythm, and many times the “translations” out there are actually un-chantable as they are written. When we explain this in a peaceful and factual manner to the “non-Greek” speakers, they are usually more open to “learn” something from the original Language.
This lack of understanding of Original Scriptural Language is the main reason there are thousands of “denominations” out there…misinterpretations and incorrect translations can ONLY be avoided by understanding the original Greek. For anyone who is skeptical about this, please read how Theophylaktos of Ochrid and St. John Chrysostom explain the phrases that Martin Luther based his “salvation by faith alone” Dogma, and then count how many splinter groups we have today who base their own dogmas on that original Protestant movement…
Something for readers to consider…
In US colleges and Universities, there are generally two categories of people who sign up for Classical (Ancient) Greek classes.
1) Those who are majoring in Classics
2) Those who want to read and study Scripture in the original language. And there are MANY of them.
Ironically, these are usually the same “zealous” Evangelicals that cause up to 60% (reportedly) of the Greek diaspora youth to stray from Orthodoxy after they leave home for college.
Unfortunately, most of the diaspora Greeks spend their time learning Spanish, French, etc in order to fulfill their “College language requirement”. Then, they eagerly proceed to “invest” their free electives in “fun classes” like basket-weaving…yet they hesitate to invest 2 semesters of “free electives” in basic Ancient Greek that would literally “unlock” liturgical Greek for them forever, and maybe give them some “spiritual fuel” to combat the “persuasive, bullying heretics” they encounter later in life…Granted, not every College has a Classics department, but a large percentage of them do…In theory, Holy Cross in Brookline was supposed to teach some ancient Greek too…what happened to that online class for others in the diaspora who may be interested as well?
Unfortunately, many of the “financially successful children of the diaspora” spend the rest of their lives flaunting their hard-earned Bachelors / Masters / PhD degrees while simultaneously complaining that “they don’t understand” Greek in Church (reminder, Liturgy only consists of a few hundred words [exclamations & responses] that repeat every week). Sure…they maintain that don’t understand Greek, but when many of these same folks exit the Church after the first 3 “Christ is Risen” at the Resurrection service, doesn’t that “Holy Week book” they are holding also write in clear English the first verse that follows, “Let God Arise, and His enemies be scattered?”….and these folks are actively walking out at that very moment? Does this mean they don’t understand English either, despite the college degrees that they flaunt? If they don’t understand English either, then why are they ONLY complaining about not understanding Greek? That can be viewed as a bit biased, right? So you see…the root cause of this problem is really elsewhere, isn’t it?
The Greek language survived 400 years of Ottoman occupation because the same ancestors of the diaspora decided they didn’t want to forcefully be converted to islam. They didn’t have access to education, and yet, miraculously, somehow the language and religion survived. Our grandparents didn’t understand much ancient Greek either, and some of them didn’t even have a Grammar school education, but they went to Church from the beginning of Orthros respecting the “ancient language” as “the words of God”…they would feel “blessed” just by listening to “Holy Words”…it was of course the role of the priest to catechize the people and make them understand those “Holy Words”, too…the sermon has always been a key point of our liturgy, dating back to the original days of Early Christianity, where there were no printing presses, and copies of Scripture were only affordable by those most wealthy…Liturgy was purposely designed to be repeatable and “easily memorized”, even by those who didn’t know how to read and write. In this light, it is actually almost a “self insult” for an educated person to say “I don’t understand a few hundred words in liturgical Greek, but I have a College degree”.
On Judgement Day, everyone will rise, even those who died 1700 years ago and who didn’t have an educational opportunity like we do today…how will our modern-day excuses compare to their “καλην απολογια, την επι του φοβερου βηματος του Χριστου”? (we hear that in liturgy as “good account before the awesome Judgement Seat of Christ”)
Now, in times of relative peace and prosperity, with every educational opportunity available to us, we watch the younger generations turn their backs to the huge opportunity they have to learn what their ancestors could not, and even worse, they leave for other denominations. The “opportunity” to learn doesn’t interest them, because it is not important to them. They tend to adopt the “neo-Protestant” mindset that was taught to them by their diaspora parents “I didn’t steal, I didn’t murder anyone…I’m a good person” (a.k.a. I am “saved”, as the Protestants would say)….The final nail in this coffin is the Church Hierarchy itself, as it adopts an “increasingly compromising” approach that first started with the “removal of Greek” from services, paralleled with the destruction of Byzantine musical tradition in favor of “operesque” choir renditions for services and troparia (even at a time when a plethora of western music for beautiful Byzantine renditions actually exists), and has visibly progressed in recent years to “ignoring Canons and Tradition”, which in turn ultimately leads to a de facto dilution of the Faith, in order to “accommodate” the increasing population of those who are influenced by heretical thinking…
There is a reason why Scripture associates the word “lukewarm” with “vomit”…
My sentiments will be quite brief, but I cannot even start to express my personal gratitude for this wonderful and meaningful article that you have written. The young people have missed an important aspect of both their potential and education. If they learned, or chose to learn Greek, the doors of academia will all be open to them, as they will confront numerous Greek words and compound words with Greek roots. God bless you; we need more concerned and faithful people such as yourself.
The Romanians have some outstanding Byzantine chanters and teachers.. My friends nephew below:
ENJOY THIS ANGEL.
Beautiful! As a Greek married to a Romanian, I always look forward every December to the many delightful Romanian Christmas carols. Listen to the first couple of songs from the group Tronos…for a little Christmas in May. https://youtu.be/QAJhgr5TGoM