The Sundays of the Council Fathers

In the Symbol of Faith or Creed, we say that we believe in an “apostolic” Church – that is, one built on the foundation of the witness and teaching of the apostles (Ephesians 2:20).  These teachings were then passed on and expounded by the early bishops, especially those who met periodically to resolve issues in Church teaching and practice – the “Council Fathers.”

Any who has attended services in the Byzantine Rite over the course of a year knows that we devote several Sundays to these Fathers, but the progress of these feasts makes more sense it we order them within the calendar years (January to December) instead of the liturgical year (September to August):

  • Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
    (Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost)
    This council, held at Nicea in the year 325, settled the Church’s teaching on the relationship of God the Son to God  the Father, and firmly taught the divinity of the Holy Spirit

  • Sunday of the Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils
    (Sunday closest to July 16)
    This combines older individual feasts for the first six great councils: Nicea (325), Constantinople I (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople II (536); Constantinople III (680).  These councils clarified the Church’s teaching on the Person of Jesus Christ, and resolved issues of church order and practice.

  • Sunday of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council
    (Sunday closest to October 14)
    The council, held at Nicea in 787, settled the Church’s teaching on the veneration of icons, holding that “honor given to the image passes over to the one represented.”

On all three Sundays, we sing the troparion of the Council Fathers:

O Christ our God, you are above all praise. * You have established our fathers as beacons on the earth, * leading us all to the true faith through them. * O most merciful Lord, glory to you!

and the following prokeimenon (Daniel 3:26), which is also used for the “fathers” of the Old Testament:

Blessed are you and praiseworthy, O Lord, * the God of our Fathers, * and glorious forever is your name.
V. For you are just in all you have done for us.

The Vespers and Matins hymns for each Sunday recount the history and teaching of the various councils.  But putting them in the above order does make them easier to remember!

A Book of Hours for our church

For our round of daily liturgical prayer, there are a lot of possible needs: books for clergy and people, church and home, with or without music. Until now, it’s taken a LOT of work to find pray-able editions of these books, especially ones that use our translations and music.

Earlier this year, the Seminary Press asked me to prepare new editions of the MCI Sunday Matins and Vespers books, and perhaps add new books for daily services.  Instead, I’ve submitted a proposal for a full set of books for the Divine Praises – one which I think will meet quite a few different needs.

Here is the proposal as it stands.  I hope to begin working on it later this month.

1. Service book for Vespers (done): clergy texts, complete rubrics, with details for Sunday evenings in Lent, Great and Holy Friday, and Vespers with Divine Liturgy.

2. Service book for Matins: clergy texts, complete rubrics, with details for Paschal Matins

3. Horologion, Vol. 1: The Greater Hours: Vespers and Matins for church or home, ordinary + octoechos (partial for Matins) + commons of saints – basically enough to do SOME sort of Vespers and Matins on any ordinary day

4. Horologion, Vol 2: The Lesser Hours: Hours and Compline for church or home – ordinary + troparia/kontakia  for the year – enough to do Hours and Compline on almost any day of the year.

5. Horologion, Vol 3 (maybe): Midnight Office, with octoechos

6. Musical supplements for Vespers, Matins, and Hours: one book each (the previous books are WITHOUT music, except for a very few things like O Joyful Light; instead, texts are pointed for chanting) – Vespers, Matins, Hours and Compline on any ordinary Sunday or weekday could be sung using just one supplement

7. Liturgical Psalter

8. Prayer book (material from the Horologion not included above: morning and evening prayers, Akathists, Paraklis, Molebens, preparation for Confession and Communion, explanation of the Jesus Prayer)

What do you think?

A Vesper Book for Priests and Deacons

One of the perennial issues with creating liturgical books here at the MCI is the whole question of how many  books per service, and what goes in them.  A book with everything for the cantor and people?  Cantor music in a separate book?  What about a book without music for parishes that want to reduce printing costs?  And of course, what about all the priest’s prayers and the detailed rubrics – where do those go? Continue reading “A Vesper Book for Priests and Deacons”

The Intereparchial Liturgical Commission

Many members of our church have heard of the Intereparchial Liturgical Commission, but few know more than that.  Here is a short account of the latest meeting.

First – why I was there

The Intereparchial Liturgical Commission exists to provide our bishops with recommendations for liturgical texts and translations.  I was appointed to the commission by Metropolitan William in 2014, with the express mission to better coordinate the work of the commission with that of the MCI.

The IELC normally meets twice a year.  In the past, the meetings rotated among the various eparchies, but because of the large collection of books and other materials needed, they now take place in a fixed location (at the chancery of the Eparchy of Phoenix) twice a year, usually in February and October.

October 2018

The latest meeting was held on October 16-19, beginning on Tuesday morning and ending around noon on Friday.

photo courtesy of Kathy Slonka, Eparchy of Phoenix

Members of the commission: Fr. Gregory Lozinski (Passaic), Fr. Edward Higgins (Passaic), Fr. Robert Pipta (Phoenix), Fr. David Petras (consultant), myself, and Fr. Michael Hayduk (Parma).  Not present: Fr. Elias Rafaj (Pittsburgh) and episcopal moderator Bishop Kurt Burnette.

This was Father Gregory’s first meeting, and he quickly fit into the routine that we’ve established for doing liturgical work. His background in sacred Scripture and his knowledge of Greek were especially helpful, since one  of our other members who is skilled in liturgical Greek (Father Elias) was not able to attend.

Books, books, books

The commission’s work is usually conducted with materials in a variety of languages.  For example, when going over a particular prayer or blessing, we may have open at one time:

  • A Greek text (sometimes two)
  • Several Slavonic versions (the official Roman text, together with editions from Lviv, Uzhorod, Presov, and Moscow)
  • As many as 5-6 English translations

Whenever possible, each language or variant is assigned to a particular commission member. In the process, we may also be consulting dictionaries, other liturgical books, and Bibles in multiple translations.

We go over each text or prayer in multiple languages, line by line, to ensure that the result conveys as much as possible the full sense of the original; is clear and doctrinally precise; flows well as English prose; and can be sung to the appropriate tone. The entire translation is read aloud one final time before being accepted and added to the minutes.

Final texts are submitted to the Council of Hierarchs (our bishops) for approval, and may also be provided to the Intereparchial Music Commission if musical settings are required.  For some services, such as the Divine Liturgies and the Holy Mysteries, nothing will be used without the bishops’ explicit approval;  in other cases, such as Vespers and the Hours, the IELC translations may be adopted by the Metropolitan Cantor Institute since they represent our “best available text.”

Focus for this meeting

During the last meeting, Father Andrew Deskevich (protosyncellus of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh) asked the commission to begin preparing a replacement Trebnyk or Euchologionthe book the priest uses for blessings throughout the liturgical year.  The IELC has already completed the Great Blessing of Water (at Theophany), the kneeling prayers of Pentecost, and blessing prayers for icons.  So at this meeting, we worked on:

  • the blessing of palms (Flowery Sunday)
  • the blessing of Paschal foods
  • the blessing of fruit (August 6)
  • the blessing of herbs and flowers (August 15)
  • the blessing of cars (July 20)
  • the blessing of any object

We also included the blessing of candles on February 2; although this blessing originally came from Roman Catholic sources, it is widely used in our church, and so it was included in the commission’s work at this meeting.

We also reviewed previous work on the priest’s funeral service, and made plans for the preparation of a new epistle book and a comprehensive collection of rites and prayers for the care of the sick (confession, Holy Communion, Anointing, and visitation of the sick by priests, deacons, or layfolk).

The Psalter

The book of Psalms is essential to the work of the IELC, since the psalms make up such a large part of our liturgical worship.  Our base Psalter in English is the 1963 Grail translation, with the numbering of the psalms adjusted to match the Septuagint Greek.

The Grail translation is rather good English, and can be sung easily (an important feature in our church).  But since this translation was made from the Hebrew, and our liturgical texts are in Greek and Slavonic, it is often the case that a particular psalm verse must be adjusted in translation to match its liturgical context – for example, when a troparion or other hymn quotes a psalm verse, then expands on it.  In this case, the Grail version may have to be slightly retranslated to fit with the sense of the Greek and Slavonic.

To maintain consistency, the IELC keeps a copy of the complete Psalter with certain psalm verses “locked in” – that is, marked in bold face to show that they have been reviewed by the commission used in some final translation in our services.  Footnotes keep track of where each psalm or psalm verse is used. In the not-too-distant future, we hope to publish the entire psalter for liturgical use, long with the Scriptural canticles.  In the meantime, about 2/3 of the Psalter has been reviewed and locked in as the IELC completed work on Vespers, Matins, the Hours, and Compline.

I hope this helps make the work of the Intereparchial Liturgical Commission just a bit more understandable. Please comment here, or write me at, if you have questions!


The Online Menaion project

Astute users of the MCI website may have noticed a new entry in the left-hand navigation bar: Menaion.

The Menaion, of course, is the monthly book (twelve in all) with propers for divine services on each day of a particular month.  Such books are available in Greek and Church Slavonic;  in “King James” English; and in a modern English edition that follows Greek / Antiochean usage.  But until now, we have not had a complete set of these books for our church, using our translations and following Ruthenian Slav usage.

Continue reading “The Online Menaion project”

Moleben Monday!

Each Monday for the next several weeks, we will be adding a new moleben or prayer service to the Publications page of the MCI website.

Today’s addition is a Moleben Invoking the Help of the Holy Spirit, suitable for a church meeting or the start of any good work. It can also be celebrated as a patronal service for parishes dedicated to the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost).

As always, you can add “_booklet” before “.pdf” in the URL window of your web browser to get a link to a version suitable for printing in booklet form on 2-sided 11 by 14 inch paper.  Here is the direct link for this moleben so you can see what I mean.

If you have a particular moleben you would like to have for your parish’s use, please comment here!

Holy Week and Annunciation, 2016

This year, the feast of the Annunciation (March 25) falls on Great and Holy Friday. When this happens, the hymns for the eve of the feast are added to the celebration of Vespers with Divine Liturgy on Great and Holy Thursday, and Vespers with the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is celebrated on the evening of Great and Holy Friday. This is the only time a Divine Liturgy is ever celebrated on Friday of Holy Week.

The bishops of the Byzantine (Ruthenian) Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh have promulgated a pair of books with music to be used at these services. Copies of these books are being provided to each parish. On March 3, a two-hour presentation on these books and the music they contain was given in Pittsburgh. Here are the audio recordings of this presentation, for those who could not attend or see the live Internet feed of the presentation.

The Inter-Eparchial Liturgical Commission has recommended that parishes which celebrate Matins for Great and Holy Friday (the Service of the 12 Passion Gospels) include the matins Gospel of the Annunciation (Luke 1:39-49,56) between the seventh and eighth Gospels of the Passion, and add the commemoration of the Annunciation to the final dismissal. The MCI has prepared a leaflet with this recommendation.

If you have any questions, please contact us.