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?

Draft hymnal is done!

The draft version of the new hymnal is complete (for now) and has been sent to the Inter-Eparchial Music Commission for their review and improvement.

Here is the version that was submitted: Hymnal – draft – 2019-11

Formatting will be cleaned up a bit more before publication. In the meantime, if you find any errors or infelicities, please let me know and I will make sure they are fixed in the final version.

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”

New books for Lenten Sunday Vespers!

I am pleased to announce updated versions of two books from the Metropolitan Cantor Institute:

The Order of Vespers on the Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) and the Sundays of the Great Fast

This book (88 pages) contains the complete service of Vespers on Cheesefare Sunday afternoon and on the five Sundays of the Great Fast – everything but the saints’ stichera, which change from you to year.

The Order of Vespers for the Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday)

This book (28 pages) contains ONLY the service for Vespers on the afternoon of Cheesefare Sunday, along with the service of mutual forgiveness (which is also in the larger book for the entire Fast). This smaller book does not include the stichera of repentance in the Eight Tones, or any saints’ stichera, so it is exactly the same from one year to the next.

What’s new about these books?

  • They use more current translations of Vespers, matching the Divine Liturgies and Presanctified books wherever appropriate – both text and music.
  • Music is provided for all psalm verses at the Lamp-lighting Psalms and aposticha, so there is no need for a second book, or large leaflets with this music.
  • The formatting has been vastly improved, and I intend to use the same style (perhaps with further improvements) for the other MCI Vespers books as they are revised.
  • Music has been smoothed out where necessary, and typos have been corrected.

For parishes that celebrate Sunday afternoon Vespers several times during the Great Fast, I recommend the larger book, while parishes that celebrate ONLY Forgiveness Vespers might want to stick to the smaller one. Both books are intended for printing in booklet form on legal size paper. Here the the prepared booklet versions:

The Order of Vespers on the Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) and the Sundays of the Great Fast – camera ready version

The Order of Vespers for the Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) – camera ready version

One thing these books do not include is the text of the prayers said privately by the priest, such as the Prayers of Light, as well as detailed rubrics for celebration. Rather than putting these in every single MCI book for Vespers (and having the cantor and congregation have to leaf past them), we have created a NEW book containing the priest’s and deacon’s parts of Vespers – both Great and daily Vespers, AND the rubrics for Vespers with the Divine Liturgy, the All-Night Vigil, and Great and Holy Friday.  Watch for a blog post coming soon!

Changes to MCI music in 2019

It’s been twelve full years since the new Divine Liturgy books were published and distributed, and fifteen years since the MCI began regularly distributing music for liturgical services.  With that in mind, I am planning on making a few changes in the coming year.

Communion Hymns – starting in 2005, the MCI distributed music for liturgical Communion Hymn of the day using a full assortment of the various Cherubic Hymn melodies, in order to help cantors and congregations learn them.  But we are long past that point, and so in the New Year, the MCI will only print the TEXT of the Communion Hymn(s) of the day, allowing the  cantor free choice of which melody to use. The exception for now will be a few feast days where the green book has a very specific seasonal melody to use; for now, these will be left in the propers.

Remember that the Cantor’s Companion has a table of ALL the Communion Hymns, and where they can be found in the Divine Liturgies book to each of the different Cherubic Hymn melodies.  You can also use this handout.

Vespers – the current MCI Vespers books were prepared in 2005-2006, and don’t always match the texts, music and rubrics in  our 2007 Divine Liturgies book and 2010 Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts book.  In the coming year, ALL the MCI Vespers books will be getting a much needed revision to match official texts and  correct various typos and infelicities which have been noted over the years.  Stay tuned!

The Hymnal Project – this will continue through 2019, and with luck a draft will go to the Music Commission next Fall.  Watch the blog!

The Harmonization Project – as part of our work toward chant and church music revitalization, in January we will be launching a project to make available harmonized (3- and 4-part) settings of plain chant and spiritual songs, along with materials to help teach and learn choral singing in church.

New music – there is at least some music which we might fruitfully introduce, now that most parishes are used to what is in our Divine Liturgies books (after ten years, I can’t call them new!).  For example, there are settings of the Cherubic Hymn into English which might be added to our repertoire, as well as complete collections of all the Communion Hymns set to each melody. This will probably be a project for later in the year, but I would welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

Online classes – these will continue.  The introductory courses in liturgy and church singing can be taken for free, and I am adding one in the history of our chant.  The remaining courses follow a regular schedule, and can be completed in two years from beginning to end, at a cost of about $35  per month.  Classes on reading in church, the liturgical year, and music for the Great Fast start on January 7.  See the classes page for more information.

As you can see, we have a lot going on – but the goal here is the glorification of God through the singing and worship in our parishes.  Christ is born!

Hymnal roundup: Christmas and Theophany

So the first part of the forthcoming hymnal – material for Christmas and Theophany – is basically complete, and the results are available online in the second edition of the Byzantine Catholic Hymnal for Nativity and Theophany.  Take a look!

There are a couple of pending issues on these:

In the town of Bethlehem could use a new translation, one which includes more than just two of the seven Slavonic verses, avoids bad accents, and which keeps the poetic conceit of ending each verse with some sort of the name, “Mary.”

Jesus came from heaven – I would love to have a complete singable setting of Spas naš narodilsja, which also avoids the theological issues of “Jesus coming from heaven.”

Jasna zorja – this uses the tune of Silent Night, but has a different text. I would like to include this in the hymnal, but in general nothing goes in with a non-English text unless there is also a translation provided (whether singable, as a separate hymn, or a literal English translation to put beneath the Rusyn Slavonic hymn.  Anyone out there who can provide either a literal translation, or some history on this hymn, please drop me a note at mci@archpitt.org!

Silent Night – there IS a literal translation into Magyar (which I have) and one into Slavonic (which I don’t – or rather, the only text I have isn’t clear on how to match the text to the melody). Can anyone provide a text for Ticha noč, or text and music, that have been in actual use?

I am starting to fill in the tables at The Hymnal Project with things to work on for the Great Fast (which we will start on in January), Pascha (March-April), the Mother of God (May-June), and the saints and lesser feasts (July-August). God willing, by September we should have something to hand off to the Music Commission, and perhaps be able to publish it for next Christmas. As always,  your suggestions are welcome!

Intro to Church Singing is now free

As of November 4, the MCI Online class Introduction to Church Singing can be taken for free by all cantors, clergy, and parishioners of Byzantine Catholic parishes in the United States. (Non-members can take the class for $75.) This class teaches the basics for singing in church – musical sound, fundamentals of singing and reading music, and how to lead basic responses used in all services. Recommended for anyone who wants to learn our plain chant!

The course itself has been somewhat reorganized, with the addition of a new teaching song for the degrees of the scale, a full set of voice training videos, and new material in the final week on chant harmonization.

You can request an ID at https://mci.archpitt.org/online at any time and sign up.   (Offer is for members of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the US;  for others, tuition is $75.)  If there is someone in your parish who would like to learn to sing our plain chant, please encourage them to try this course out!

In the past, we had some e-mail problems with the Archeparchy’s web server provider.  So if you previously requested an ID, try logging in. If you have questions or difficulties, write me directly at mci@archpitt.org.

One request: if you have an ID, or get one, please update your profile entry with your parish name in the form “<name”, <city> <state>” – for example, “St. Mary’s, Morgantown WV.”  If you just enter “St. John the Baptist” is makes it quite hard for me to tell where you actually are!

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 mci@archpitt.org, if you have questions!


New articles on the MCI website: Fall 2018

With the completion of the classes on The Liturgical Year and Hierarchical and Reader Services, the following articles on the MCI website have been added or revised:

The Liturgical Year

Hierarchical services
The Mystery of Priesthood
Reader Services
The Hours


Singing the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy
Singing the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy
Singing the Daytime Hours
Singing the Service of Typika
Singing the Wedding Service with Divine Liturgy

Questions, corrections, and suggestions are welcome!  All MCI Online are enabled for guest access (you only have to register if you want to do the coursework and receive feedback and assistance with  your singing):


Congratulations, Spring 2018 MCI Students!

The following students have successfully completed MCI Online courses in the first half of 2018.

Introduction to Liturgy
Robert Bartz
Danielle Bates
John Ference
Joseph Grayeske
David Hennessy
Michael Komishock
Deirdre Manasterski
Maria McKay
Luke Potts
Mark Stachowiak
Mark Tamisiea
Judith Walsh

Introduction to the Typikon
Robert Bartz
Robert Dillon
joseph Grayeske
David Hennessy
Michael Komishock
Sue Ann Rudolphy
Colin Ventrella
Judith Walsh

Introduction to Church Singing
Robert Dillon
David Hennessy
Colin Ventralla

Reading in Church
Andrea Riley
Sue Ann Rudolphy

Introduction to the Divine Liturgy
Sue Ann Rudolphy

The Divine Liturgy
Sherill Franklin
Susan Kopko
Andrea Riley
Amy Seyfried

The Office of Vespers
Samuel Popiel
Sue Ann Rudolphy
Angela Sedun

Mastering the Eight T0nes
Samuel Popiel
Angela Sedun

Services for the Living
Andrea Riley
Amy Seyfried

Congratulations to all!