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.
The latest meeting was held on October 16-19, beginning on Tuesday morning and ending around noon on Friday.
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
- 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 Euchologion – the 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have questions!