Five Christmas Songs

Here are is the second batch of spiritual songs for Christmas that we are considering as part of the Hymnal Project.  Click on the link for the status and discussion page for each one, and see what you think:

Please post your thoughts and suggestions by leaving a comment below!

The current status of the entire project can be found by going to the MCI website (  Look on the left-hand side to find The Hymnal Project, and then click on any Discuss link in the article – especially the ones in bold face, since these are the songs we are focussing on currently.

And if  you have suggestions for Christmas songs or hymns to add, now is a very good time to do so!  I hope to have a first draft of the Christmas/Theophany portion of the hymnal done by December 16.

Four Christmas Songs

Here are the first four spiritual songs for Christmas that we are considering as part of the Hymnal Project.  Click on the link for the status and discussion page for each one, and see what you think:

Please post your thoughts and suggestions by leaving a comment below!

O who loves Nicholas the saintly?

The next spiritual song for the hymnal project is the popular hymn to our holy father Nicholas, bishop and wonderworker:

O who loves Nicholas the saintly?

Follow this link for the current state of the discussion, covering the Slavonic text, a few possible tweaks the the English, a new verse, and possible harmonizations.  Add your thoughts using the comment block below!

(I will admit that the commenting mechanism not working out QUITE as well as I had hoped.  I am considering the option of having weekly working sessions, using a phone/web conference.  If so, they will be on Thursday evenings.)

Also – now is a really good time to add your suggestions for any additional Christmas hymns we should work on.

Hymnal Project: Spiritual Songs for the Nativity of the Lord

Please add your suggestions to the blog entry for the Nativity hymns, or send me a note at Thanks!


O Father Nicholas

In the work on the hymnal project so far, we have considered:

  • a liturgical refrain turned into a spiritual song (“Come, O Jesus”)
  • an old (1970’s) paraliturgical hymn (“The Ancient Prophecies”), which required some work and benefited greatly from collaborative input
  • a more recent paraliturgical hymn (“Truly, Zion’s People”)

All three of these were in English, and for the time of the St. Phillip’s Fast (November 15-December 24).

Next, I’d like to take a look at our first hymn which has both Rusyn Slavonic and English Versions: the first of our two hymns to the bishop and wonder-worker Nicholas, archbishop of Myra in Lycia, whose feast is December 6.

This hymn was included in both the 1978 Divine Liturgies book and the MCI Byzantine Catholic Hymnal – but as you’ll see in the article, it has some issues to resolve before I can consider it in final form.

Read the following web page (which ends up covering quite a few topics, including two other hymns) and post your comments and questions here!

O Father Nicholas

Truly, Zion’s People

Here is another hymn for the Philippian Fast – this one by J. Michael Thompson, the founding director of the Metropolitan Cantor Institute.

This piece comes from a larger collection containing hymns for each Sunday of the liturgical year, as well as weekday and feast-day hymns.

QUESTION: would you rather see “new songs” such as these included in a comprehensive hymnal, or should there be separate books for “old” and “new” hymns?

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 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

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!

Spiritual Song: Come, O Jesus

Here is the FIRST discussion item for the Hymnal Project:

Come, O Jesus

Follow this link to see what we have to say about this hymn, and contribute to the article by leaving your comments here.

The basic format for each of these articles will be:

  • Introduction
  • Current version (if there is one)
  • Original language text, if there is one
  • English language text, with discussion
  • Melody or melodies, with discussion
  • Do we include in the hymnal?

This format may evolve, of course.  That, too,is open for discussion here!

Guidelines for a New Hymnal

In order to arrive at your destination, you first have to decide what it IS. With that in mind, I’d like to propose some general guidelines for the content of a new hymnal for the Byzantine Catholic Church in the US.

  • It should contain all the hymns routinely sung in our churches, in both English and (where appropriate) the original languages such as Rusyn and Hungarian, with suitable pronunciation helps, and literal translations (though these may be made available separately rather than in the hymnal itself).
  • Hymns in English should be singable, correctly accented, and accord with our theology and spirituality.
  • All text and music should be properly credited where the originator(s) can be identified.
  • The hymnal should be organized in such a way that it is easy to locate desired hymns.

In addition:

  • When a hymn has several verses, there should be regular: that is, slurs should occur in particular places, and accents should not move from one verse to the next.
  • When the same melody is used for several different hymns, the same basic form of the melody should be used.
  • Notated music should be clear: in particular, any harmonization should be in a supplement rather than in the main hymnal.

Please post your thoughts and suggestions below!

Spiritual Songs for the Nativity

What are spiritual songs?

For more than ten years, our Church has suffered from the lack of a collection of our spiritual songs (I prefer than term to paraliturgical hymns, although they mean the same thing – music for singing by the people, on spiritual themes, but not part of the Liturgy itself).

Last year, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute was asked by our Music Commission to begin work on such a collection. This project officially starts today, with spiritual songs for the Nativity season, along with hymns for Saint Nicholas and Theophany.

What you can do to help

Here is a list of songs for the Nativity season (from November 14 to January 6) that I am planning to work on over the next  month.  Each each song, these will be a thread on this blog covering its history, versions, music, and translations, along with any known issues we ought to resolve.

Please ADD (in a comment) anything you think should be on this list.

Please COME BACK periodically and add your thoughts on each hymn as the work progresses.

I hope to have a final version of this collection done one week before the feast of the Nativity.

Music for the Nativity Fast
Come, O Jesus (moleben responsory)
The Ancient Prophecies

Saint Nicholas
O Father Nicholas (Otce Nikolaje)
O who loves Nicholas the saintly (O kto kto)

Angels from heaven (So nebes anhel)
Eternal God, through gates of birth (Boh predvichnyj)
God the Lord eternal shows himself to us (Hospod, Boh predvichnyj)
God’s Son is B0rn (Boh sja razhdajet)
Heaven and earth now welcome their Redeemer (Nebo i zeml’a)
In the town of Bethlehem (V Viflejemi novina)
Jesus came from heaven (Spas nas narodilsjaa)
Joyful news to the whole world (Nova radost’ stala)
Joyful tidings come out day (Radost nam sja javl’ajet)
Rejoice, all nations, God has become man (Christos rodilsja)
Wondrous news to the whole world (Divnaja novina)
You three kings (Trije Cari)

The choirs of angels sing (Anhely sohlasno)
To Jordan’s water