Songs of the Passion of Christ

We now come to one of the thornier problems in the hymnal project: those “Lenten hymns” which are really songs of the suffering of Christ on the Cross. These were often sung in connection with Stations of the Cross and other Lenten services which were imported from the Christian West, and replaced our own services such as the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, Lenten Vespers, and the Royal Hours on Great and Holy Friday.

In addition to those printed in our 1978 Divine Liturgy book, our “core” collection of these hymns is Father Levkulic’s Hymns for Great Lent. About half the context of this work is strictly liturgical: music for the Liturgy of Saint Basil, the Typical Psalms and Beatitudes, the troparion of Thursday, and the hymn, Beneath your compassion, which is sung at Vespers on fast days.  This music we already have in official versions, and need not concern us here.

There are also Lenten hymns in this  collection which are properly hymns of repentance, that could be sung at services throughout the Great Fast as well as our minor fasts.  We discussed those in a previous thread,  as well as a pair of songs for Palm Sunday.

The remaining hymns in this collection are very specifically about the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross. In our tradition, these would be most suitably sung during Great and Holy Week, especially on Holy Thursday and Holy Friday.

These should definitely be considered for the hymnal:

The ones marked with an asterisk could use a literal translation of the Slavonic to accompany the music, and also have additional verses we might want to consider. (One problem with some of our English hymns is that they take only the first few stanzas of a much longer composition, and so focus on only a small part of the whole drama of Christ’s death, burial, and Resurrection. In these cases, more verses would be a good thing!)

This hymn, though popular in our church in the past, has a very complicated history, as regards both text and music. I am looking for someone who would be willing to do the work to establish a printable version of it in English and Slavonic.

The following hymns are more problematic.  If your parish sings these hymns and you want them included, let me know in the comments.

  • O my Jesus, suffering in pain (O Isuse, poranennyj)
  • O my people, my people (L’udi moje, l’udi)
  • O soul so sinful (Hl’an duše moja)
  • We venerate, O Christ (Poklanjajusja, moj Christe)

Please leave your comments below – as well as any additional Lenten hymns you would like to have us consider!


Songs for Palm Sunday

In the previous post, we looked at hymns for the forty days of the Great Fast,  which ends on a Friday. The next day is Lazarus Saturday, and after that is Palm Sunday. These two days mark the transition from the Great Fast to the Great and Holy Week of the Lord’s Passion.

We have two traditional hymns for Palm Sunday – one newly composed in English, and one a translation of a Slavonic hymn (which is also used for our A setting of the Cherubic Hymn):

Both of these could use a bit of fine-tuning. Please read the discussion articles and add your thoughts below!

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!

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!

Traditional “English” Christmas Carols

All the spiritual songs we post on the MCI web site include English language versions – but for Christmas there are a collection of primarily “English” Christmas hymns and carols which were added to the Christmas Eve service book at the request of cantors, as text only (no music), so the words would be available for parishes that want to use them:

  • Angels we have heard on high
  • Hark! the herald angels sing
  • It came upon the midnight clear
  • Joy to the world
  • O come, all ye faithful
  • O little town of Bethlehem
  • Silent night

They can be found here. on pages 13-15, and I plan to incorporate them into the proposed hymnal, as you can see here.


  1. I am not convinced ALL of them are needed, or if there are others that should be included.
  2. We should at least consider adding the Rusyn (and perhaps even the Hungarian) texts for Silent night and O come, all ye faithful, since these exist and are sung in some of our parishes.

Your thoughts?

This will wrap up our discussion of Christmas hymns for now, so if you have any suggestions, please make them below!

Three Christmas Songs in Hungarian

When our church came into being in the US (formally in 1924), it served Rusyn, Hungarian, and Croatian Greek Catholics – basically, all those coming from within the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  In this country, we have had both Hungarian and Croatian parishes, of which a few are still in existence.

With this in mind, for the forthcoming hymnal I plan to include some of the best-loved or most frequently sung hymns from those traditions. So here are three Hungarian spiritual songs for Christmas:

The first is a Hungarian version of So nebes anhel (and may even have been the original version), so we already have it in English.  The other two are provided with new English translations.

When the hymnal is finally published, I plan to provide recordings of BOTH the Slavonic and Hungarian lyrics, as an aid to proper pronunciation.

Let me know what you think!

Christmas Songs Old and New

This third (and near-final) group of spiritual songs for Christmas includes two old favorites:

and three NEW English translations of Slavonic hymns:

Please look them over and post your comments below.  Wondrous news, in particular, has had a couple of small changes made to the English setting, and I would appreciate your thoughts.

For more about the new hymnal, see The Hymnal Project.

Many thanks to J. Michael Thompson, Kenneth Dilks, and Glenn Sedar for submitting English translations for potential use in the new collection!


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!