Minding Our Language

Minding Our Language


We’re an ethnic parish, jurisdictionally. But we’re not even close to monolithic culturally. This is the San Francisco Bay Area, after all. We’ve got a little bit of everybody all up in here.

Now Greek is Greek to me. But since I’ve studied a little bit of Greek, at least I can keep my head above water during liturgy. A little. (Or does that defy baptismal theology?)

In any case, here we are using the exact same translation as everyone else. In theory. They changed a couple words on us. It took a little getting used to. “Consubstantial” became “of one essence.” That sort of thing.

The premise behind making it uniform was that a visitor from another parish in the same jurisdiction wouldn’t feel embarrassed or put out because they showed up and said the wrong words.

I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think we need the variety. And here’s why.

Most parishes recite the Creed and the prayer in their primary language only. But we do it in Greek and in English. We constantly remind ourselves that there’s an original text, a proof to fall back on. We don’t need a “perfected” English translation.

Actually, there’s no such thing anyway. If Greek and English had an exact, one-to-one translation for absolutely every word in their lexicons (lexica?), I could understand a uniform translation. But not only is there no such one-to-one vocabulary match, nor were there even enough Greek words for them to write the Creed in the first place. They had to use made up words like “homoousios” just to describe the situation. And we’re expected to come up with a consistent translation?

A variety in the English diction reminds us to look back, reminds us that a group made a painstaking effort to get this right, reminds us not to mess with it.

I don’t think we should try to replace it.

This is about as close as I get to a rebellion against my hierarchy. Don’t worry, I’m still very far from it. But I’m glad that a few of our parishes are still holding out, resistant. At least on this subject. It’s not an issue worth splitting churches over, by any means.

But it is good for us to have to work a little bit to understand the really important stuff.

Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

About author

Jeff Holton

Jeff Holton likes to write (and read) about pretty much anything that piques his interest. These days, that especially includes Christianity, American history, social media, and space exploration.

He currently serves on Parish Council and teaches the high school class for his local parish, and he especially enjoys presenting the relevance of the faith and the astounding depth of the mysteries to his agape [pun intended] students.

He received a Master of Arts in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2004, presenting a thesis entitled Orthodox-Protestant Dialogue: An Analysis of a Subset of East-West Historical and Contemporary Interactions and a Justification for Orthodox Participation Therein. He continues to be driven by a strong, deep desire to see Christians of various identifications maintain positive dialogue with one another towards the eventual inclusion of all into the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.

Holton is a Business Analyst for Cisco in San Jose, where he focuses on communications and training development for their third-party sales partners. He lives in Livermore, CA, and enjoys playing with his guitar and with his children, but not necessarily in that order. "Children are harder to tune," he says, "but the melodies are a little more interesting, unpredictable, and jazzy." Jeff has additional writings, photos, and info accessible from his website.