A New Prayerbook
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
On May 11th of this year the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, with the blessing of Metropolitan John, unveiled the newly published “Good Shepherd” prayer book. The publishing of this prayer book is undoubtedly one of the most significant events in the life of the UOCC over the past decade. For the first time we have a standard, bi-lingual edition of all major and minor feasts and services.
We all understand that it is impossible to have a prayer book which suits everyone’s tastes and preferences. The liturgical commission has done a marvelous job in crystallizing vast amounts of material down to a text which reflects both the meaning and the majesty of our spiritual heritage in a bilingual format.
The heart of our liturgical and prayer life is the Psalms. The Orthodox Church continues to use the Septuagint text of the psalms (i.e., the Greek psalter, translated in the 3rd century B.C. from the Hebrew), which was used universally within Christendom until the 16th Century. Martin Luther’s edition of the Bible, which is the version currently used by Protestants, not only omits certain of the Old Testament books, but uses the Hebrew Masoretic text (which wasn’t edited into its final form by Hebrew scholars until the 9th century A.D.) as its base. So the first step in preparing a new translation for our prayer book consisted of finding a suitable translation of the Septuagint psalms in modern English.
The English translation of the Psalms used in the new prayer book was made by Fr. Seraphim (Dedes), a monk of Mt. Athos who is totally fluent in both English and Biblical Greek. Our Ukrainian text is based on the 1936 edition of the Psalter published with the blessing of Metropolitan Dionysius by the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, as well as the current editions of the Horologion and Psalter published by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate.
In regards to the hymns, prayers and service texts the Liturgical commission strove to maintain a close affinity to the most recent Liturgical translations which have been published in Ukraine by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate, while at the same time taking into account the translations currently used by our faithful. Both the Ukrainian and the English translations of all liturgical hymns, prayers, service texts etc. were rigorously compared to the original Greek and Slavonic texts. One of the major problems of the prayer book published in 2000 A.D. by the joint liturgical commission of the UOCC and UOCUSA was that in many places it was not a translation so much as a paraphrase – a very serious problem which our liturgical commission sought to avoid at all costs.
Two of the most common questions raised regarding this new prayer book have to do with its size and whether or not the rubrics for sitting and standing at Liturgy are included.
As to its size, we must keep in mind that this “Dobryj Pastyr” prayer book was intended from the beginning to be a “cradle to grave” prayer book, including all the prayers and services which an Orthodox Christian will require for their daily spiritual life, as well as for their liturgical needs. It is the first of a series of books which are in preparation, including bi-lingual versions of the Priest’s service book, the funeral, and a Divine Liturgy pew book. It was necessary to start with this large book, so that the texts of consequent books can be standardized. Given the amount of material it contains, it is surprisingly compact and handy.
No rubrics are printed in the Liturgy section indicating when to stand and when to sit during Liturgy. While such directions are not found either in the original “Dobryj Pastyr” or in contemporary prayer books from Ukraine, these rubrics can be found in the booklet “How to Behave in God’s Temple”, along with much other important and valuable information.
As to the future work of the liturgical commission, besides the publishing of the books mentioned above, work is in progress to publish all the new texts under notes in both Kyivan and Galician settings. It is envisioned that by summer’s end a simple version of the Divine Liturgy, the set hymns for Vesper and Matins, the 8 Resurrectional and Vesperal tones with Prokeimen melodies, etc., will be available both under notes and on CD.
Truly, much work has been completed, but much yet remains to be done. May the publishing of this new prayer book help spark a spiritual and liturgical renewal in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. But such a renewal can only begin if these prayer books end up where they belong: not in a box, not on a shelf, but in the hands of the faithful – every day.