Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Hospody Pomylui": Lord, Have Mercy

One of the great myths of Orthodoxy in America is that we cannot fulfill our evangelical mandate if we use Greek, or Slavonic, or Arabic, or Serbian. While I there is much to be said for using English as the base language of our liturgical life, we ought not to underestimate the importance of using Greek, or Slavonic, or Arabic, or Serbian as a way of reaching American inquirers to the Orthodox Church.

In light of this I offer the following video of the "Soul Children of Chicago" for consideration:

What the children are singing is "Hospody Pomylui!" or "Lord, Have Mercy!" in what I Ukrainian (the audio quality is not what I would hope--so it is a bit hard to make out).

A cute story from back in the day: I had a family of lapsed Evangelical Christians who were investigating the Orthodox Church. The parish I was serving at the time used a small amount of Greek in the Divine Liturgy. The youngest son in the family, then 7 or 8, was quite taken with the Greek phrase "Kyrie Eleison" or "Lord, have mercy!"

Well, on afternoon his mother told me that her son had been sing "Kyrie Eleison" all afternoon. She asked him what he was sing and he told her, "Mom, I'm sing 'Lord have mercy' in Greek" When asked how long he was going to keep singing this (he'd gone on for several hours by this point), he answered "Until it happens."

While the exclusive use of Greek, or Slavonic, or Arabic, or Serbian or any other traditional Orthodox liturgical language is rarely a good idea, we cannot limit ourselves exclusively to English (or in coming years, Spanish). The question of language is pastorally complex and we would do well to not artificially limit ourselves to only some parts of the Church's tradition.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory