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Letter to Editor

On the Use of Greek in the Divine Liturgy

To the Editor:

I want to shout a loud amen! to Mr. Diamataris’ call for return to tradition and greater use of Greek in the liturgy. We’ve replaced Greek for English in many churches over the years to make services more widely accessible–and have found the results less than satisfying. This shouldn’t surprise. The church is not a lecture hall or a movie theatre, where immediate understanding of what is said matters. It is a congregation of the faithful brought together regularly to celebrate God’s Work: The Divine Liturgy. Deeper appreciation comes with commitment and study over time. Understanding every word uttered is not necessary.

Worshipers who want verbal comprehension can follow the liturgy in the language of their choice in books available in most churches. But the search for clarity in the liturgy is a chimera. The liturgy is a profound mystery beyond comprehension. We attend the church not in order to understand the liturgy, but to experience it. The incense, icons, ritual, chanting- they are all part of an inspired symphony lifting us closer to God. The language used needs to match the circumstance. Use of the vernacular mars that symphony. It diminishes the mystery and reduces the power of the liturgy to move us to “put away all worldly care, so that we may receive the King of all.”

Greek is uniquely suited to this symphony. Beyond its unparalleled acoustic beauty, it has been the language of the Church for 2000 years and is the original language of the liturgy. No translation can match its sublime richness. Let us keep it in churches already using it and bring it back where it has been abandoned.

Basil Zafiriou

Nepean, Ontario, Canada

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