The Divine Liturgies of St John Chrysostom and St Basil the Great Edited by David Frost, Aquila Books, £7
David Frost’s edition of the Byzantine Liturgies of St John Chrysostom and St Basil the Great has much to commend it. The inclusion of the 4th-century Liturgy of St Basil is particularly welcome – many liturgical books omit it, but it is used extensively during Lent by Eastern Christians. Even though the Liturgies of St John Chrysostom and St Basil both have a very similar structure, I can testify that it is highly frustrating trying to follow St Basil’s sublime ritual if you only have the text of St John Chrysostom in front of you. The addition of the Troparia and Kontakia (liturgical hymns) for Sundays and greater feasts is a helpful extra.
The translation is an elegant yet accessible rendering of the original Greek, which I suspect would be rather effective in services. But I must admit to being bitterly disappointed that Frost, principal of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, opted for “Lord, have mercy” rather than “Kyrie Eleison” as the response to the litanies. Like many recent translators of the Divine Liturgy, Frost has also abandoned the use of thee/thou/thy which used to be characteristic of Orthodox services. But I wonder whether this approach will find favour with all Eastern Orthodox Churches?
As the introduction states, the aim of these translations is to establish an English text that could form the basis of bilingual editions for ethnic congregations. The first of these, a Romanian-English volume, impressed a Romanian-speaking friend of mine. This bodes well for any subsequent multi-lingual versions.
My biggest concern is whether the paperback format will survive repeated use in services. While it seems fairly sturdy, perhaps a cheap artificial leather cover would have been a better choice.