Brief Book Review: The Euchalogion Unveiled

The Euchologion Unveiled:
An Explanation of Byzantine Liturgical Practice II
By Archbishop Job Getcha

Who’s it for? Those involved in liturgical and pastoral ministry, primarily in the Orthodox Church, as well as liturgical historians and theologians interested in the development of the sacramental life of the Christian East.

What is this? This volume is the fourth book in the Orthodox Liturgy Series published by St. Vladimir’s Press and the second by Archbishop Job Getcha. This contribution explains the history and present rite of the sacraments of the Orthodox Church.

Why is this book useful? By examining selected manuscripts over the centuries, the author shows how these rites have evolved to their present form. The book is most helpful when it draws theological meaning from the text and their contextual rubrics.

Kudos. The volume not only presents the standard “seven” sacraments, but expands our understanding of the “mysteries” of the Church by using older lists (of what was  considered a “sacrament”) and includes the rites for taking Monastic vows, a Funeral (and its variations), sanctification of Myron [Chrism], Dedication of a Church and the Blessing of water (Great Blessing on Theophany as well as the small blessing.) The explanations are highly detailed and the author also outlines the differences in Slavic verses Greek practice of these rites. Of particular note are the parallels between the rites of Initiation of a Christian and the Dedication of a Church. In addition, liturgiologists might be especially interested in seeing the juxtaposition of the ancient Cathedral rite (i.e. the Asmaticos office) with the influence of the Palestinian monastic office in the funeral service prescribed for clergy.

Quibbles. As the title of the book suggests, the book references the service order and prayers found in the Euchologion [Prayer Book] of the Orthodox Church. The author assumes a familiarity with these prayers and only includes the opening phrase when referencing them.  For the reader unfamiliar with said prayers, cross-referencing with the Prayer Book is necessary. As customary in the Orthodox world (but not in other Christian traditions), the author references all psalms with LXX numbering. As noted above, the book is most helpful to pastors and students of liturgy when he draws a theological meaning from the text. However, the author also includes commentary from medieval mystagogical explanations of the rites that I found less helpful. Still, the work is well researched and a complement to his earlier contribution to the series.

Getcha, Archbishop Job. The Euchologion Unveiled: An Explanation of Byzantine Liturgical Practice II.  Yonkers, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2021. 259 pages. $32.00. ISBN: 9780881416350.

REVIEWER: Teva Regule
President of the Orthodox Theological Society in America
Adjunct Professor of Theology, Boston College

Webinar at Yale ISM: Religion and the War in Ukraine

The Yale Institute of Sacred Music will be holding a virtual webinar this Friday, March 11, at 2:30PM Eastern Time, titled “Unorthodox War: Religion and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.”

I will interview someone well known to readers of Pray Tell, and an expert on the subject: Dr. Nicholas Denysenko. Registration is required, but free. Please click here to register:

Further information about the virtual event:

Many of those fighting against each other in the war in Ukraine share the same religious views and commitments. Yet religion lies at the heart of the present conflict, one that stretches back decades. In this webinar interview, the Rev. Dr. Nicholas E. Denysenko, author of The Orthodox Church in Ukraine: A Century of Separation, will discuss the religious aspects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

We hope to see you Friday!

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Rev. Dr. Mark Roosien is Lecturer in Liturgical Studies at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School.

Pew Study on Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century

An Orthodox church in the Podil’ district of Kyiv, Ukraine.

The Pew Forum has released a new study on Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century. The study features insights on the practices and views of Orthodox people in the countries of the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. Readers interested in Ethiopian Orthodoxy will have plenty to discuss here. The researchers covered both Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy; the study says little about the Syrian and Coptic Churches, and Orthodoxy in India.

The Christmas Carol: A Reflection

by Nicholas Denysenko

Ой радуйся, земле, син Божий народився (Rejoice, o earth, for the son of God is born)

One of my favorite childhood memories is the singing of traditional Christmas carols. On January 7 (Christmas Day on the Julian calendar), after the festal Divine Liturgy, the parish choir came to my grandfather’s rectory and sang about an hour’s worth of the “greatest hits” of Ukrainian Christmas carols. For many years, our parish school would go to the homes of several parishioners and sing carols, anticipating the treats of piroshky (meat pies), varenyky (dumplings), sausage, and kapusta (cabbage). My favorite carol is an elongated version of the above refrain, known to Ukrainians throughout the world as “Добрий вечір тобі, пане господарю” (Good evening to you, honored host”), a song assuming that carolers are announcing the good news of a series of feasts to come to the home of the host family, who will then reward the carolers with the riches of food and drink.

If this sounds a bit odd, it is, as I attended a Ukrainian Orthodox parish that followed the Julian calendar with many immigrants, and my grandfather was their pastor.  Even though my brother and I weren’t fluent in Ukrainian and often complained about the incomprehensibility of the Old World liturgy, we knew the carols as well as the old timers, and sang them with equal enthusiasm.

As immigrant parishes aged and the immigrants began to pass away, many of these traditions started to wane. I wandered to different Orthodox parishes and found that some of them were either unaware of the old carols or viewed them as inferior to the rich corpus of Byzantine hymnography explaining the profundity of God’s incarnation. Anyone can examine the hymns of the Byzantine liturgical offices for Christmas and discover a wealth of theology rooted in the Bible and the Greek patristic tradition.

But what about Christmas carols? Do the cultures that cultivate carols and allow them a place of privilege in Church impoverish the liturgy, or enrich it? I have my own opinion, based on my recent experience with my three-year old daughter. She takes Spanish at her preschool and we do not speak Ukrainian at home. She learns plenty of kid-friendly songs at preschool and sings them with gusto at home, and is not usually interested in liturgical music. Because I am stubborn, I find my favorite Ukrainian carols on YouTube and in old CD collections and sing them every year. One might call me an antiquarianist, though I maintain that I am just being myself. Whatever the case, to my surprise, my daughter picked up on my favorite Ukrainian carol and has been singing it with me every night for the last two weeks, even through a bout of laryngitis. She requests it every night before bed, and throughout the day on winter “vacation.”

My initial thought was that her interest in the song demonstrates the power of a melodic refrain, easy to memorize and repeat, accessible to the average singer. While this is true, I cannot help but wonder if something deeper is at play, the power not only of refrain, but of a song or collection of songs that truly comes from and belongs to the people, not necessarily cultivated in monasteries or the academy, but truly a theology of the common people.  Songs that are not necessarily assigned to the liturgy, but are not alien to it, songs that have the power to communicate the good news of the Lord’s birth on an authentic global stage, even in the daily turbulence of snarled traffic, crowded malls, and image oversaturation. My heart tells me that my daughter has taught me a valuable lesson, that the Christmas carol simultaneously offers God a real gift and graces those who hear it with the essentials of the mystery of Christ’s incarnation, a beautiful testimony to the resilience of the people’s theology in the cacophony of contemporary culture.


Nicholas Denysenko is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies and director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute at Loyola Marymount University. He is the author of The Blessing of Waters and Epiphany

Paris Orthodox Go Modern

The Atlantic has an interesting article on a controversial new Russian Orthodox Church and Cultural Center to be built near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Photo via ArchDaily

The article notes that:

The project is staunchly opposed by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who has described the architecture as “pastiche” and “mediocre.” […] In 2011, the online real-estate television station La Chaine Immo announced plans for the cathedral with enthusiasm, describing the building as a “happy marriage between tradition and modernity.”

What do you think? “Pastiche” and “mediocre” or a “happy marriage between tradition and modernity?”

A much more extensive treatment of this project from an architectural standpoint is available from ArchDaily.