Slavonic is a rich and vibrant part of our Orthodox heritage.
This liturgical language is not simply a remnant of our Orthodox
past but part of the very fabric of our communal worship of
God today. All Slavic Orthodox Churches were influenced by
Slavonic. Our rich hymnography and music are imbued with its
rhythm and meter. While English translations and musical arrangements
have made huge strides in conforming to traditional Orthodox
style, rarely do they approach Slavonic's spiritual majesty
Although Slavonic is far
from extinct in its usage, there is a natural pressure in
America to use English in the Divine Services. English speaking
converts and even many "cradle Orthodox ", immigrants and
American-born alike, have little understanding of Church Slavonic.
Having spent my youth hearing Slavonic every Sunday, it is
only now in adulthood, and some twenty years away from the
Church, that I finally have come to understand the Divine
Services after participating in services in English. Early
in my return to the Church I found myself constantly saying
"oh... this is what that means" as I regularly discovered
something new in the services. Like it or not, services in
English are crucial to bringing American Orthodox in step
with traditional Orthodoxy. However, it would be a great tragedy
for us to loose touch with this fundamental part of our spiritual
In reality few of
us have the time, motivation, nor perhaps the ability to assimilate
a new language, particularly one as esoteric as Slavonic.
Yet, some might welcome the chance to learn a prayer or two
in Slavonic. The Church Slavonic E-Tutor was developed with
this in mind. Its purpose is to help make Slavonic more accessible
and, God willing, promote interest in preserving its usage.
Saints Cyril and Methodius
were missionaries and linguists, known as the "Apostles to
the Slavs". They were brothers and members
of a noble family of Thessaloniki. St. Cyril (actually known
as Constantine until shortly before his death when he was
tonsured a monk) was librarian of the great cathedral of Hagia
Sophia in Constantinople until 860, when he resigned to join
St. Methodius, the abbot of a Greek monastery, in missionary
journeys to the Khazars and the Bulgarians.
In 862, Emperor Michael
III sent them to Moravia, where they taught and celebrated
the liturgy in the Slavonic vernacular, now known as Old Church
Slavonic. To translate the Bible into this previously unwritten
language, the brothers constructed a script for Slavonic known
today as glagolithic. Glagolithic is considered by some as
the precursor of Cyrillic. The Cyrillic alphabet used in modern
Slavic languages is often attributed to St. Cyril, but it
was probably the work of his followers.
St. Cyril died in Rome,
where the brothers had gone to defend themselves against German
leaders who wanted to enforce the use of the Latin liturgy
among the Slavs. St. Methodius was consecrated an archbishop
and later returned to Moravia as a papal legate.
The Church celebrates
on May 11 O.S./ May 24 N.S .
A Few Words About
project has been undertaken with the humble intent of helping
those interested in learning Slavonic. It does not purport
to be an authoritative resource. As always, it is best to
consult one's Spiritual Father or priest before undertaking
the study and use of Slavonic in one's prayer life.
Please forgive any errors or omissions.
Constructive input is encouraged. Since Slavonic materials
for English speakers seems to be quite scarce, the author
would appreciate submission of materials that might improve
or enhance this program.
Production, Design, and Programming
Audio Performance and Recording
Fr. Deacon Dimitri Jakimowicz