DIVINE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHURCH SLAVONIC LETTERS . . . Larisa Dmitrieva Micallef PhD has given us a compact volume which is eminently readable and educational and practical, in familiarizing one and assisting one in the reading of Church Slavonic. Written by a true scholar, Larisa presents the letters (visually printed) of the alphabet letter by letter, providing its pronunciation in sound and word context; and as Church Slavonic is a phonetic language, once one can pronounce the letters, one can easily read and pronounce the printed words and texts of liturgical books.
Larisa also provides a history of the Church Slavonic language and letters, and their symbolic religious dimensions and associations . . . showing how the letters themselves form a kind of basic catechism or “creed” of the faith, which become incorporated into every word one reads in the liturgical prayers and service books, and subtly communicate those truths with every word one reads. And so we have in addition to the texts of the prayers, also we receive the message of each letter that forms the words of those prayers or scripture passages.
Church Slavonic has been the “pan-Slavic” Orthodox Liturgical language used in all Slavic Orthodox church services (including by those Orthodox churches which, in history, have established intercommunion with the Roman Catholic Church, such as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) . . . for me, it is the language I grew up hearing in church and prayed. With the advent of more and more vernacular usage in churches, there has been in some places less use of Church Slavonic and in many ways, this brings a spiritual loss and a true “identity loss” within the individual as well. I have found Larisa’s book a great assist in re-familiarizing my own self with reading the Church Slavonic prayers and service books, in associating the visual print of the words; translating them into pronounced proper spoken sounds . . . the sounds that resonate with the faith I grew up with and in.
Larisa, I think, shows that while vernacular, be it Russian or Ukrainian or other, will always be a reality and need, it can never supplant or replace Church Slavonic . . . and the two can well co-exist to the benefit of the other.
I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to understand more about the language and its origin, its religious symbolisms and its usage . . . or who wish to pray the traditional prayers in the traditional language . . . I have had several Church Slavonic Grammars and dictionaries (slovniks), but in addition to the years of simply being in the presence of Church Slavonic as it is prayed, Larisa’s work has show it to be a most helpful reference to actively read those prayers and liturgical texts . . . and I thank her for writing and making it available.
(Source: Amazon US)