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OCMC News - Theophany Greeting from the Colburn Missionary Family

by Dr. Michael Colburn (Posted 1/14/2015)

OCMC News - Theophany Greeting from the Colburn Missionary Family
The Colburns with two of the families that have "adopted" them in Greece while Dr. Colburn studies modern Greek and develops the first translator’s manual for liturgical translation.

Dear Friends and Family,

Rather than sending out a letter at Christmas or New Year’s Day, we decided to wait until Theophany, the Feast of Lights, the remembrance of Christ’s baptism. Why? Because for the next 4-6 years, in order to help priests and others who want liturgical texts in their mother tongues, our lives will be focused on the development of a Liturgical Translator’s Manual using the Canons of Theophany.

Last year, 2014, marked a major transition for us. Since 1977, I (Michael) worked to provide the Ogea people of Papua New Guinea with their first translation of the New Testament. I was not the translator, but rather the project initiator, facilitator, and advisor. Having learned Ogea, I could read the translation and give them feedback about the accuracy. With the printing of the Ogea New Testament and a special ceremony in Papua New Guinea last June where it was first distributed to the people, this chapter of our lives came to a close. The last year was also the start of a new chapter. In 2008, when we approached the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) about working with them after I retired from my computer software job with the US Government, they proposed that I take my knowledge of the principles and practices of the Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT) and apply them to the task of translating Orthodox Christian liturgical texts into the languages of the world. When I would review the translation of Ogea New Testament, there were many useful tools available to me. Translator’s Handbooks are available from the United Bible Society for each book of the Bible and provide an explanation of the meaning of the text, potential translation problems, and potential solutions. Today, no such books exist to aid translators of Orthodox Christian liturgical texts.

That is why we are in Greece. We are here to develop the first translator’s manual for liturgical translation. The first will be for the two Canons (hymns) of Theophany. A year ago, we were surprised by an invitation from the Rev. Dr. Chrysostom Nassis to prepare this first handbook under the guidance of faculty at the School of Pastoral and Social Theology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. Fr. Chrysostom is an Assistant Professor of Byzantine Liturgy. With the blessing of the leadership of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), we moved to Greece three months ago. The first year here, I am studying Modern Greek about 10 hours a day and must pass an exam the first week of June. If successful, I will be allowed to continue in a tuition-free program, preparing the handbook and a dissertation about the process and the results of testing it in Kenya. The dissertation will be prepared under the direction of Rev. Dr. Chrysostom Nassis, Dr. Symeon Paschalidis, and Dr. Anna Koltsiou. The official title of the dissertation is “The Development of a Liturgical Translator’s Manual for the Canons of Theophany and its Use in a Missionary Setting.” The research and process used to develop the manual will be documented and hopefully be useful to others who catch the vision of developing such manuals. The research could also lead to being awarded a theological degree from the university. Our plan is to be in Greece for two years, but it could take up to six years to complete and test the first translator’s manual. Many of the hierarchs worldwide are from Greece, Crete, or Cyprus, so it is advantageous to our work if the first handbook is reviewed and approved by faculty of a school of theology at a university they know and respect.

Why did we pick the hymns of the Canons of Theophany for the first translator's manual? Theophany is one of the major feasts in the Church calendar and is theologically rich. It is the manifestation of God as Triune (Theophany), the appearance of God in the flesh (Epiphany), historically a day when Christians were Illuminated (aka baptized) and therefore referred to as the Feast of Lights, and is a cosmic event--the baptism of Christ on our behalf, the sanctification of the waters, and cleansing of creation. There are two canons used on January 6 by the Church today--one by St. John of Damascus, the other by St. Cosmas the Hymnographer. They were foster brothers who grew up in Damascus in the 8th century and become monks at the Monastery of St. Savas near Jerusalem. Their compositions possess a high literary style and beauty. Therefore, these canons are good ones to use for an initial translator's manual. Also, they have not yet been translated into Swahili or other African languages, and the testing of the manual in Africa will lead to the first translations there.

Since the research for the handbook is being conducted through a tuition-free program and our living expenses while in Greece are mostly covered by my pension from my job with the US Government, only a small portion of our OCMC budget is for living expenses. The main part of our budget is for future trips to Kenya and other countries in our role as OCMC Mission Specialists. The purpose of the trips will be to train people in the use of AGES Liturgical Workbench and the Translation Management System (TMS). We plan on returning to Kenya for several weeks this summer and also hope to make a trip to Albania to introduce the software to them. Also, there have been requests from the Metropolitan of Korea and the Metropolitan of Hong Kong and South Asia. His Eminence Nektarios of Hong Kong wants to use AGES software to generate services in two Chinese languages, as well as languages in the Philippines and Indonesia. His Eminence Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea wants to use AGES for Korean. So, we will be working on a plan to provide training to them as well. There is also a need to enhance the TMS before then. Our hope is to have an Internet-based version, which will be easier for translators to use.

We pray that you all will have a blessed New Year in Christ our Lord!

The Colburn Family

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God of truth and love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Hear our prayer for those who do not know You. That they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth, and that Your Name may be praised among all peoples of the world. Sustain, inspire, and enlighten Your servants who bring them the Gospel. Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith; sustain our faith when it is still fragile. Continually renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church, and raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world. Make us witnesses to Your goodness full of love, full of strength, and full of faith for Your glory and the salvation of the entire world. Through the prayers of all the missionary saints, Have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
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