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God's Son is born

Current version

Here is the version in the Byzantine Catholic Hymnal (2007):

Boh predvicnyj

This setting of Boh sja raždajet is taken from the 1969 booklet Christ is Born: Glorify Him. The English translation is by Monsignor William Levkulic, and includes a single verse

Like Spas naš narodilsja, Boh sja raždajet first appears in the 1932 collection, Kolady, from Uzhorod, where is has six verses.


My Divine Friend (1959), a Ukrainian Sunday and holyday missal by Redemptorist Father Michael Schudio, included a four-verse version with an English translation (pages 855-856); the Cyrillic has been transliterated for inclusion here.

Boh sja raždaje, kto k Ho može znati
Isus Mu imja, Marija Mu Mati
Tut anhely čudat'sja,
Roždenoho bojat'sja,
A vid stojit', trjaset'sja,
Osel smutno paset'sja
Pastyrije kl'ačut
V ploti Boha bačut
Tut že, tut že, tut že, tut že, tut.
God is now born, who can comprehend this?
Jesus is His name, Mary is His mother:
Now the angels gaze in awe
Fearing the new born of men
And the oxen shudder all,
Solemnly the donkey feeds,
Shepherds reverently kneel,
Seeing here the God incarnate,
Here-now, here-now, here-now, here-now, here.

Marija Mu Mati prekrasno spivaje
I chor Anhelskij' Jij dopomaje
Tut anhely...

Mary His Mother sings a lovely tune
While choirs of angels furnish the refrain.
Now the angels gaze in awe...

Josif stareňkij koliše Diťatko
L'ul'aj že l'ul'aj, male Otročatko.
Tut anhely...
The aging Joseph rocks the Babe to sleep,
Sleep, gentle Baby, sleep, and take your rest.
Now the angels gaze in awe...

I my dnes virno k Nemu pribihajme
Roždenomu Bohu, chvalu čest' otdajme.
Tut anhely...

Let us come near Him, faithfully approaching
To God incarnate, glory, honor, giving.
Now the angels gaze in awe...

Comparing this text with Father Levkulic's translation, we can see that the latter is fairly free:

Here is a different English translation by J. Michael Thompson from page 984 of the The Divine Liturgy: An Anthology for Worship (Ukrainian Catholic, 2004), titled "God now is born here."

God born a mortal; who can claim to know him?
Jesus we call him; worship let us show him!
Here the angels stand in awe of the Infant in the straw;
Ox is here and, trembling stands with the ass, near God-made-man!
See the shepherds kneeling, God-made-flesh revealing,
Here, yes, here, now, really, truly here!

Mary, his Mother, lulls him with her singing,
Choirs of the angels tuneful praise are bringing.
Here the angles stand in awe...

Joseph, her husband, rocks the cradly slowly;
"Sleep, little Baby, in Your bed so lowly."
Here the angels stand in awe....

This is a more faithful translation, if not perfect (for example, in the phrase "God-made-flesh revealing", it is not clear WHO is doing the revealing; surely it is God, not the shepherds?), and I wish that the final verse had been translated.

At the same time, the Levkulic translation has some charm of its own, particularly in the last (added) line which emphasizes the recognition of God by the created world.

Proposal for this hymn

This is a situation where there is SO much packed into the Slavonic that we have to accept some variance in the English. I would propose that:

There is one problem, though in the melody: in the first line, the original half-note A (after "born") becomes two quarters notes A-G (over "but a"); this change is not made in the second line, there the half note is split into two quarter notes on the same pitch ("means the"). The problem arises when singing the other verses, which assume two half notes, with the second being weaker ("Mother", "husband").

Here is the result:

Thoughts or suggestions?

Please leave a comment on this blog entry: Four Christmas Songs.