Spiritual songs > The Hymnal Project > Nativity

Current version

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


In the town of Bethlehem

Boh predvicnyj

The English translation is by Monsignor William Levkulic. See this article for the Slavonic.


There are three basic problems with this hymn, as a translation of V Viflejemi novina:

  1. It is awfully short (which could be remedied by adding more verses from the Slavonic) and not very theological.
  2. It changes the ending of the melody substantially from the Slavonic, moving the accent from the next-to-last note ("MaRIa") to the third note from the end ("O SAvior").
  3. It changes the ending of each verse from a reference to Mary to a reference to Christ, and in the process makes the first verse non-sensical: is the entire hymn addressing Christ? ("O Savior")

This is one of the two or three cases where I think we would be best off coming up with an entirely new translation.

Here is the Slavonic text, together with two translation: the first one is from My Divine Friend (1959), a Ukrainian Sunday and holyday missal by Redemptorist Father Michael Schudio, and the second is from the compact disk, "There Is Great Rejoicing: Carols of Southern and Eastern Europe", recorded by the Schola Cantorum of Saint Peter's in the Loop, Chicago (1993). The second translation retains the references to Mary except the first verse, which used an existing translation.

V Viflejemi novina,
D'iva Syna porodila,
Porodila v blahodati,
Neporočna D'iva Mati,
Bethlehem gives tidings,
A Son is born to a maiden
Overshadowed with God's graces
The pure Virgin Mother of God
There is joy in Bethlehem:
Christ the Lord is born to us.
Angels singing, shephers kneeling,
Wise men following a star
For Christ is born.
Položila na s'iňi
V Viflejemskoj jaskiňi.
Josif D'ivu pot'išaje,
Povivati pomohaje,
On the hay in a manger
In the Bethlehem stable
Lay the Infant, swaddled warmly,
Joseph aiding the young Mother
There she places her own son
In the cave of Bethlehem
Joseph comforts there the Virgin
And he helps swaddle the Baby
With Mary.

Slava Boža i chvala
u vertepi nastala
z neba anhely zlitajut
s Synom Božím proslavľajut

  Unto God all glory and praise
In a manger come to pass:
Angels fly down from the heavens
To the Son of God give glory
With Mary.
Sereď temnoj noči
divne svitlo bje v oči.
Jasna zorja zasvitila
hde Díťatko porodila
In the darkness of night
There appears a strange brightness.
A large star appears and stands still
Over the crib of Son and Mother
In the midst of the dark night
To the eyes so wondrous bright
A new dawn is brightly shining
Where the Infant lies new-born there
With Mary.

Nedaleko pastyrji
paslo stado v doliňi.
Do vertepa pribihajut
i s Diťatkom tut vitajut

From the near fields the shepherds
Watching flocks in the valley
Hasten quickly to the stable
And with Jesus greet his Mother
There nearby the shepherds stood
In the valley, tending flocks;
They come running to the manger
Where they meet the Infant lying
With Mary.
Na kolina padajut
podarunki skladajut.
Čto ubohij dati može
žertvujeme, Diťa Bože,

Sče prichoďat tri cari
ot vostoku zvizdari.
Dľa Isusa stavľat ščiro
ladan, zoloto í miro

From the East came the Three Kings,
The three Wise Men, star-gazers.
They present their gifts for Jesus
Frankincense, and gold and myrrh
to Mary.
And the Three Kings also come
From the east they follow the star.
There to Jesus they give presents
Frankincense, gold and myrrh there
With Mary.

I my tože pospišme
Bohu dary prinesme,
U pokori pribihajme
s Synom Božim vse blahajme

Let us also then hasten
'Tis our God and our Master
Humbly bringing him our offerings
With the Christ Child fondly loving
So we too must now make haste
To bring gifts to God our King!
Let us humbly come before Him,
Bless the Son of God who's born now
Of Mary.

And of course, if we find some verses that simply resist a singable translation, we COULD omit those, or choose the "best" ones. The other option is to provide a literal English translation, as we did with Boh predvičnyj.

Thoughts or suggestions?

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