When rereading the Russian classic The Way of the Pilgrim, I was somewhat surprised to come across a passage which implied that a pocket copy of the Gospels intended for personal devotional reading was in Church Slavonic rather than Russian. This got me wondering what the contemporary practice of the Russian Orthodox church and other churches which use the Church Slavonic liturgy is. Specifically, which of the following are likely to be in Church Slavonic, and which are likely to be translated into a modern version of the local language?

  1. Bibles for personal reading
  2. Memorized, customary prayers like the Our Father and It Is Truly Meet
  3. Prayer books, psalters, akathists, and other things intended for private prayer but not typically memorized
  4. Saints' lives, the Philokalia, the patericon, and other educational books

(I'm not aware of any Slavic-speaking Orthodox community that uses a contemporary language for the liturgy itself, but I'd be curious if there is an exception to that.)

1 Answer 1


In Russia, Bibles for personal reading are in Russian. One have to search to find it in Church Slavonic.

Memorized prayers are in Church Slavonic.

Prayer books, akathists are in Church Slavonic though there are some with translation to Russian. At least one 20th century akathist that I know was written in Russian.

Living of the Saints, Philokalia and other books are in Russian.

In some churches after reading of the Gospel at the Liturgy in Church Slavonic, it is repeated in Russian.

Also, when I read some 19th century writings, for example, the letters of St. Ambrose of Optina, he cites Philokalia in Church Slavonic, while in modern books almost always citation is in Russian, sometimes Gospel citations are in Church Slavonic but very rarely.

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