Fr Cosmas of the Monastery of St John in Manton, CA is spending some time overseas from the end of February to the beginning of April 2014, getting initial orientation and training for his participation in a project to produce a new version of scriptures and to meet the others who will be working on this project. This is a project, initially, to produce a version of the Gospels in the Gagauz language and it is organized by the Institute for Bible Translation, which is headquartered in St Andrew’s Monastery in Moscow. The role envisioned for Fr Cosmas is as exegetical editor, which means that he will check the Gagauz renderings against the original Greek text.
Prior to coming to the Monastery of St John in 2004, Fr Cosmas participated as translator, chairman of the translation committee, and one of the editors in the project to complete the Orthodox Study Bible with the Old Testament. Although he has translated books for the publishing arm of the monastery, Divine Ascent Press, he thought that his days of involvement in Bible translation were over when he came to the monastery. Apparently, though, God had other plans for him. And he suspects also that his first patron saint, St Cyril the Apostle to the Slavs, may have something to do with this new undertaking.
Fr Cosmas first heard of the Gagauz people in early 2012. The abbot of the Monastery of St John at that time, Fr Meletios, gave him the obedience of trying to find out if there were Orthodox monasteries in Gagauzia and if so, to send them a letter of greeting with a gift package of things the monks of St John make such as candles, the CD The Eyes of All Look to Thee with Hope, and honey produced by the monastery’s bees. He did find two Gagauz-speaking monasteries, both women’s monasteries — there are apparently no men’s monasteries in Gagauzia — and sent these packages with the cover letter in their language.
In the course of the investigations that made these letters possible (which involved learning the language) he was given a variety of texts by Gagauz people such as an edition of the New Testament (which had been done by a Protestant minister and which is unacceptable to the Orthodox priests of the country) and several prayer books, including the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete. These scriptures and prayer books provided some of the primary means by which he learned the language. Then when the opportunity presented itself to study an edition of the Psalms in Gagauz done by an Orthodox archpriest in the early twentieth century and to help prepare it for possible publication in a modern edition for church use, he was given a blessing to do so. These things opened the door for his participation in further work toward publishing a new edition of scriptures in the Gagauz language.
The first face-to-face contact between Fr Cosmas and the Gagauz will happen between late February and early April of 2014, but there has already been contact over the internet. The Gagauz man with whom Fr Comas was in contact sent a recipe for their traditional Christmas cookies which another monk made and the results were shared among the members of the brotherhood. The cooking effort was videotaped and sent to them. Everyone who tried this cookie — called gevrek — agreed that it was a special treat.
The Institute for Bible Translation (ibt.ru.org) is funding the journey to Moscow (where they are located) jointly with AYDINNIK, a Gagauz foundation which promotes Gagauz culture, primarily the literary culture and especially the production of texts for the Orthodox Church.