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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Lord, have mercy: The most misunderstood prayer in the Christian West
By Amelia Bacic-Tulevski

http://www.orthodoxwriter.com/2012/03/lord-have-mercy-most-misunderstood.html

A really excellent commentary by an Orthodox woman with deep understanding of Orthodox history, theology, and spirituality. Check out her other posts and her books while you are on her website.

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AN EVENING HYMN.
St. Gregory Nazianzen

1. And now again at night,
O Christ, the living Word,
Thou Light of the Eternal Light,
Be Thou by us adored.

2. Thou dost the Spirit give,
Third Light, in glory one;
His grace, by whom alone we live,
Thou dost refuse to none.

3. Thou didst the darkness scatter,
Thou mad’st the light to shine,
That now through all primeval matter
Might spring delight divine.

4. It, a rude mass before,
From Thee took order new;
And shapely form, and steadfast law,
So beautiful to view.

5. And mind of man with light
From heaven Thou didst endow,
By word and wisdom that he might
Thine image bear below;

6. And lighted in his soul,
Thine own great Light might see;
And thenceforth not in part, but whole,
Himself all light might be.

7. And heaven Thou didst array,
With those bright orbs above;
And day to night, and night to day,
Proclaim Thy law of love;

8. Yielding in turn; the one
To worn-out flesh brings rest!
The other calls, “Let work be done!”
Such work as Thou lov’st best.

From: http://ccel.org/ccel/chatfield/greeksongs.h017.html

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Fall Down Get Up x3

The Orthodox among us will recognize the title. There is general acknowledgment that in our spiritual lives we tend to fall down and get up many times. We commit the same old transgressions again and again and again. We are genuinely sorry, and do try to repent, but we recognize that we probably will fail and have to try yet again. Fall down, get up; fall down, get up.

So I try to say my prayers, but sometimes I forget. I repent and start over with new resolve. Fall down, get up.

I want to attend the Divine Services regularly, but I can’t. I repent and start over with new resolve. Fall down, get up.

I want to give alms, but I can’t get to where the poor are. I repent and start over with new resolve. Fall down, get up.

People ask me for words of advice and for help. All too frequently I miss their missives, and end up responding to them inappropriately late. I repent and start over with new resolve. Fall down, get up.

Our lives are like that. We allow the physical and mundane things of life interfere with the things that are truly real and of utmost importance. When we stand before the awesome God and account for our lives, will we be able to say that we attended to the things of God, or will we have to admit to allowing our life to get in the way of our Life?

I will have to admit that. The good I would do, I do not, and the evil I would not do, I do. (Romans 7:19). In the words of the Anglican General Confession, “there is no help in me.” I have only myself to blame for my shortcomings – which are so many. In the words of St. Paul: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 18-25).

Pray for me, my friends, that I may get up and remain standing!

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The Ol’ Curmudgeon had an angioplasty (stent placed in his heart) on February 25. He was feeling miserable for about 2 months before he finally admitted he needed some help. Following the angioplasty, he was feeling much better. On March 24, he had his post-procedure appointment with the cardiologist, and was given a full release to go back to work full time. The next day he was “RIFFed.” This is where a company uses the “reduction in force” (RIF) excuse to lay someone or people off.

Since then, he’s started having cardiac symptoms again – flutters, chest discomfort, out of breath, bone weariness. Finally got him to go in again, and he is now on a Holter Monitor for 48 hours (assuming we can keep his electrodes on). I’m hoping that this is mainly stress, but with an injured ticker, it pays to be careful.

He has been without cigarettes for 5 days, now, too. I’m proud of him for that, but I know it is adding to his stress. While the symptoms he is having are NOT in anyway related to any reported effects/side-effects of Chantix(r) or nicotine withdrawal, they all can be related to stress and worry – both of which he is experiencing on many levels. So, I’m hoping and praying that these symptoms are simply that – stress and worry – and that once we rule-out the cardiac thingies, that we can address his stress and worry.

I’m wishing I could go back to work. But I’m too old and I’m too disabled. I wouldn’t last more than a day going to a hospital, working and coming home. Yet, I feel guilty that I’m not taking care of the Ol’ Curmudgeon. I keep thinking there is SOMETHING I should be able to do.

We say the Akathist to St. Xenia together, and we each pray privately. But we are “pulling back” from things. We are withdrawn from each other in some ways. I don’t want to worry him, so I don’t tell him some things. He doesn’t want to worry me, so he doesn’t tell me some things. We don’t go anywhere. We don’t make phone calls. We are simply pulling back from many things.

Now, however, it’s time for us to reach out, so I’m reaching out in this way

If any of y’all out in reader-land are so inclined, please add “Theodore” to your prayers: for his health, for his life, for a job. If you are interested, I will be posting the Akathist to St. Xenia of St. Petersburg on my Angelfire website in the next day or so. Check back for the URL.

Lord, have mercy!

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St. Ephraim (Ephrem) the Syrian gave us the prayer said more than any other in Great Lent:

O Lord and Master of my life
Take from me the spirit of sloth faintheartedness, lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of Chastity, Patience, Humility and Love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King,
Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother
For Holy art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

What do we know about him? Here is one biography of him found on the website of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church:

The Monk Ephrem the Syrian
Commemorated on January 28 / February 10

The Monk Ephrem the Syrian, a teacher of repentance, was born at the beginning of the IV Century (his precise year of birth is unknown) in the city of Ninevah (Mesopotamia) into the family of impoverished toilers of the soil. His parents raised their son in piety. But from the time of his childhood he was known for his quick temper and irascible character, and in his youth he often had fights, he acted thoughtlessly, and even doubted of God’s Providence, until he finally recovered his senses from the Lord’s doing, guiding him on the path of repentance and salvation. One time he was unjustly accused of the theft of a sheep and was thrown into prison. And there in a dream he heard a voice, calling him to repentance and rectifying his life. After this, he was acquitted of the charges and set free.

Within Ephrem there took place a deep repentance. The youth withdrew outside the city and became an hermit. This form of Christian asceticism had been introduced at Ninevah by a disciple of the Monk Anthony the Great, – the Egyptian Wilderness-Dweller Eugenios (Eugene).

Among the hermits especially prominent was the noted ascetic, a preacher of Christianity and denouncer of the Arians, the bishop of the Ninevah Church, Saint James (Comm. 13 January). The Monk Ephrem became one of his disciples. Under the graced guidance of the holy hierarch, the Monk Ephrem attained to Christian meekness, humility, submission to the Will of God, and the strength without murmur to undergo various temptations. Saint James knew the high qualities of his student and he used them for the good of the Ninevah Church – he entrusted him to read sermons, to instruct children in the school, and he took Ephrem along with him to the First OEcumenical Council at Nicea (in the year 325). The Monk Ephrem was in obedience to Saint James for 14 years, until the bishop’s death.

After the capture of Ninevah by the Persians in the year 363, the Monk Ephrem abandoned the wilderness and settled in a monastery near the city of Edessa. Here he saw many a great ascetic, passing their lives in prayer and psalmody. Their caves were solitary shelters, and they fed themselves off a certain plant. He became especially close with the ascetic Julian (Comm. 18 October), who was one with him in a spirit of repentance. The Monk Ephrem combined with his ascetic works an incessant study of the Word of God, gathering within it for his soul both solace and wisdom. The Lord gave him a gift of teaching, and people began to come to him, wanting to hear his guidances, which produced a particular effect upon the soul, since he began with self-accusation. The monk both verbally and in writing instructed everyone in repentance, faith and piety, and he denounced the Arian heresy, which during those times was disrupting Christian society. And pagans likewise, listening to the preaching of the monk, were converted to Christianity.

He also toiled no little at the interpretation of Holy Scripture – with an explication of the Pentateuch (i.e. “Five Books”) of Moses. He wrote many a prayer and church-song, thereby enriching the Church’s Divine-services. Famed prayers of Saint Ephrem are to the Most Holy Trinity, to the Son of God, and to the Most Holy Mother of God. He wrote for his Church songs for the Twelve Great Feastdays of the Lord (the Nativity of Christ, the Baptism, the Resurrection), and funereal song. Saint Emphrem’s Prayer of Repentance, “O Lord and Master of my life…”, is said during Great Lent, and it summons Christians to spiritual renewal. The Church since times ancient valued highly the works of the Monk Ephrem: his works were read in certain churches, at gatherings of the faithful, after the Holy Scripture. And now at present in accord with the Church Ustav (Rule), certain of his instructions are prescribed to be read on the days of Lent. Amidst the prophets, Saint David is pre-eminently the psalmodist; amidst the holy fathers of the Church the Monk Ephrem the Syrian – is pre-eminently a man of prayer. His spiritual experience made him a guide to monks and an help to the pastors of Edessa. The Monk Ephrem wrote in Syrian, but his works were very early translated into the Greek and Armenian languages, and from the Greek – into the Latin and Slavonic languages.

In numerous of the works of the Monk Ephrem are encountered glimpses of the life of the Syrian ascetics, the centre of which involved prayer and with it thereupon the toiling for the common good of the brethren, in the obediences. The outlook of the meaning of life among all the Syrian ascetics was the same. The end purpose of their efforts was considered by the monks to be communality with God and the diffusion of Divine grace within the soul of the ascetic; the present life for them was a time of tears, fasting and toil.

“If the Son of God be within thee, then also His Kingdom is within thee. Here then is the Kingdom of God – within thee, a sinner. Go inwards into thine self, search diligently and without toil thou shalt find it. Outside of thee – is death, and the door to it – is sin. Go inwards into thine self, dwell within thine heart, for since there – is God”. Constant spiritual sobriety, the developing of good within the soul of man gives unto him the possibility to take upon himself a task like blessedness, and a self-constraint like sanctity. The requital is presupposed in the earthly life of man, it is an undertaking by degrees of its spiritual perfection. Whoso grows himself wings upon the earth, says the Monk Ephrem, is one who soars up into the heights; whoso down here purifies his mind – there glimpses the Glory of God; in what measure each one loveth God – is that measure wherein is satiated to fullness by the love of God. Man, cleansing himself and attaining the grace of the Holy Spirit while still here, down upon the earth, has a foretaste therein of the Kingdom of Heaven. To attain to life eternal, in the teachings of the Monk Ephrem, does not mean to pass over from one sphere of being into another, but means rather to discover “the Heavenly” spiritual condition of being. Eternal life is not bestown man as a one-sided working by God, but rather like a seed, it constantly grows within him through effort, toil and struggle.

The pledge within us of “theosis” (“obozhenie” or “deification”) – is the Baptism of Christ, and the primal propulsion for the Christian life – is repentance. The Monk Ephrem was a great teacher of repentance. The forgiveness of sins in the sacramental-mystery of Repentance, according to his teaching, is not an external exoneration, not a forgetting of the sins, but rather their complete undoing, their annihilation. The tears of repentance wash away and burn away the sin. And moreover – they (i.e. the tears) vivify, they transfigure sinful nature, they give the strength “to walk in the way of the commandments of the Lord”, encouraging the hope on God. In the fiery font of Repentance, wrote the Monk, “thou dost sail thyself across, O sinner, thou dost resuscitate thyself from the dead”.

The Monk Ephrem, in his humility reckoning himself the least and worst of all, at the end of his life set out to Egypt, to see the efforts of the great ascetics. He was accepted there as a welcome guest and received for himself great solace in his associating with them. On the return journey he visited at Caesarea Cappadocia with Sainted Basil the Great (Comm. 1 January), who wanted to ordain him a priest, but the monk considered himself unworthy of priesthood, and at the insistence of Saint Basil, he accepted only the dignity of deacon, in which he remained until death. Even later on, Saint Basil the Great invited the Monk Ephrem to accept the cathedra-chair of a bishop, but the saint feigned folly to avoid for himself this honour, in humility reckoning himself unworthy of it.
Upon his return to his own Edessa wilderness, the Monk Ephrem intended to spend the rest of his life in solitude. But Divine Providence again summoned him to service of neighbour. The inhabitants of Edessa were suffering from a devastating famine. By the influence of his word, the monk induced the wealthy to render aid to those that lacked. From the offerings of believers he built a poor-house for the destitute and sick. The Monk Ephrem then withdrew to a cave nigh to Edessa, where he remained to the end of his days.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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Most of us do at least some looking back (retrospecting) around the end of the year. What went wrong, what went right, what do we want to change in the new year, and will we really carry through with those changes?

We mostly don’t do that unless there were some real BIG disasters. Generally, the Ol’ Curmudgeon and I make our analyses and resolutions at the time of the disaster.

Today we received in the mail a Christmas present from some very, very dear friends. It is a CD, and we opened it to be sure that’s what it was because they were asking if we had received it.

It is a beautifully packaged CD of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir doing Orthodox chants of the 17th and 18th centuries. Had to put it on. Shouldn’t have done that, or, perhaps it is a good thing we did. The first band was “Let my Prayer Arise” (in Old Church Slavonic). On about the second Refrain, I burst into tears. First, I cried out to God to forgive me. Then I rushed (well, “cripped my way”) downstairs to throw myself in the Ol’ Curmudgeon’s arms and beg his forgiveness! We are still in the Lenten period before the Nativity, and I was, and am, filled with remorse for all the things left undone, and all the wrong things done – both externally and internally.

We all are lax and don’t discipline ourselves sufficiently both in our spiritual lives and in our secular lives. In fact, we artificially divide our spiritual and secular lives as if they were two different things. But they are not. They are both our LIFE. Not both PARTS of our life, but both ARE our life. They should be intricately intermeshed so that they are indistinguishable. Yet, even we, the Orthodox, who, of all, should know better, separate our lives into the spiritual and secular.

God should be at the center of our lives, and all that we do should glorify Him. I was overwhelmed by my sin – by missing that mark for which I am aiming. I was overwhelmed by how far I miss the mark – every minute of every day. As an example, I read medical records and decipher whether someone “missed the mark” in caring for the patient. It is frequently my judgment that determines if a case is to be brought against the providers. Yet, all too frequently, I don’t pray about it before, during and after I read the records and write my report. It is these kinds of sins that overwhelmed me. Not making God the center of my life, not “integrating” my life into God.

So, like an Orthodox Christian, I shall get up once more, start anew, and try to “get it right” this time. Despite my trying, however, most likely I will fail because of my own shortcomings. But we are not called upon to do the impossible, simply to keep trying to do that which is “right” – which leads us closer to God.

May God have mercy upon us all.

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Mother of God, Prosperess of Loaves (Sporitelnitsa Khlebov) (Grower of Crops)

Mother of God, "Prosperess of Loaves" ("Sporitel'nitsa Khlebov") (Grower of Crops)

The Icon of the Mother of God, named “Prosperess of Loaves” (“Sporitel’nitsa Khlebov”), was written at the blessing of the starets-elder of the Visitation Optina wilderness monastery, the priest-schemamonk Amvrosii (Ambrosii) (23/XI/1812 – 10/X/1891). Father Amvrosii, a great Russian ascetic of the XIX Century, was ardent with a childlike faith towards the Mother of God. He in particular revered all the feastdays of the Mother of God and on these days he redoubled his prayer. With the icon, “Prosperess of Loaves”, Father Amvrosii blessed the Shamordinsk women’s monastery established in honour of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, and founded by him not far from the Optina monastery.

On this icon the Mother of God is depicted sitting upon the clouds, and Her hands are extended in blessing. Beneathe — is a compressed field, and on it amidst the grass and flowers stand and lay sheaves of rye. Starets Amvrosii himself decreed the day of celebration — 15 October, and called the image “Prosperess of Loaves”, indicating by this, that the Most Holy Mother of God — “is an Helper for people in their labours for the acquiring of their daily bread”. Before his blessed death, Father Amvrosii ordered a large quantity of photo-replicas of this icon and distributed and sent them off to his spiritual children. For the singing of an akathist before the holy image, the starets composed a particular response: “Hail, Thou Full-of-Grace, the Lord is with Thee! Grant unto us unworthy ones the dew of Thy grace and the showing forth of Thine mercy!”

The day of burial of Father Amvrosii happened on 15 October — the feastday of the icon. The first miracle from the holy icon was witnessed in 1891, when throughout Russia was a famine because of crop-failure, but in the Kaluzh district and on the fields of the Shamordinsk monastery grain was produced. In 1892, already after the death of Father Amvrosii, his attendant Ivan Feodorovich Cherepanov sent a copy from the icon to the Pyatnitsk women’s monastery in Voronezh district. In this locale there was a drought and famine threatened, but soon after a molieben served before the icon, “Prosperess of Loaves”, it rained and ended the drought.

On a more modern note, in 2008, there was drought in Texas. One devout Orthodox Christian, near Lubbock, TX, printed out and laminated a copy of this Icon from the internet. He placed it in a small shrine in his field, and prayed to the Theotokos for his crops to prosper. He was the only person in his district who had crops that were not stunted or destroyed by the drought. He was able to provide products for several of the markets in his area so that people had access to fresh vegetables of good size at a righteous price.

In these modern days, we often forget that prayers are answered; that God cares for us; that He listens to the prayers of people and especially of the Theotokos – the one who said “yes” to God and bore His only Son. “In one of the prayers at the Sixth Hour we ask the Mother of God to intercede with Jesus for us, “for the prayer of a Mother availeth much to the goodwill of the Lord.’ Indeed, yes,”(1) it does.

The Widow of Nain by Peter Sizer; Orthodox Research Institute

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