Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

The Lord’s Mercy and the Virgin Mary’s Salvation

March 5, 2009

I really like this guy’s videos  (he’s the same creator of the breathtakingly beautiful Arabic  Christmas video  I posted in December).   Brother in Christ, Kalamation, if you’re out there, I’d love to hear from you. 

Below is a common prayer of intercession used by Orthodox, Melkite and Byzantine Catholics during Evening Prayers and at other times.   Kalamation’s video uses a simpler text than I’m familiar with from the  Jordanville prayerbook  version  by Holy Trinity Monastery, but who cares when it’s in Arabic chant.  I’m really partial to Russian style singing, but for prayerful contemplation nothing beats Arabic chant.   The Jordanville translation reads

O Lord, have mercy on us, for we have hoped in Thee.   Be not angry with us greatly, neither remember our iniquities, but look upon us now as thou art compassionate, and deliver us from our enemies. For Thou art our God, and we Thy people, all are  the work of Thy hands, and we call upon Thy name, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

The door of compassion open unto us, O blessed Theotokos, for hoping in thee, let us not perish; through thee may we be delivered from adversities, for thou art the salvation of the Christian race.

The salvation of the Christian race.   That expression always sends up red flags and protestations from non-Orthodox (or as the case may be, non-Roman Catholic, Melkite, Byzantine Catholic, etc…).  I’ve been saying this beautiful prayer for years, and I’ll admit that as a former Lutheran I still have trouble with it sometimes.   The Akathist to the Theotokos also commonly uses the refrain “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”  Former Protestants understand the Pavlovian response to anything that sounds like it takes away from the saving work of Christ.    It only reminds me that the process of acquiring an Orthodox mindset and letting go of incomplete beliefs is a lifelong struggle.  I do not have any doubts about my Orthodox faith, only doubts about my ability to accept the truths of the Church as they have been undersood since the beginning.

But for all the times I’ve hesitated at the boldness of these words, let me make it perfectly clear that Orthodox Christians do not believe the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, is our redeemer, co-redemptrix, or source of salvation – rather, she is the source of the Saviour.  The words “save us” or “thou art the salvation” refer to her prayers of intercession as one who is closest to the True Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.  By accepting the role of Mother of God, she made possible our salvation through the conception and birth of Christ, and she continues to assist in our ongoing salvation through her prayers to her Son. 

Prayer Through Illness

October 14, 2008

I am having a very off day with a stomach bug, courtesy of my 8 year old and the rest of the disease-carrying horde he goes to school with.  It seems all it took for him to feel better was to toss his cookies once.  Miracle cure and back to raising hell the next day.  It must not work that way for old farts like me.

Severe bouts of nausea have the peculiar effect of focusing the mind.  It’s almost impossible to think of anything else when you are so involved in how crappy you feel.  If only I could gain this kind of focus in my prayer life I think I’d really be on to something.  It’s exactly when you’re sick that your prayer life seems to suffer the most.   I think if this were a life-threatening illness I’d be much more inclined to pray, but when it’s something ordinary and common you figure “Why bother God with something I know is going to be gone in 24 hours”.  There must be a purpose even for small illnesses.  St. John Chrysostom says,

“When the soul is diseased we usually feel no pain, but if the body suffers only a little, we make every effort to be free of the illness and its pain. Therefore, God corrects the body for the sins of the soul, so that by chastising the body, the soul might also receive some healing. Christ did this with the Paralytic when he said: Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. What do we learn from this? That the Paralytic’s disease had been produced by his sins” (Homily 38, On the Gospel of St. John).

I’m still not convinced a stomach bug qualifies as the sort of illness that’s going to help with my salvation.  But since I’ve felt worse and worse all day, I have found something to pray for:  “Please Lord, just one good puke and I won’t complain any more”.