My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A PRAYER OFFERED BY THE CELEBRANT PRIEST AT THE DIVINE LITURGY OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
O Holy God, Who restest among Saints; Who art hymned by the Seraphim with Thrice-Holy voice, and glorified by the Cherubim, and worshipped by every heavenly Power; Who out of nothing hast brought all things into being; Who hast created man after Thine Own image and likeness, and hast adorned him with all Thy gifts; Thou Who givest to the supplicants wisdom and understanding, and dost not overlook the sinner, but hast set forth the way to repentance unto salvation; Thou Who hast vouchsafed unto us, Thy humble and unworthy servants to stand at this time before the glory of Thy Holy Altar and to offer worship and praise which are due to Thee; do Thou, O Master, accept the Trisagion (Thrice-Holy) hymn from the mouth of us the sinners, and visit us in Thy goodness. Forgive us every transgression whether voluntary or involuntary, sanctify our souls and bodies, and grant us to worship Thee in holiness all the days of our life, through the intercession of the Holy Theotokos and all the Saints, who have pleased Thee all the ages.
AN HOMILY ON PRAYER (PART II)
By Saint John Chrysostom
For the one who does not pray to God and does not desire to enjoy constantly this conversation with God is indeed dead, without a living soul and certainly without prudence. The greatest sign of folly and imprudence is for us humans to be unaware of the magnitude of the honor we have received from God; to not love prayer, and to not regard the neglect of the worship of God as the very death of the soul. For, I believe, as our body, without the soul is dead and foul, so also by the same token the soul, without prayer, is dead and miserable and foul. In reference to these things, the Prophet Daniel teaches us to consider more bitter than death itself the loss of prayer, and he himself preferred to die than to be deprived of a few days of prayer. This means that without divine help no good thing can come to our souls. The help of God comes to our pain and brings us consolation, especially when He sees us loving prayer, praying unceasingly and hoping that all good things come to us from God. Therefore, when I see someone who does not love prayer and does not have a strong and fervent tendency to pray, then it seems to me that that person does not enjoy any noble emotion in his or her soul. But again, when I see someone who is never tired of being involved in the worship of God and who considers as the greatest harm to neglect the life of prayer, then I conclude that that person is also a steadfast observer of every virtue and truly a temple of God. For if the external garments people wear, the way they walk and the way they laugh are all signs which in some measure reflect their spiritual quality, according to the wise Solomon, then certainly much more is prayer, and the worship of God a sign of extreme righteousness, which, like a spiritual and divine garment, renders great beauty and spiritual clarity to our understanding. Prayer regulates the way of life of each person and does not allow any foolish or inappropriate thing to prevail in our life. Moreover, prayer convinces us to have reverence for God and for the honor He bestows upon us. Prayer also teaches us to expel every satanic fascination and to drive out directly shameful and sinful imaginations. Thus the soul of every believer who prays becomes capable of rejecting the sinful passions. For there is only one thing to be proud of that is appropriate to those who follow Christ, and that is that they may not be enslaved by any shameful sin and that they may also preserve their soul free, pure and virtuous.
It is therefore obvious to all that without prayer it is entirely impossible to cultivate virtue and to life out a virtuous life. For how can anyone be virtuous who does not pray and does not always bow reverently to the Provider and Giver of virtue? How will anyone desire to be prudent and righteous if one does not converse with delight with the One Who demands from us not only prudence and righteousness but also so much more? I want to demonstrate briefly that even if our prayer finds us with many sins, they will quickly cleanse us. For, certainly, what is greater and more sacred than prayer itself when it can be demonstrated that prayer is the very antidote for those who are ailing in soul? First of all it was the Ninevites who were clearly delivered through prayer from their many sins against God. For when prayer overtook those who were before surrendered to sin, prayer directly made them righteous. And the city that was once accustomed to a life of licentiousness, wickedness and lawlessness, after overcoming its old evil habits was restored and made into a city full divine laws, with prudence and charity and meekness and providential care for the poor. For without these very virtues prayer cannot bear to be in our souls. Prayer will enrich any conscience it indwells and fills it with righteousness; it will strengthen it in the practice of virtue and will dispel every evil. This is what happened then with the Ninevites. If anyone had then entered the city of Ninevah, now repentant, and had known her previous way of life, one would not have recognized her. So suddenly had she changed from depravity to piety! Just as one may see a poor woman dressed shabbily and then see her again adorned in golden garments and not recognize her, by the same token, one, who knew that city as poor and barren of any spiritual treasures, would not be able to recognize the city that had returned to virtue and whose character and way of life had been perceptibly changed. This is also declared by the Gospel. When the woman who lived a sinful life repented and fell at the feet of Christ, she immediately was forgiven and saved (St. Luke 7:36-50; St. John 8:3-11).
Prayer does not only cleanse us from sin, it also protects us from great dangers. Truly the king and prophet, the marvelous David, avoided many difficult wars through prayer, precisely because he gave prayer precedence as the only weapon of his army, a weapon that permitted his soldiers to enjoy victory readily and without fear. For while the other kings had placed the hope of victory in the experience and the skill of their generals and the arms of their soldiers, king David armed his army with sacred prayers and did not rely upon the pride of his generals and the leaders of battalions. The Prophet and King David did not preoccupy himself with the gathering of money, nor with preparation of weapons. On the contrary, he sought to receive the sacred panoply, which alone can safely protect those who are dedicated to God. The power and the skill of soldiers is often proven to be in vain because of betrayal, of spies or even the bravery of the opponents. Prayer is a weapon and a secure protection which repels in the same manner one single soldier or many myriads of soldiers. David himself was able to overcome the infamous Goliath, who charged against him like a fearful demon, not with weapons nor with a sword, but with prayer. Prayer is, therefore, a very strong weapon for kings, as it is for us against the devil. Yet another example we have in King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-20; Is. 36-39), who was victorious at war with the Assyrians, when he preferred to arm his soldiers with prayer and with them also to make his stand against the huge multitude of his opponents. Thus, he avoided death itself because he took refuge in God with the appropriate reverence and piety. This king was able to be saved by prayer alone.
Real prayer, however, will also purify the soul from our sins. This we are taught by the story of the Publican in the Gospel (St. Luke 18:9-14), who beseeched God to show mercy on him and to forgive his sins, and who was really granted this grace. We are taught the same thing by the leper, who was cleansed when he turned to God in repentance (St. Matthew 8:1-4). For if the destroyed body was healed by God immediately, even more readily will He heal an ailing soul as one Who loves mankind. Inasmuch as the soul is more precious than the body, it is more appropriate for God to show greater concern for the health of the soul. One could include many other examples from the Old and the New Testament, if one were to number all those who were saved through prayer.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God