My beloved friends in Christ,
"O LORD, I HAVE CRIED"
O Lord, I have cried out unto Thee, hear Thou me; Thou me, O Lord. O Lord, I have cried out unto Thee, hear Thou me. Give ear to the voice of my supplication when I cry out unto Thee: hear Thou me, O Lord. Let my prayer be set forth before thee as the incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice; hear Thou me, O Lord.
- Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and a protecting door round about my lips.
- Incline not my heart to evil words, to make excuses in sins.
- With men that work iniquity; and I will not communicate with the choicest of them.
- The just man shall correct me in mercy and shall reprove me; but let not the oil of the sinner anoint my head.
- For my prayer also shall still be against the things with which they are well pleased; their judges falling upon the rock have been swallowed up.
- They shall hear my words, for they are sweet; as when the thickness of the earth is broken upon the ground, their bones are scattered by the side of hell.
- But to Thee, O Lord, Lord, are mines eyes; in Thee have I put my trust, take not away my soul.
- Keep me from the snare which they have laid for me, and the traps of the workers of iniquity.
- Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst I alone escape.
- I cried unto the Lord with my voice, with my voice unto the Lord, did I make my supplication.
- I poured out my supplication before Him; I showed before Him my trouble.
- When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then Thou knewest my path.
- In the way wherein I walked have they secretly laid a snare for me.
- I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me.
- Refuge failed me; no one cared for my soul.
- I cried unto Thee, O Lord; I said: Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.
- Attend unto my cry, for I am brought very low.
- Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are stronger than I.
O GLADSOME LIGHT
O gladsome Light of the Holy Glory of the Father Immortal, Heavenly, Holy, Blessed Jesus Christ. In that we now are come unto the setting of the sun and behold the light of evening, we hymn Thee: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God. For meet it is that at all times Thou shouldst be magnified by voices holy. O Son of God, Who bestowest life; for which cause all the world doth glorify Thee.
THE EVENING PRAYER
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this evening without sin. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Thy Name forever. Amen.
Let Thy mercy be upon us, O Lord, even as we have set our hope on Thee. Blessed art Thou, O Lord; teach me Thy statutes. Blessed art Thou, O Master; make me to understand Thy statutes. Blessed art Thou, O Holy One; enlighten me with Thy statutes.
Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever. O despise not the works of Thy hands. To thee belongeth worship, to Thee belongeth praise, to Thee belongeth glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto of ages. Amen.
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, Mary full of grace; the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou didst give birth to the Savior of our souls (The clergy and faithful prostrate)
O Baptizer of Christ, remember our congregation, that we may escape from our iniquities, for to thee was given grace to intercede for us. (The clergy and faithful prostrate)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
O pure Apostles, and all ye Saints, pray for our sakes, that we escape tribulations and sorrows, for we have taken ye as fervid intercessors with the Savior. (The clergy and faithful prostrate)
Both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen
We have taken refuge under the wing of Thy compassion, O Theotokos. Turn not away from our beseechings in tribulation, but save us from distress, O Thou Who alone art pure and Blessed. (No prostration).
THE PRAYER OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power, and idle talk. (The clergy and faithful prostrate)
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant. (The clergy and faithful prostrate)
Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother (or sister), for Thou art Blessed unto ages of ages. Amen. (The clergy and faithful prostrate)
The Office of Vespers
Vespers (Esperinos) recalls and represents events of the Old Testament: the creation of the world, the fall into sin of the first human beings, their expulsion from Paradise, their repentance and prayer for salvation, the hope of mankind in accordance with the promise of God for a Savior and finally, the fulfillment of that promise.
The entire period of the divine service, beginning with the opening of the Royal Gates (the center doors of the icon screen or ikonostasion), through the petitions of the Great Ectenia and the chanting of the psalms, represents the tragic state of mankind to which it was subjected by the fall of our forefathers into sin. With the Fall, all the deprivations, pains and sufferings we experience came into our lives. Saint Basil the Great in his Divine Liturgy writes: "But once he disobeyed You, the True God Who created him, and fell under the serpent's guile, becoming subject to death by his own transgression, in Your just judgment, O God, You exiled him from Paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was first taken, yet planned for him salvation through rebirth in Your Christ." We, therefore, cry out to God, "Lord, have mercy" and request peace and salvation for our souls. We feel contrition that we heeded the ungodly counsel of the Devil. We ask God for the forgiveness of our sins and deliverance from troubles, and we place all our hope in the mercy of God. The censing by the deacon or priest at this time signifies the sacrifice of the Old Testament and our own prayers as well, which we offer to God.
When we chant the solemn hymn "O gladsome (or Gentle) Light...", we speak of Christ. In this hymn the Son of God is called the Gladsome or Gentle Light that comes from the Heavenly Father, because He came to this earth not in the fullness of Divine Glory but in the gentle radiance of this glory. This hymn also says that only with reverent voices, and not our sinful mouths, can He be exalted worthily and the necessary glorification be accomplished.
The entry during Vespers reminds the faithful how the Old Testament righteous, in harmony with the promise of God that was manifest in prototypes and prophecies, expected the coming of the Savior, and how He appeared in the world for the salvation of the human race.
The censer with incense used at the entry signifies that our prayers, by the intercessions of our Lord the Savior, are offered to God like fragrant incense. It also signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
The blessing with the sign of the Cross shows that by means of the Cross of the Lord the doors into Paradise are opened again for us.
(Source: The Law of God by Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy)
As all of you can see that the divine services of our Holy Orthodox Church are not only solemn but inspiring. Every service of the Church has a specific purpose, aim, and meaning for the Orthodox Christian who is seeking God's blessings, healing, reconciliation, restoration, forgiveness, inspiration, guidance and an opportunity to pray, praise and worship the Creator and Almighty God. No one can claim to have a spiritual life without the divine services of our Church. We receive our inspiration and we learn how to pray through the grace of the Holy Spirit. We establish a personal relationship with Christ only through the grace of the Holy Spirit. We are sanctified and renewed through the Holy Spirit. We are reborn through water and the grace of the Holy Spirit. The bread and wine at the Divine Liturgy are consecrated by the Holy Spirit and they, the elements, then become the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Holy Eucharist.
You see now why it is extremely important for each and every one of you to be at these divine services of our Holy Church.
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