Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

“Launch out into the deep” – the first great catch of fish teaches about the Jesus prayer!

Monday, October 8th, 2012

The great catch of fishLISTEN NOW

Synopsis: When Jesus commanded Peter to "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught;", He was giving a principle, by which, and only by which we will stand in the presence of God, even in this life. This principle is all over the Scriptures. It involves patience, courage, obedience and INTENSITY. Although prayer is not explicitly mentioned, it is also about prayer, and especially about the Jesus prayer. How and why must we "launch out into the deep"?

More homilies on the 18th day after Pentecost are HERE

Luke 5:1-11 1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-18_2012-10-07+launch-out-into-the-deep+the-jesus-prayer_luke5-1-11.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-18_2012-10-07+launch-out-into-the-deep+the-jesus-prayer_luke5-1-11.mp3


RSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homiliesRSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homilies:http://feeds.feedburner.com/OrthodoxChristianSermonsOnTheGospelsEpistlesAndOtherTopics

Archive of Audio and text homilies:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

Share

A Spiritual reflection regarding Prayer of an Orthodox Christian priest in front of a late term abortion clinic during the Dallas 40 days for life campaign.

Friday, October 21st, 2011

The Lament of Rachel, an apt icon for the subject of Abortion.

The Lament of Rachel.

LISTEN NOW

Synopsis: The personal experience of an Orthodox Christian and priest praying in front of a late term abortion clinic during the 40 days for life campaign, Wednesday, Oct 19, 2011. This is difficult and heavy prayer because outside, on the street, things look normal, but inside some lives are terminated, and many other lives are perhaps irrevocably damaged in terrible ways. A spiritual reflection, including whether we should pray for "them" or "us", and that a Christian must feel responsible for all sin and act upon his inner impulses from the heart, and about praying "one hour", and personalizing the "Akathist for a Woman Who Has Aborted a Child"

More homilies on many topics are HERE


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/misc_2011-10-19+40-days-for-life-prayer-before-a-late-term-abortion-clinic.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/misc_2011-10-19+40-days-for-life-prayer-before-a-late-term-abortion-clinic.mp3


RSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homiliesRSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homilies:http://feeds.feedburner.com/OrthodoxChristianSermonsOnTheGospelsEpistlesAndOtherTopics

Archive of Audio and text homilies:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

Share

Forgiveness Sunday And Cheesefare Sunday. The Triodion teaches us how to think.

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

LISTEN NOW

Synopsis:An exposition of two hymns from the Triodion for Forgiveness Sunday, after Vespers. It is important to know how to think about ourselves and God, and how to approach God in prayer. More than any other season, the Triodion teaches this in almost every hymn. We look in detail at the hymns:

"Adam was cast out of Paradise through eating from the tree. / Seated before the gates he wept, / lamenting with a pitiful voice and saying: / 'Woe is me, what have I suffered in my misery! / I transgressed one commandment of the Master, / and now I am deprived of every blessing. / O most holy Paradise, / planted for my sake and shut because of Eve, / pray to Him that made thee and fashioned me, / that once more I may take pleasure in thy flowers.' / Then the Savior said to him: " and

"O Master, Guide to wisdom, / Giver of prudent counsel, / Instructor of the foolish and Champion of the poor, / make firm my heart and grant it understanding. / O Word of the Father, give me words, / for see, I shall not stop my lips from crying out to Thee: / I am fallen, // in Thy compassion have mercy on me."

More homilies on the Sunday of Forgiveness are HERE


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-05_2011-03-05+forgiveness-sunday-and-cheesefare-sunday+triodion-teaches-how-to-think.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-05_2011-03-05+forgiveness-sunday-and-cheesefare-sunday+triodion-teaches-how-to-think.mp3


RSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homiliesRSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homilies:http://feeds.feedburner.com/OrthodoxChristianSermonsOnTheGospelsEpistlesAndOtherTopics

Archive of Audio and text homilies:http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

Share

NB: Just one resolution for Great Lent. Fasting and prayer

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Many people make some sort of resolution when they enter Great Lent. Usually it is something we have not done before, or perhaps done poorly. The one who has fasted poorly in the past may decide to keep the fast better – to not eat any meat or animal products, and some may even be zealous to keep the fast from oil and wine and fish. The one who keeps the fasts may be zealous to not eat anything at all for the first three days of Great Lent, or eat only one meal a day, which, according to the strict typikon, is “after the ninth hour” (about 3 in the afternoon).

In my pastoral experience, most people make some sort of fasting related resolution. I applaud their intentions, but sometimes their emphasis on fasting obscures for them the real purpose of the fast (it is not fasting!), and trying something that is beyond their spiritual and physical capabilities sets them up for failure, and sometimes, despair. Even if they succeed in their fasting goal, they miss out on improving themselves in more important ways.  Remember: Nobody is saved because of fasting (but those who are being saved fast).

 

There is only ONE important resolution to make for the Great Fast. It is mentioned (in so many words and images) constantly in our services. We will mention that one in a little bit.

 

It is very important to fast, especially for the one who has rarely fasted, but there are more pressing things. It would be better if a person prayed the Prayer of St Ephrem [1] with attention in the morning and the evening. How many think about fasting, and even buy cool new vegan food from the local yuppie grocery, and do not increase their prayer? This is more important. We need to become more regular at prayer, and pray with more attention. The prayer of St Ephrem is a great place to start.

 

Also, there are extra services in any serious parish during the fast [2], especially in Clean week and Holy week. If you are not in the habit of going to church except on Sunday, or sometimes on Saturday too, it would be better for your soul if you made the effort to change your habits and attend at least one of the extra services each week regularly. This is much more meaningful (and difficult!) for those who are not in the habit of so much “church prayer” than “not eating till 3”, or “trying to not use oil” during the week.

 

Great Lent is a time when we are trying to change the way we think, and act. We are trying to get less selfish.

 

Many people rarely or inconsistently pray for others. This is the perfect time to decide to give our supplications to God for our loved ones (and especially our not loved ones!), our family, friends, and our pastor. Praying for others is demanded in the scriptures. We must do it; we need to get very good at it. Our prayer will not be fruitless, even though it may be distracted and not seem to us to be very effectual. We are in training to not think of ourselves, and to love, truly love, others. Prayer with attention is the greatest expression of love.

 

How do we go about this is we are undisciplined in prayer? We must have two things – real honest desire (which will be shown by our effort) and a little planning and organization.

 

Get a notecard and write a few important names on it. You can also use the prayer list we publish and change frequently- it is here: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dzgvjb6_16f2pcdrhn.  

 

Do not try to be eloquent or lengthy. All you need do is pray “Lord have mercy” for (N)”; do this for each person. You may also pray the Jesus prayer for each person. This blog has written at length about intercessory prayer for others: here: “ Christian Life Skills: Praying for others. Praying for enemies. The Jesus Prayer. [3]

 

Of course, we should plan to fast from various foods, but in comparison to our prayer, it certainly must take second place. In fact, the scripture teaches that fasting is in order to increase our prayer [4], so merely fasting without making other changes is nonsensical from a spiritual point of view.

 

The Most important Resolution.

 

Above, it was said that “Great Lent is a time when we are trying to change the way we think, and act.” This should be our “resolution” during the Great Fast. If we need to have an actual resolution, let us have the one St Herman of Alaska [5] has taught us:

 

"For our good, for our happiness," … "at least let us give a vow to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this minute, we shall strive above all else to love God and to do His Holy Will!"

 

 

“NB” is shorthand for “nota bene” ,which is Latin for “Note well”. These shorter posts are meant to be “noted well” more often because they are briefer than the usual blog posts. I have “noted well”  that many of my flock does do not read the longer posts. I have a lot of stuff to tell you, so there will still be longer posts, but I also plan to post shorter “snippets” which will have “NB:” in the title.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-02-18-just-one-resolution-for-great-lent-fasting-and-prayer.doc

And on our BLOG

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[2] There are RARE exceptions, when a pastor is unable to support himself without a very inflexible job, and cannot serve services during the week, but for the most part, when you see a church with just weekend services, and even only Sunday services, you would be better off finding another one.

 

[4]  “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” 1 Corinthians 7:5

 

“But I, when they troubled me, put on sackcloth, and humbled my soul with fasting: and my prayer shall return to my own bosom.” (Psalm 34 , Brenton Septuagint)

 

“And I set my face toward the Lord God, to seek him diligently by prayer and supplications, with fastings and sackcloth. “(Daniel 9:3  , Brenton Septuagint)

 

Share

Murphy’s law and molebens. Logismoi. How to think about personal intercessory prayer.

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

We all know about “Murphy’s Law” – “If anything can go wrong, it will”.  It has many corollaries, and is sometimes funny in context. But it is not funny when applied to real life – and by this I mean our inner life, in which we gain our salvation.

There is an “occupational hazard” in the pastoral life, which, I believe afflicts all but the truly humble and perfected. It consists of “Murphy’s law type of thinking – “logismoi” – negative thoughts.

I have these thoughts, and they are like mosquitoes – very hard to get rid of – and the best way to deal with them is to ignore them and just keep doing the right thing.

My parish needs the weekly Moleben [1] (and the weekday liturgy). During these, all parish members, and a good deal of others (who visit sometimes/often/hardly at all/are friendly to our community/have asked for prayer) are commemorated by name, three times. I have recently become aware that people I have been praying for with intensity for the people on my daily dyptichs for quite some time have had marvelous things happen in their lives. I would never say what, because I keep so many secrets that I may not even tell you if it is raining outside if you asked me – and it is not like angels have started singing in heaven, but I have seen real things happen that have comforted me.

 

How to think about personal intercessory prayer.

 

I have a “code” when I think about my intercessory prayer for others.

 

1. I MUST do it, because I am a Christian, and the defining characteristic of a Christian is love. Those who love think of those they love, and try to help them. Prayer should be the first, the middle and the last thing we do for those we love, and if it is mixed with other things because of contact with them, so much the better, but we should think ourselves totally deficient in loving others if we do not pray for them. I do not think anyone should consider themselves a Christian if they do not regularly pray for others.

 

2. I have dyptichs [2] which I keep on the computer, and print off using “Clickbook [3]”: software in 4 pages to a piece of standard printer paper, so I can cut it up and have it in my pocket at all times. The list includes all parishioners, “sort of” parishioners, friends of the parish, etc. It also includes our public prayer list, which is at: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dzgvjb6_16f2pcdrhn. The goal is to pray for each of these people by name at least once a day. Since it is with me, I can pray in the car, or when at work (or in a train, or in a plane , or in a bus, or here or there, or anywhere!) this list is also used in the Monday Moleben, and the Thursday morning liturgy. With a list, I have a concrete thing to help me remember people. I recommend that everyone would make one.

 

2. I believe in “KISS”, that is I keep it real simple. I just pray that the Lord would have mercy on those I love and care for. I use the Jesus prayer, since it is so powerful – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on _____” [4].  It does not matter if they are sick, going through a divorce, Orthodox, or not Orthodox, it does not matter about anything in a person’s life – we all need God’s help, and nobody knows with exactitude what we need. In praying only for mercy (the Orthodox Christian understanding of it, by the way), the prayer is short, focused, intense (well, to tell the truth, it can be intense, but sometimes it wavers) and non judgmental.

 

3. Just as I do not know what people really need, except in general terms, I cannot know if “my” prayer was answered. I also do not care. If I thought my prayers were extremely “effective”, I would get proud. I just pray, and rejoice if something happens to the good in a person’s life.

 

4. Even though I resolutely do not “take any credit” for anything I pray about, I am open to the possibility that God has heard my prayer, and especially my prayer in behalf of my people before the altar as a priest of God. Therefore, I am encouraged to pray more.

 

Back to the logismoi – negative thoughts. Here is an example. The Moleben is not attended by a lot of people. I sometimes pray alone. I have it after a long 14 hour day of work and travel, and sometimes I have a bit of a war negative thoughts when I am going to this service, tired and maybe a little crabby. I have found that I am never sorry I have served the Moleben, and believe with all my heart that the regular serving of it is crucial to our parish’s inner life.

 

There is one part to “Murphy’s Law” that does apply to Molebens and weekly prayer services. If I am late, people are waiting. If I am early, nobody is there, and sometimes I serve alone.

 

This past Monday, I forgot about the service three times, and almost did not go, but God reminded me. I was offered a chance to go to feed the horses with my son Tim, and I will always do this if I can. I said I would be there at 8 pm after work, totally forgetting about my obligation to serve at the church. Later in the day, Tim cancelled, since someone else in his family had already fed them. I was asked to pick up my son Dan at about 7:30 PM from a practice for a play he was in, because my wife was delayed at work. I was ready to do this, and texted him, but he replied that one of my daughters would do it. I was blissfully unaware that these two obstacles to serving the Moleben had been removed, and when I got in my truck to drive home after a long day at work, I somehow forgot completely about the Moleben (it was formerly on Tuesday evening, but my work schedule changed), and I only remembered after ten minutes on the highway. The negative thoughts set in for a short while, but they are just mosquitoes – swat them away and go do what I gotta do.  

 

I arrived at church (a little bit late, and despite Mr. Murphy, nobody was waiting) and served alone, and there was a marvelous peacefulness and intensity to the prayer. I also got to say the list of names “mentally” since nobody was there to hear me. I prefer to pray “in my head” most of the time, since I am “this close” to being autistic when it comes to sound. I thought about “Murphy’s law” before I served and how I almost forgot to even come to the church, and in this case, nobody would have cared. I decided that “Murphy’s Law” doe not apply in any way to Molebens or any prayer or anything in our Christian life, and decided to write a little something about it (which due to Mr. Murphy, I was unable to finish until this glorious and rare (in Texas) snowed in Wednesday)

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-02-murphys-law-and-molebens+logismoi-intercessory-prayer.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-02-02-murphys-law-and-molebens+logismoi-intercessory-prayer.doc

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] “Moleben” means “Prayer service” and is from the Russian word “molitva” – prayer. It is a short, multi-purpose service which is like a severely shortened matins service, with intercessory prayers inserted. We serve it once a week, with an Akathist, almost always to the Theotokos, inserted.

[2] “Dyptichs” means “list”. All priests have personal dyptichs, and all Christians should have them, and USE them. The word also has a serious theological implication. The head bishops of the local Orthodox churches in the world (such as the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kyrill, etc) have an official dyptichs which names the heads of all the local Orthodox churches. If a bishop is not on it, there is something seriously amiss in the canonical relationship of the two churches, or the other church is not even Orthodox. For example, the Pope of Rome is not on any Orthodox Church’s official dyptichs.

[3] “Clickbook” ( www.clickbook.com/) is not expensive, and it is awesome. I have no relationship with the company, except that I have used their product to print zillions of booklets, cards and other stuff, especially for the church, for many years.

Share

To Pray For Someone More Diligently. Prayer Of St Silouan Of Mount Athos For All People. Audio talk and prayer texts.

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

LISTEN NOW

This is another in our short after liturgy catechetical talks. We discuss 2 prayers that everyone should have for their personal prayer rule. The prayer of St Silouan is especially important. St Silouan prayed for all the people of the world. This is a sure sign of love. We must cultivate habits that build this kind of love. The audio explains a little about these prayers and quotes them. The word document contains these two prayers. It can be printed and cut into quarters to have 4 sheets with both prayers.

More catechetical talks and articles are HERE


If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/catechism//orthopraxis_2010+to-pray-for-someone-more-diligently+prayer-of-st-silouan-of-mount-athos-for-all-people.m3u

If this file does not work for you, try the direct link to the actual mp3 file:http://www.orthodox.net/catechism//orthopraxis_2010+to-pray-for-someone-more-diligently+prayer-of-st-silouan-of-mount-athos-for-all-people.mp3


To pray for someone more diligently

 

Save, O Lord, and have mercy on Thy servant(s) ________, [bow]

 

Deliver him (her, them) from every tribulation, wrath and need [bow],

 

From every sickness of soul and body, [bow]

 

Forgive him (her, them) every transgression, voluntary and involuntary, [bow]

 

And do whatever is profitable for our souls. [bow].

 

 

 

Prayer of St Silouan of Mount Athos

 

I pray Thee, O merciful Lord, for all the peoples of the world, that they may come to know Thee by the Holy Spirit.

 

 

1st prayer from the “Old Believer” prayer book. 2nd from Archimandrite Zacharias, “The Enlargement of the Heart”

 

 


RSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homiliesRSS feed of Sunday and some weekday homilies:http://feeds.feedburner.com/OrthodoxChristianSermonsOnTheGospelsEpistlesAndOtherTopics

RSS feed of Catechetical talksRSS feed of Catechetical talks:http://www.orthodox.net/catechism/feed-audio.xml

Share

NB: Just one resolution for Great Lent. Fasting and prayer

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Many people make some sort of resolution when they enter Great Lent. Usually it is something we have not done before, or perhaps done poorly. The one who has fasted poorly in the past may decide to keep the fast better – to not eat any meat or animal products, and some may even be zealous to keep the fast from oil and wine and fish. The one who keeps the fasts may be zealous to not eat anything at all for the first three days of Great Lent, or eat only one meal a day, which, according to the strict typikon, is “after the ninth hour” (about 3 in the afternoon).

In my pastoral experience, most people make some sort of fasting related resolution. I applaud their intentions, but sometimes their emphasis on fasting obscures for them the real purpose of the fast (it is not fasting!), and trying something that is beyond their spiritual and physical capabilities sets them up for failure, and sometimes, despair. Even if they succeed in their fasting goal, they miss out on improving themselves in more important ways.  Remember: Nobody is saved because of fasting (but those who are being saved fast).

 

There is only ONE important resolution to make for the Great Fast. It is mentioned (in so many words and images) constantly in our services. We will mention that one in a little bit.

 

It is very important to fast, especially for the one who has rarely fasted, but there are more pressing things. It would be better if a person prayed the Prayer of St Ephrem [1] with attention in the morning and the evening. How many think about fasting, and even buy cool new vegan food from the local yuppie grocery, and do not increase their prayer? This is more important. We need to become more regular at prayer, and pray with more attention. The prayer of St Ephrem is a great place to start.

 

Also, there are extra services in any serious parish during the fast [2], especially in Clean week and Holy week. If you are not in the habit of going to church except on Sunday, or sometimes on Saturday too, it would be better for your soul if you made the effort to change your habits and attend at least one of the extra services each week regularly. This is much more meaningful (and difficult!) for those who are not in the habit of so much “church prayer” than “not eating till 3”, or “trying to not use oil” during the week.

 

Great Lent is a time when we are trying to change the way we think, and act. We are trying to get less selfish.

 

Many people rarely or inconsistently pray for others. This is the perfect time to decide to give our supplications to God for our loved ones (and especially our not loved ones!), our family, friends, and our pastor. Praying for others is demanded in the scriptures. We must do it; we need to get very good at it. Our prayer will not be fruitless, even though it may be distracted and not seem to us to be very effectual. We are in training to not think of ourselves, and to love, truly love, others. Prayer with attention is the greatest expression of love.

 

How do we go about this is we are undisciplined in prayer? We must have two things – real honest desire (which will be shown by our effort) and a little planning and organization.

 

Get a notecard and write a few important names on it. You can also use the prayer list we publish and change frequently- it is here: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dzgvjb6_16f2pcdrhn.  

 

Do not try to be eloquent or lengthy. All you need do is pray “Lord have mercy” for (N)”; do this for each person. You may also pray the Jesus prayer for each person. This blog has written at length about intercessory prayer for others: here: “ Christian Life Skills: Praying for others. Praying for enemies. The Jesus Prayer. [3]

 

Of course, we should plan to fast from various foods, but in comparison to our prayer, it certainly must take second place. In fact, the scripture teaches that fasting is in order to increase our prayer [4], so merely fasting without making other changes is nonsensical from a spiritual point of view.

 

The Most important Resolution.

 

Above, it was said that “Great Lent is a time when we are trying to change the way we think, and act.” This should be our “resolution” during the Great Fast. If we need to have an actual resolution, let us have the one St Herman of Alaska [5] has taught us:

 

"For our good, for our happiness," … "at least let us give a vow to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this minute, we shall strive above all else to love God and to do His Holy Will!"

 

 

 

“NB” is shorthand for “nota bene” ,which is Latin for “Note well”. These shorter posts are meant to be “noted well” more often because they are briefer than the usual blog posts. I have “noted well”  that many of my flock does do not read the longer posts. I have a lot of stuff to tell you, so there will still be longer posts, but I also plan to post shorter “snippets” which will have “NB:” in the title.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-02-18-just-one-resolution-for-great-lent-fasting-and-prayer.doc

And on our BLOG

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[2] There are RARE exceptions, when a pastor is unable to support himself without a very inflexible job, and cannot serve services during the week, but for the most part, when you see a church with just weekend services, and even only Sunday services, you would be better off finding another one.

 

[4]  “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” 1 Corinthians 7:5

 

“But I, when they troubled me, put on sackcloth, and humbled my soul with fasting: and my prayer shall return to my own bosom.” (Psalm 34 , Brenton Septuagint)

 

“And I set my face toward the Lord God, to seek him diligently by prayer and supplications, with fastings and sackcloth. “(Daniel 9:3  , Brenton Septuagint)

 

Share

O Lord and Master of my life. The Prayer of St Ephrem explained

Friday, February 12th, 2010

The “Prayer of St Ephrem” is ubiquitous during Great Lent, and is used in all weekday services, and in prayers at home.

 

This prayer is much like the “Our Father”, in the following way. When the disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray, He told them to “pray in this way”, and then recited the “Our Father”, thus giving us a model for how to pray and a prayer which perfectly fulfilled these principles. So should we treat the prayer of St Ephrem. Its content is truly sublime, and teaches us the right way to approach God in prayer, how to think of ourselves, and what to ask for. It also is a perfect prayer fulfilling these principles.

 

Everyone should say this prayer daily during the week in Great Lent. Because of the  physical way in which we say this prayer (it is done with bows and prostrations), it has the remarkable ability to put the soul in the right frame of mind.  One might even go so far to say that if the Prayer of St Ephrem has been prayed with attention at least once during the day,  and nothing else has been done, the Christian has prayed well.

 

The reality of our scattered, busy, distracted and often lazy lives is that we do not pray often enough, or with enough attention, or in the proper frame of mind. If a person is consistent in praying the prayer of St Ephrem, no matter how well he does in other prayer and spiritual reading, he has a “life line” and is grounded in the most important aspects of the way a Christian should conduct himself during Lent.

 

Of course, to just pray the prayer of St Ephrem is NOT enough for a Christian, but a pastor must prescribe “baby steps for baby feet” We all are in some measure “babies”, and all of us should pray this prayer, attentively, and carefully, without fail. The person who takes this advice to “come and see” will soon find the fruit of this practice.

 

The prayer of St Ephrem is found in any complete Orthodox prayer book. For instance, the “Jordanville prayer book” has this prayer in its Triodion section (page 166 in the latest printing). Our website has it in English and Slavonic with 4 sections per page so it can be printed, cut in quarters and inserted in a prayer book, in RTF and PDF formats.  It is part of  a dedicated page containing information about our Theology, Homilies, Services, and other Resources about Great Lent.

 

Other resources for this prayer include a catechetical talk about the prayer of St Ephrem.

 

Like anything worth doing, the prayer of St Ephrem takes some practice before we can receive the full benefit. There are bows AND prostrations during the prayer, and a certain number of repetitions. To someone who is accustomed to this prayer, the physical actions and specific repetitions free the mind and penetrate the soul. This can only be understood if it is done, else, a person will consider the prayer to be too complicated, or worse, an example of “vain repetition”, which the scripture forbids.

 

He who has ears to hear, and mouth to speak, arms to make the sign of the cross, and knees to bend, let him understand!

 

The prayer of St Ephrem is said two different ways in church. The best way to say it at home is the “longer” way, twice a day, in morning and evening prayers. If a person is not organized or motivated enough to say formal morning of evening prayers, at least this prayer can be said. As my father used to say, Once or twice, but never “nunce”!

 

This is the “long way”.

 

 

The prayer is said two times, one time in parts, and the last time in full. After each part, or the entire prayer, a prostration is made. In between the two “O God cleanse me a sinner” is said twelve times, with a bow each time. This is easy to remember after doing it a few times.  Two prayers, four prostrations, twelve bows (and 100 calories burned).

 

“O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not.“

 

Prostration [i].

 

“But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant.“

 

Prostration.

 

“Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.“

 

Prostration.

 

Then, twelve repetitions of:

 

“O God, cleanse me a sinner.”  

Bow.

 

And then repeat the entire prayer all at once:

 

“O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition, and idle talking give me not. But rather a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my failings and not condemn my brother; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.”

 

 Prostration. 

 

 

A Prostration is a full bow to the ground with the knees touching the ground, and the head touching or near the ground, then immediately standing back up. As the bow to the ground is begun, the sign of the cross is made. Some people touch their knees to the ground first and then bend their upper body down, and the more athletic or coordinated essentially “fall” forward to the ground  with their knees and hands touching at essentially the same time. This is very similar to the familiar gym class “burpee”.

 

A Bow, also known as a “reverence” or “Poklon” is when the sign of the cross is made, while simultaneously bowing the head by bending at the waist. Some bow deeply and touch the ground with their right hand, and other make very shallow bows. It really does not matter as long as the movement is done with attention.

 

Something NOT TO DO: No “waving at the air”. Some do prostrations and bows quickly or carelessly, and the sign of the cross they make looks like they are shooing away a fly. “Let all things be done in good order”.

 

 

The author has many fond memories of saying this prayer way back when, when a layman, especially in church, or with his children. The church would be dark, and lit only by candles, the priest standing in front of the royal doors. It would be very quiet, and only his voice and “swishing” sounds from the prostrations or bows would be heard. Everybody would be doing the same thing at once; this was always a profoundly holy moment and I remember thinking sometimes that I wish I would always be in this state of mind.  There was a feeling that something profoundly good and important was happening. A mixture of sorrow for my personal condition and great hope in God that I really would get better sometime, would flood my soul. Many times I would even feel warmth. With the sublime, was always mixed “real life” – sounds of grunts, heavy breathing, the sights of children making very creative prostrations.  When I had to say the Trisagion prayers immediately after, I would sometimes struggle to say them without betraying that I was out of breath!

 

Parents: say this prayer with your children! I know, it is sometimes a “circus”, but where are they going to learn piety is not from you. Prayer is not always neat and pretty with children, but you will be glad you went to the trouble.

 

Here is the most important “take home” point: SAY THIS PRAYER EVERY WEEKDAY IN GREAT LENT!



Share

NB: Prayer for the Dead. Why do we do it?

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

 

A short explanation of “Saturday of the Dead”

 

Around the time of Great Lent, we have some Saturdays which are set aside for the commemoration of the dead. We call these days “Saturday of the dead”, or “All Souls Saturday”, and we just celebrated the first one appointed during this time of year, on the Saturday before the Sunday of the Last Judgment (the penultimate Sunday before Great Lent begins).

 

The full list of “Saturdays of the dead” for the year is::

·  The second Saturday before Great Lent (before the Sunday of the Last Judgment)

·  The third Saturday of Great Lent

·  The fourth Saturday of Great Lent

·  The Saturday before Pentecost

·  Demetrius Saturday (Saturday before Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki – 26 October)

 

The proper way to celebrate these days is to serve Vespers the evening before and on Saturday morning, celebrate “requiem matins”, which is a special form of matins in which the dead are commemorated by name two times (if memory serves) and all of Psalm 118 is chanted in two parts. Some people call this a long “panakhida” (parastas in Greek) which is the typical prayer service for the dead which Orthodox Christians are familiar with.

 

Of course, following matins, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, and the dead are again all commemorated by name. It is important that an Orthodox Christian submit the names of Orthodox loved ones who have reposed. We have the custom of accepting names by email or other means, and are not prejudiced against the dead because their loved ones are not at the service to pray for them as well, but it is much better to pray in person for one’s loved ones. The priest prays for the people and with the people, but (as much as possible), not instead of the people!

 

It is a shame that the requiem matins is almost unknown among modern Orthodox. Just check the online calendars for most churches. This service is almost never mentioned. With God helping us, we have preserved this tradition. Like Philip, I must say “Come and see” to those who do not know of this service. It is good to make an effort to pray for the dead, and to hear compunctionate hymns, and think of our own death. Somehow a quickie “Trisagion Service” just does not cut it on these days.

 

Why do we pray for the dead?  

 

Many people who call themselves Christians are offended when they hear that we pray for the dead. This begs the question: Why do we pray for the dead?

 

The answer is really easy. We pray for the dead for three reasons that I can think of off the top of my head.

 

Most importantly, we believe in the resurrection. God is the God of the Living, and not of the dead, our Lord told us, and we believe this truth. If this is true, then the dead have not ceased to exist, because “all are alive to God.” Praying for the dead, as much as asking the dead (those whom we believe to be righteous) to intercede for us shows that we really do believe in the resurrection.

 

We also know that “all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, and there is “not one man who liveth and sinneth not”, and we (at least as a church, if not individually) are profoundly humble. How can we know the judgments of God? They are a vast abyss. We do not presume to declare that one is blessed and another is damned. God knows, and only rarely reveals to us this with certainty.

 

We also pray because we love. Love remembers. We continue to remember our loved ones even though they are no longer with us who have living flesh.

 

Why do we pray for the dead? Because, knowing the weakness of flesh and mans predilection to sin, we hope in the resurrection, leaving all judgment to God, and because we love, we remember.

 

Here is another reason: We pray because we love, and also prayer teaches us to love. It takes effort and time to pray for those from whom we hear no answer. Let’s face it – we rarely think of death, and mostly think of ourselves. By making an effort to pray, We not only remember our loved ones; God also remembers us and softens our hearts and teaches us to love. Remember an important principle in the Christian life: What we do affects who we are and vice-versa!  

 

The next Saturday for the dead that we will remember (we cannot do all of them yet) is March 6 (ns), the third Saturday of Lent. Will you remember your loved ones on that day?

 

More about the Commemoration of the Dead

 

 

“NB” is shorthand for “nota bene” ,which is Latin for “Note well”. These shorter posts are meant to be “noted well” more often because they are briefer than the usual blog posts. I have “noted well”  that many of my flock does do not read the longer posts. I have a lot of stuff to tell you, so there will still be longer posts, but I also plan to post shorter “snippets” which will have “NB:” in the title.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-02-11-saturday-of-the-dead+all-souls-saturday+why-do-we-pray-for-the-dead.doc

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)


 

Share

NB: Angelic children. A story told by Archimandrite Zacharias

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

May God place in the hearts of our children the things they should know.

 

Archiamandrite Zacharias of St John the Baptist Monastery in Essex England lecturing in Dallas, Texas Feb 2010 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/saint-nicholas/4345787767/in/set-72157623400813646/) Archimandrite Zacharias of St John the Baptist Monastery in Essex England has told this story. I have benefited from many things Fr Zacharias has said, but nothing as much as this:

 

He tells of a Greek priest he knows who has three sons who are like angels. One is a priest, and the others serve in the altar with their father. This is, lamentably a rare thing: for the children to grow up with the piety of their parents.

 

Fr Zacharias asked this priest why his children were so angelic. The priest replied that he has never taught his children anything about the faith, but since they were little, has had the custom of kneeling beside their bed while they were sleeping for a half hour and praying that the Lord would put in their hearts what they should know.

 

I wish I had prayed more for my children. I have taught them many things – many good things. I have taught them the truth, but I have not prayed at their beds for a half hour every night. The life of this simple priest and his angelic sons is a sobering wakeup.

 

Really, it is all about prayer. We need it as much as we need oxygen, and yet, we do not do it enough, even for the ones we love. Isn’t this a terrible, inexplicable conundrum?

 

We are approaching the Sunday commemorating the casting out of Adam from Paradise (aka “Forgiveness Sunday”). The only path back to paradise for ourselves and our loved ones is prayer. Let us join with Adam and lament:

 

In my wretchedness, O Lord, I have disobeyed Thy commandment. / Woe is me! I have been stripped of glory, / filled with shame, and cast out from the joy of Paradise. / I have been justly deprived of Thy blessings: // but in Thy mercy and compassion take pity on me. (Expostilarion, Forgiveness Sunday. The Casting out of Adam from Paradise)

 

If we learn to pray a little better during the fast, it will not be without purpose.

 

May God place in our hearts the zeal and ability to pray.

 

May God place in the hearts of our children the things they should know.  

 

 

 

“NB” is shorthand for “nota bene” ,which is Latin for “Note well”. These shorter posts are meant to be “noted well” more often because they are briefer than the usual blog posts. I have “noted well”  that many of my flock does do not read the longer posts. I have a lot of stuff to tell you, so there will still be longer posts, but I also plan to post shorter “snippets” which will have “NB:” in the title.

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-02-10-angelic-children-fathers-who-pray-for-their-children.doc and on the blog.

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal

 

Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.

 

Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 

Share