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Fr. Kyrillos’ Comments and Confessions

(December 2002)

  

I have been away for two months from your Newsletter and I really missed not having written these thoughts that you so kindly request of me. Many difficulties and business of health and family have impeded me. In fact, I have just returned from France and Spain. In France I attended the 11th Congress of the Orthodox Fraternité (Fellowship) in Western Europe, presided by His Eminence Metropolitan Ieremias of France; and later, passing again by France I visited the wonderful Benedictine Monastery of Fontgombault. In Spain I attended my very elderly relatives, for which I request your kindly prayers. There also I visited and concelebrated the Divine Liturgy in our Greek church of Madrid. And I had the joy to hear the news that Holy Orthodoxy is now spreading in the country very rapidly. Thanks be to God!

 

As you know we have began the spiritual preparation for the Christmas festivities. Our Holy Mother, the Church, instructs us to fast from the 15th of November. I have written in past Newsletters some references about fasting. One of the points of fasting is to help us to intensify our life of prayer.

 

As Christians we are children of God. Today in the Latin Church as in the Protestant churches we hear a lot about us being the People of God. Our Orthodox Church goes further in telling us that we are, each one of us, a child of God. Yes we, as a whole, are the People of God, the Nation of God, the New Israel. But in singleness, as individuals, we are children of God. This is why our Lord taught us to pray “our Father who art in the Heavens-Πάτερ ημών ο εν τοίς ουρανοίς.”

 

This lifting up of our mind and heart to God is a conversation with our Father, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and with Jesus Himself, who said that He will be with us even to the end of the age (Mt.28:20); and also, with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, given to us by the Father to abide with us for ever as our Helper and Comforter (Jn. 14:16-17).

 

Moreover, this gift of the Holy Spirit has been given to us through the prayer of our Lord to His Father when He had, obeying the Father, to leave us at the end of His temporal life with His Death, Resurrection and Ascension into heaven: “I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper.”

 

This lifting of our mind and heart is expressed with words or thoughts. That is, it requires of us the action of speaking to or addressing God expressing our needs and desires, etc. But this is not an egoistic action centred in us but, firstly, a glorification of God for His divine perfections; secondly, a thanksgiving to Him for His mercies, and, finally, a request to Him asking for what we need. So there are three important stages of prayer: Praise, Thanksgiving and Petition.

 

Therefore, if we think a little about what we do in church, we shall find how wonderfully this pattern is practiced. However, activity on our part is required-not our passive listening. When we do something important we need to put into our action due care and attention.

 

It has to be said that in most of our offices or church services we do not put due care and attention. How often it happens that the priest begins with Ευλογητός-Blessed be our God- and we run with the rest of the introductory prayer in a hurry and with no attention at all…! These are very important prayers to be said not only by the psalter or singer but by every one, because they are for preparing us to enter into the presence of God.

 

The Priest who occupies the visible presence of Jesus Christ (in the name of the Bishop) confesses the existence of God, Ο ΩΝ -'The One Who Is' (Ex.3:13):

 

Blessed be our God, now and ever and to the ages of ages!

 

We all should reply Amen.  The Hebrew word that expresses our assent, “so be it.” Saint Jerome called it “the seal to prayer.” It unites us with the prayer of the Hebrew Church of the Old Testament (Deut. 27:15 and following), and with the Christians at the very beginning of the Church’s existence (1 Cor. 14:16) and so too with our Lord himself who used the word Amen when He began a solemn affirmation, as in Mark 8:39, “Amen I say to you.”

 

Then the Priest, in an act of humility brought out by the awe before the creation, proclaims:

 

“Glory to Thee our God, glory to Thee!”

 

To follow with that wonderful call to the Helper and Comforter that Jesus prayed for us and the Father granted: Βασιλεύ ουράνιε,

 

“O Heavenly King, the Comforter, Spirit of Truth, who art everywhere present, and fillest all things; treasury of good things and Giver of Life: Come and abide in us and cleanse us from every stain; and save our souls, O Good One.”

 

The Holy Spirit rules over the whole world, all that we see and all that we do not see, even over the Angels who do His Will in Heaven. He aids us and consoles us in sorrows and tribulations. He is our Advocate or Intercessor (Jn. 14:16 and 15:26). He reveals to us the true teaching on how to live in order to achieve eternal salvation. He is within us and thousands of miles away. The whole world is filled with His power and grace. Because He is the source of every thing of goodness, He is the treasury of good things. As God, with the Father and the Son, He gives life to everyone and everything, that is to Angels and humans, to animals and plants, and gives and sustains all the laws of nature. He specially gives us Orthodox Catholic Christians spiritual life in Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Communion as well as in the other Holy Sacraments or Mysteries of the Church. Without Him we cannot live as we should because we do not have enough strength of ourselves, but by His abiding in us we receive the power to fulfil the Commandments of God. Because we sin we become ill and impure and He can heal and cleanse every defilement of sin, restoring us to the Grace which makes our souls holy and pleasing to God, and so saving our souls for life everlasting, free from torments and unhappiness after death.

 

These and many other thoughts should fill our attentive minds when we lift our hearts in prayer to our God. They are the source of our conversation with the Holy Trinity as a Unity or with each Holy Person, the Father, the Son, that is, the Word or Logos of God who took flesh becoming man for our salvation, and the Holy Spirit.

 

Among our thoughts will also be the memory of our sins. Therefore, thoughts of guilt and regret that they have occurred should come into our hearts. And so we shall claim deeply in us:

 

O God, be merciful to me, a sinner !

 

O God, cleanse my sins, and have mercy on me!

 

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

 

Slowly and surely we enter into the presence of our God, our Creator and Father, our Redeemer, our Judge, our Brother and Saviour, our Helper, Counsellor, Comforter and King.

 

The due care and attention of our mind in our heart, welcoming the presence of the Holy Trinity in us, enables each one of us to enter into the grandiose yet intimate offices or services of and in our Church. So, we, with our Holy Mother Church, pray praising, thanksgiving and petitioning the Lover of mankind.

I’ll see you next month ‘Deo volente’ (God willing)!

© Fr. Kyrillos LERET-ALDIR.

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