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Prayer 28

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A

Which of my sins shall I confess now?
Which shall we examine?
On which kind shall I discourse?
How much of the hidden shall I uncover?
Which shall I confess –
the present, which I am still doing?
Or the past, which I have done?
Or the future, which I fear?
The slippery places, where I stumbled?
Those faults I thought small, but which
God reckoned large,
or the insubstantial, which are not worth mentioning?
The minor, which are many,
or the few, which are grave?
The psychological passions which are destructive
or the physical ailments which are deadly?
Those that began as easy pleasures,
or those that ended in destruction?
The invisible or visible?
Those committed directly by the hand,1
or those committed indirectly by one’s breath?
The scattershot of easy marks
or the arrow shots at length?
Those whose depth is beyond measure
or those that totally cover the surface?
Multifarious prostitution
or incurable illness?
The body swollen with evil
or the soul starved of the good?
The penchant for things unpleasing to God,
or the equally frenzied tugging at the leash of restraint?
The mortal sins or my vain thoughts?

B

Truly, like a willfully crazed person, stripped naked,
I display my waywardness openly,
contradicting the wise man who said
that the clever cover up their shame.2
I who am estranged from religion,
who am expelled from the ranks,
in holiness, profane; in celibacy, unclean,
in justice, iniquitous; in piety, wicked,
in words of my mouth, close to my creator,
but in my innermost organs, distant.
By my lips offering honor, as the Prophet says,
but not with my heart.3
And if I recount my full shame here,
I would tempt fate with a worse punishment,
for I am the unreliable servant,
vacillating between two paths,
both leading to damnation.4
I try, but I have no success.
I press forward, but I do not arrive.
I rush, but I am late.
I strain, but I do not see.
I desire, but I am not fulfilled.
I long, but I do not meet.
I have all earthly ills and thus can serve as
an emissary offering prayers for the whole world.

C

Forgive these sins, generous God,
and do not focus only on them.
It is easier for you to erase them than
for me to describe my vile actions.
Therefore I write without restraint
so you may blot them out,
you, who for the sake of us sinners
became long-suffering.
My soul, like Ezra’s yearning heart,
is anxious, my spirit, restless
as I list these faults,5
showing how I am in danger of every mortal passion,
how I am fallen into a pit of sin.
And like Job I doubt you hear me.6
Now, as a self-accused, self-condemned captive,
bound by sin, I turn myself in
and block all of life’s possibilities.
But by your mercy toward me
your greatness is multiplied, praiseworthy Lord.

D

And as advised by the good prophet,
let us try to pray with him in song,
with our firm faith in God’s protection,
“Give your word,” says Hosea,
“And turn away from sin and toward the Lord our God,
and say to him, ‘Would you forgive our sins?’”7
that you might be restored to the good,
that your souls might enjoy bliss.
God spoke, but who listened?
He himself gave witness, but who believed?
E

These words, weighed and judged,
these terms describing God-given conditions,
this good news, this set of purposes,
this door to what is right,
this invitation to comfort,
this genuine picture,
the undiminishing treasure,
the indelible memory,
I hereby set down in faith,
and testify with the prophet –
that you are able to forgive all our sins,
thereby magnifying, exalting yourself,
for this wretched soul.
In this you reign, providing all,
reaching everywhere,
triumphing over all violence,
crumbling all hardness,
fending off all blows,
softening all severity,
overcoming all bitterness,
sweetening sourness,
lightening the inconsolable,
forgiving all debts,
remitting all transgressions,
you, able, mighty, master of all arts,
submerge and destroy all sins and clear them away,
as with a flash of lightning, which takes no space,
but penetrates the depths and is enveloped by
the universal sea.

F

Now, Father, through prayers offered by
the readers of this book,
have mercy, for the sake of the cross and
the suffering and death of your Son,
who is the source of the lamenting voice of
the one who sends these tearful psalms.8
May he who prepared this remedy for
the salvation of our souls
be made whole in your name, Almighty.
Let him who showed us the true path
through confession,
be clear of all his transgression.
Let him who taught us to clip the wings of our pride
with his message on the rule of life
be released from the evil bonds of deadly sins –
original, final and all in between.
Through the beneficence of your Trinity,
restore us to the light and
we will deem ourselves blissful with him.

G

Now, Father creator
awesome name, miracle maker,
shuddering voice, familiar exclamation,
embracing thought, splendid effect, severe command,
essence beyond examination, existence beyond words,
reality beyond measure, might beyond thought,
good will, limitless dominion,
immeasurable greatness, exalted beyond comprehension,
quantity beyond weighing, supremacy
       beyond surpassing,
the origin of the Son by fatherhood, and not by priority,
by you and through your unbounded power,
banish the tormenting and demonic frenzied fever,
which slyly entered with sin.
Banish it from man so that
frightened by the wondrous and unending stream
of blood of your heavenly lamb,
we might be cleansed forever.

H

And now, before your wonders, in abject humility,
may Satan shrink in shame at the evil deeds
of his angels, may he be tormented and driven away,
banished and exiled, into the outer darkness,
from the altar of your dwelling place within us.
And when you have purged them, wipe the tears
from our faces, erase the sobbing of
our voices from our hearts.
And in memory of the blows, like thorns in the side,
mortal and terrifying, by which the Only Begotten
was nailed to the cross,
may the evil one also suffer similar pain.
And may the blow to the side by the piercing arrow,
gravely wound him and
kill the creator of death.
And since Satan bowed his haughty head,
before he breathed his last breath, O Exalted One,
let rebellious Beliar with his evil ways
perish totally, condemned, vanquished.
And again, since the truly immortal was concealed and
buried in the womb of the earth,
let the haughty see himself bound in the darkness of
the shadows on the deadly pavement of hell.
And may he remember the first irreversible blow
by which the resistance to the poisonous snake died
at the price of the suffering of the almighty Savior.

I

For your glory and in praise of your Son and through
the Holy Spirit,
I confess this, Father of mercy,
for in the deep mystery of your unity,
one does not need the least power from the other,
rather we glorify your Word made flesh
without beginning, along with the timeless Father.
To you alone, Holy Trinity,
from one stem, indivisible self,
blessings, thanks and strength,
and the ineffable splendor of greatness,
felicitous balance and equality forever.
Amen.
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Notes
  1 ...... Gen. 3:3-7 (sin by reaching for the fruit of the tree of knowledge vs. sin by the breath of one’s voice).

  2 ...... Pr. 12:16.

  3 ...... Is. 29:13.

  4 ...... 1 Kg. 18:21.

  5 ...... 1 Ezra 8:72.

  6 ...... Job 9:16

  7 ...... Hos. 14:2, Is. 55:3.

  8 ...... Commentators suggest that this section is dedicated to St. Gregory’s teachers or parents. Critical Edition, p. 1028, n. 11.