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Prayer 29

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A

You alone are the origin of all goodness,
mercy beyond telling, Son of the one God on high,
who made the whole day a purgatory for our sins,1
and not a house of condemnation.
You are for me the expectation of good news,
instead of a day of dread.
You, physician to the ailing,
shepherd to the lost sheep,
master to the servant under your care,
pure wine for the dejected,
curative ointment for the wounded,
freedom for the captives of sin,
blessing of goodness for the rejected,
seal of grace for the despised,
the calling to anointment for the dispossessed,
restoration to uprightness for the fallen,
a mighty fortress for the stumbling,
a sublime helping hand to the disgraced,
the gate to heaven for the doubting,
stairway to bliss for the depraved,
the straight way for the confused,
forgiving king for the trespasser,
sweet hope for the abandoned,
the outstretched hand of life for the banished.

B

You alone are great and generous in everything.
You are the definition of abundant goodness,
who pours forth constantly without measure,
more than we ask or expect,
as Paul said in gratitude.2
For you commanded that we should do good,
from dawn to dusk, in the same day,
nine times fifty, plus three, plus four times ten.3
Always attentive, forgiving with an unfettered heart,
something more than the expectation of men’s prayers.
And if we place my wretchedness and disgrace beside
your glory, omnipotent and awesome power,
God of all, blessed Lord Christ,
by what measure of weight shall the balance between
the creator and the clay be set?
You remain in these things infinite and unexaminable,
good in all things, having no part in the wrath
of darkness; therefore, far less are the number of
stars than your greatness,4
for you called them into existence from nothing
by merely pronouncing their names.
Or take the mass of the earth floating in air,
created from nothing, from which you established the dry land of earth.
These are less than the number I formulated above,
by which you taught us to be like you in forgiveness.

C

As the radiant light of your long-suffering will
dispelled all evil without trace,
like a speck of fog in the heat of the sun,
so here, our natural impulses are shown
in our common behavior.
For who among mortals has sinned and not regretted?
Who has been corrupted and not been ashamed?
Who has been base and not been humiliated?
Who has faltered and not repented?
Who has been ruined and not sobbed?
Who has been scandalized and not felt compunction?
Who has been defeated and not closed his mouth?
Who has been cheated and not sighed?
Who has tasted bile and not become bitter?
Who has fallen from the heights and
not been disheartened?
Who has lost greatness and not mourned?
Who has been deprived of happiness and not cried?
Who has been robbed of the grace of glory and
not lamented?
Who has done harm to his soul and
not been embarrassed?
Who has been banished from God’s sight and
not felt the loss of his gaze?
Who has heard God’s warnings and not trembled?
Who has made one mistake and not sighed “alas”
a thousand times?
Who has bared himself on a winter’s day and
not shivered?
Who has done wrong and not pelted himself with
stones in his mind?
Who has seen the high and mighty slave and
not been vexed?
Who has done evil and not cursed himself?
Who has cultivated vices and not condemned his soul?
Who has done shameful things and
not made a mockery of his body?
Who has had hard times and not cursed his life?
Who has remembered his misdeeds and not stewed?
Who has recalled secrets and not become flustered?
Who has seen the dark side and
not sought the perdition of death?
Who has had visions of the invisible and
not hung his head back to earth?
Who has committed sins of ease and not burned with
the inextinguishable flames of the furnace?
Who has violated nature, and not been parched?
Who has acted willfully and not prayed for
his own death?
Who has done the unspeakable and
not become disturbed?
Who has unbearably violated his essence and
not grieved?
Who has become high and mighty and
not been worn down?
Who has committed acts that corrupt innocence and
not burned?
Who has done things condemnable by banishment and not been anguished?
Who has appeared with a grimy face and
not felt deserving of the heaven’s disapproval?
Who has focused on one of his major sins and
not been wounded by sin’s weaponry?
Who has committed a scandalous act and
not woven the discouraging woe into
the sighs of his voice?
Who has been ousted from his chair in heaven and has not fallen down cringing?
Who has placed dirt on his head instead of a splendid halo and not been tortured with a thousand deaths?
Who has put on sack cloth instead of a bright cloak and not been sad?
Who has lost his life and not sweat tears of blood?
Who has clothed himself in darkness instead of light and not fainted?
Who has mourned for a loved one and not wilted?

D

These then faithfully describe me,
the sinner deserving reprimand,
a sad face, an extinguished ray, dried up liquid,
shriveled lips,
a deformed mould, a dispirited soul, a distorted voice,
a twisted neck.
It would not be wrong to classify me as
a mind stripped of arrogance, a heart stripped of pride,
a wretch afraid to ask for help, too parched to pray,
self-scolding wanderer,
starved by self-denial, hungry because of
duly earned torment,
struck down by just condemnation, condemned to death by self-incrimination,
deservedly exiled, self-cursed outcast,
like the Pharisee who was rejected
and the sinful tax collector who was pleasing to God.5

E

And now, if the Slanderer takes credit
as part of his day’s work,
for planting his bad seeds
and using his evil devices on us, the wayward,
why should you not count one by one the good things
that by your will and saving care
are planted in us to fortify our souls,
Lord of merciful kindness, mighty and victorious,
you who atone for our sins,
who are salvation in all things for everything?
If you can exchange the abyss for heaven,
or bring the dark of night into the light,
if you can turn the bitter bile into sweet manna,
or the groans of extreme grief
into the dancing circles at a joyful wedding,
if for you these are easy and possible,
then you can do more than these,
you who reign over all in awesome power.
To you glory forever and ever.
Amen.
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Notes
  1 ...... Lk. 17:4.

  2 ...... Eph. 3:20.

  3 ...... Mt. 18:21-22. The total, 493, is greater than the forgiveness - 7 times 70, required by Jesus’ commandment. Some mss. leave the “three” out. However, it has been interpreted to be a mystical number – which when factored and written in Armenian numerical notation spells out the word “five,” which is the number of daily church services. Critical Edition, p. 1032-33, n. 5.

  4 ...... Ps. 146:4

  5 ...... Lk. 18:9-14.