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Prayer 33

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A

Let this offering of words, compassionate God,
from the fruits of my soul rise to you with incense,
mixed by you with the sweet oil
used by the pious Mary,1
which you accepted with respect
just as you also accept offerings astonishingly
from prostitutes, fortunate to be making offerings.
May my humble words also praise you and may you
accept their reaching toward
your unreachable head, God on high,
in spite of the reproach of the Psalmist,
“Do not let the leafy boughs of my head
be anointed with the oil of the sinner.”2

B

Let the perfume, the bouquet of this book of confessions
be redoubled and affect multitudes.
Let its memory be told everywhere and fill the world
like the fragrant oil in the house of Lazarus.3
For you are the same Lord who brought
the sinful plotting women to their senses.4
And their character you transformed in your true image,
as in the allegory of the prophet.5
By changing them you made me know
the perfection of your grace.
Instead of barley for livestock you provided
       the abundant wheat of the bread of life.
Instead of tarnishing silver you presented
your majestic image.
Instead of the oil taken from the wanton women of old,6
you anointed me with your grace.
Instead of shredding burial bindings around the head,
there is an incorruptible cloak.
Instead of elaborate handcuffs, a free soaring toward
perfect virtue according to the law and the Gospels.
Instead of a splendid earring, the unfading memory
of your lordly voice.
Instead of a sparkling necklace, the bountiful inheritance
of the sweet yoke of your righteous faith.

C

But am I proud of these writings,
rather than feeling shame again?
Why change my style in this prayer book,
in woeful song, to suit my fancy
and earn punishment as sin’s wages?
Citing briefly the words of the prophet,
I enter this chamber solemnly like a stern prosecutor,
my charges prepared,
and rather than reveling in them,
I enter with weeping, a sighing voice in angry protest,
with bruising insults and grave wailing.
But your lovingkindness, O great God,
that reaches everyone,
awakened in me hope as well,
whence comes my regret, confession,
good news, gifts, visions of light,
divine encouragement, splendid visions,
the source of hope for some,
the source of despair for others,
and for me, who willingly destroyed myself,
my portion of perdition.

D

If Ezekiel said that under God’s disguising cloak
many people patch together idols7
and act like harlots –
how much more severe will my punishment be
for cloaking my unclean self in God inside and out?
I am amazed that I am not consumed in flames.
I am astonished that I am not burning up.
I am confounded that I am not taken hostage,
tortured, abandoned, tormented, beaten,
pulverized, cracked, crushed, torn to shreds
in the jaws of the Satan our destroyer
according to Scripture.8
All that is left for me
is the glimmer of a memory of
hope of salvation. For the Gospel of Christ
is truly life revealed where there is
for our sins, forgiveness,
for debts, grace,
for decay, renewal,
for iniquity, atonement,
for wounds, bandages,
for distress, calm,
for punishment, pardon,
for war, peace,
for fire, rain,
for condemnation, rewards,
for the dread of dying, lenience,
for the destruction of death, the salvation of life.
E

How can I enumerate so many things here yet neglect
to include what is beyond words? When speaking
of the exalted Father, we must remember our tie
to the Son, the only begotten son of the Father.
And remembering these two we must commune with
the Holy Spirit, remembering also
that with the cross comes salvation,
with the word, comfort,
with God’s all-knowing judgment,
the reward of good will,
with the life-giving font of baptism,
the mediation of reconciliation,
as well as all other countless blessings, bestowed by God:
freedom from compulsion, freedom from the yoke,
freedom to rule oneself and not be ruled.
These are the comforting heralds of the life to come
in the midst the bitterness of death.
For if I did not have these things,
surely I would have perished long ago,
as the Psalmist says.9
I do not glorify the Father by disparaging the Son.
Nor is the Holy Spirit subordinated by
naming the Son first.
I hold the Trinity equal in glory and in creation
co-created, for there are prayers to the Holy Spirit
to be offered before the Divine Liturgy,
when the heavenly lamb is sacrificed I pray this way:

F

Almighty, beneficent God of all, who
loves mankind, maker of the visible and invisible,
savior and creator,
defender and peacemaker, spirit of the Father Almighty,
we beseech you with outstretched arms,
tears and prayers,
as we appear before you,
you, who strike terror in our hearts,
judge us as we approach with trembling and fear,
presenting first this sacrificial offering of
words to your power that is beyond understanding.
You share the throne, glory and creatorship of
the undiminishing honor of the Father.
You examine our deepest secrets and mysteries.10
O Emmanuel, who fulfill the will of your Father
who sent you as the Savior, life-giver and creator.
Through you he is made known to us,
three persons in one Godhead,
of which only you, incomprehensibly, can be known.
By you and through you did our forefathers,
the first generation of the patriarchal tribe,
called prophets,
tell of the past and the future,
what has been and what is yet to come,
in plain words and images.
Spirit of God, Moses proclaimed you as the one
who brooded on the water, an unbounded force,11
taking the new-born under your protective
wing with care,
and with lovingkindness revealing the mystery of
the baptismal font.
Likewise, in the pattern of the archetype,
before fashioning the pliable substance with
its final covering,12
you shaped, in lordly manner, all nature,
the full range of existence, all beings from nothing.
Through you all that has been created shall receive
the renewal of the resurrection
on the last day of this life
and the first day in the land of the living.
Christ obeyed you with unity of will as he did his Father,
being of the same family, of the same essence
as the Father.
Being the first born son in our image,
he announced you, true God,
equal and consubstantial with his mighty Father,
He preached against those who blasphemed you,
and, as opponents of God, spoke impiously against you.

He silenced the blasphemous mouths and graced
his own people,13
he, the just and spotless, who finds all,
who was betrayed for our sins,
and rose from the dead to justify us.14
Through you glory to him and praise to you,
with the Father almighty, forever and ever.
Amen.

G

Again, I shall continue in this manner
until the assurance of the miraculous light
heralds the good news of peace.
With all our souls
we pray and beseech you with tearful cries,
glorious creator, incorruptible and uncreated,
timeless Holy Spirit of compassion.
You are the intercessor of our silent sighs to
your merciful Father.15
You, who keep the saints, purify the sinners and
build the temple of the living and life-giving
will of the Father,
free me now from all unclean deeds,
which are not pleasing for your dwelling place.
Do not extinguish the light of grace
in us and in our minds’ eye,
for we have learned that you will join us
through prayer and sumptuous incensing.16
One of the Trinity is sacrificed and the other accepts it,
favoring us with the reconciling blood of his first born
so that you might accept our supplications.
Prepare for us honorable lodgings
for the partaking of your heavenly lamb,
that we might eat life-giving manna of the new salvation
and escape the punishments of condemnation.
Our blasphemy shall be purified in the refiner’s fire,
as the prophet told of the live coal in the tongs of
offering at the altar.17
In all things you spread your mercy through
the Son of God.
Also spread the sweetness of the Father,
as you embraced the prodigal son with
fatherly inheritance,
and led the prostitute to the bliss of
the heavenly kingdom.

H

Yes, yes, and I too am one of them.
Receive me with them,
as one who is needy of your great love for mankind,
one who lives only by your grace, redeemed by
the blood of Christ,
so that your divinity might be revealed and in
all ways glorified.
You are honored equally with the Father,
with one will and one rule, worthy of praise.
For yours is compassion, ability and lovingkindness,
might and glory forever and ever.
Amen.
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Notes
  1 ...... Mt. 26:6-13.

  2 ...... Ps. 141:5.

  3 ...... Jn. 12:3, Mt. 26:13.

  4 ...... Gen. 38, Jos. 2:1-21, 6:22-25.

  5 ...... Hos. 1-2, 3:2-3.

  6 ...... Gen. 38, Jos. 2:1-21, 6:22-25.

  7 ...... Ezek. 16:16.

  8 ...... Dt. 32:24.

  9 ...... Ps. 119:92.

  10 ...... 1 Cor. 2:10.

  11 ...... Gen. 1:2, Mk. 6:48-53.

  12 ...... Gen. 2:5-6; thanks to Prof. Abraham Terian of St Nersess Seminary for his insightful reading of this passage.

  13 ...... Mt. 12:31.

  14 ...... Rom. 4:25.

  15 ...... Rom. 8:26; 1 Cor. 3:16.

  16 ...... Mt. 18:20, 1 Cor. 6:17.

  17 ...... Is. 6:6-25.