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Prayer 48

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A

Exalted and mighty God,
who has no beginning, no becoming, and no end,
observer with an unsleeping eye,
parent of the only begotten, glorious and inscrutable,
before heaven and earth,
justify granting your mercy to me to whom
it has been denied.
Celebrate my restoration to life.
Announce the good news for me who is dying.
Reveal your good will, O praiseworthy Lord,
to all creation.
Be true to your name, ineffable, and grant me,
a miserable sinner, renewed salvation.
Wipe away the mortgage of my sins.
And commute the death sentence upon my soul
with the blood of your beloved Son.
With his blood assure salvation for the good.
Show the majesty of your mercy at the bridal feast.
Do not shut me, a supplicant, out of the house of life.
Do not bar me from your banquet table and do not deprive me of your bounty.1
Do not keep the debts of my iniquity in your safe.2
Do not seal the vileness of my dissipation in
your good purse.3
Do not cover my diseased body with the wounds
of my sins.
Do not preserve the infectious deterioration of
my aching body to be buried with me,4
but lift away the corrupting decay with your mercy,
so that I might be restored to health.
For my grave ills, Father of compassion,
prepare a strong balm.
For my fatal ailments, visit goodness,
for I am yours, Lord, lover of our souls.5
And although in one step I might commit
a thousand sins,
still, I would not be deemed as completely sinful,
beneficent giver of life,
having sought refuge in the grace of your gifts.
For to know you is complete justice,
and to know your strength is the root of immortality.
As the wiseman wrote in ages past,
your sovereignty causes you to spare all.6
And he is close to you; whenever you want
you can find him.7

B

I take Solomon8 as the model for my prayer of hope.
For no other person has matched my sinfulness.
Once a beloved son, but later despised,
once a peacemaker, but later the sower of discord,
once the giver of the law, but later
the mortgagor of death,
trampling divine service under foot and taking
a foreign name,
instigator of discord, undeprived depriver,
contented thief, pampered complainer,
coddled fugitive, repulsive traitor, irresponsible vandal,
sweet curser, father-hating child,
betrayer of covenants, defamer of Moses,
forgetter of favors,
wise delinquent, knowing transgressor,
shameful lamenter, wavering penitent,
covetous idolator, sluggish convert,
doubtful acceptance, vacillating reconciliation,
shadow of the future, ambiguous salvation,
uncertain discovery, trace of a remnant,
deceitful slave, half-escaped but voluntarily surrendered,
like an overindulged ruffian, an eccentric genius.
And from the clashing of these two streams of words,
more reports of pity and praise,
with great shame and little honor,
as on a person whose ruin is self-inflicted and
mourning is mixed with blame,
his copious writings have encouraged people of
all ages toward virtue,
but his vices bring forth moans of grief from all lips.

C

I am amazed, I faint, seized with doubt.
If Solomon strayed this much, what will become of me?
Why did the haughty fall?
Why did the steady falter?
Why did the sturdy collapse?
Why did the follower become alienated?
Why did the chosen son stray?
Why did the dear one flee?
Why did the shining tarnish?
Why was the teacher no longer an example?
Why did the famous turn obscure?
Why did the glorious become dishonored?
Why was the exalted humbled?
Why were the pious perverted?
Why was the chosen rejected?
Why was the covenant with heaven broken? 9
I am ashamed to say that he consorted with the Devil,
for what business did he have with idols?
Whence his love for graven images?
Why did he yearn for cults?
Did he not remember Samuel’s reprimand to Saul –
“Paganism is a sin”? Yet he labored and sacrificed for
the household gods.10
Why did he not remember the ancestral reproof?
“Idols,” it said, “are breathless, pagan demons.
And so are their priests.”11
Did not Moses scold his people with scorn,
“Only the Lord leads them, and there is no other
god for them but the one known to their fathers.”12

D

Where is the death-bringing grotesque statue of Pagora?
Where is the ugly, infamous, accursed
female statue of the Sodomites? 13
Where is the embarrassing statue of a woman?
The image which the prophets condemned as ungodly and beastial and the demon of intemperance.
This woman who shoved Solomon’s ancestors into destruction, he mistook as a sign of favor.
Arrogance got the better of his wisdom.
Haughtiness enslaved it.
Pampering stupified it.
Silver enslaved it.
The weapons of the Destroyer deadened his soul,
and torn from the embrace of God, he strayed
to the path of iniquity.
Luxury killed him, sloth numbed him.
Intemperance poisoned him.
O, easily deceived mortal body,
with what cries shall I mourn you?
This contradiction is found not only in him,
but with all those who err, all who willfully do wrong.
For he proves that it is wrong to take pride
in the knowledge of the body14
unless guided by God’s judgment.
For even if a person is stupid,
if he places his will in the hand of God,
he shall not succumb as Solomon did.

E

In addition, Solomon has left a horrifying account
of his perversion,
filled with self-accusatory reproof for being
truly dead to worldly honor.
To learn this truth, one need only read
the book of Vanities,15
or the books of the Priests, or the writings
of Saint Silon.16
In these he describes with sorrow the torments and
error of his ways.
Vain effort, fruitless labor,
mindless devotion, aimless wandering,
capricious activity, alien fantasies,
groundless praise, rotten harvest,
improper conjecture, trivial concept,
house built on sand, collapsed estate,
contemptible tasks, struggle against oneself,
judgment upon one’s own soul,
useless sweat, dangerous attraction,
road to destruction, wayward path,
ruinous education, unwholesome practices,
flawed eyesight, garish eye painting,
whorish get up, infectious germ,
revolting color, tragic splendor,
stifling smoke, smothering steam,
easily pilfered goods, fragile temple,
inappropriate cries, baseless ridicule,
despicable ambition, self-incriminating writing,
destructive path, ungodly thought,
lying speech, vexing stories,
empty faultfinding, crazed inquest,
shameful display, scandalous revelations,
impending dishonor, injurious acts,
sordid story, slothful example,
hidden pit, dark prey,
deathly pit, bottomless abyss,
murderous company, foolish prattle,
bandits’ hideout, dilapidated house,
shaken building, broken bridge,
fleeting phantom, deceptive flatterer, inhumane traitor,
antagonism toward the one on high.
Ecclesiastes put these confessional thoughts
into our heads as a prod to repentance
so no one might wound either soul or friend
with the arrows of disparaging words.
For a person who looks pious but whose acts
displease God
is like a pagan under a veil.

F

As we now see, Solomon sinned as much as
he atoned for,
so let us not blame him but remember the good,
and let this be our hope as supplicants at the Lord’s feet,
so when he descends with the Spirit in undivided divinity
to redeem the righteous,17
we, the living, are assured of the good news by the example of the dead.
With Solomon whose wisdom I lack,
but whose sins I surpass,
I make this plea to your glorified greatness.
Fill my humble scribbling with his felicitous genius.
May my supplications mingle with the prayers of that penitent king,
and may they be answered through the intercession of that sublime monarch,
whom you set as a precursor of your only begotten Son,
and by whose lineage we have partaken of the glory of your co-equal Son.
Save your servant, all powerful, almighty, and awesome.
Increase your glory as creator
by granting repentance for our unforgivable sins.
In recognition of his good counsel, redeem Solomon too,
for he preached your divinity in the Old Testament
with words of sweetness, eloquence and edifying stories,
thus leaving the church footprints toward goodness
by teaching us to turn toward you, Father,
showing that except for a drop of despair that
dampened his heart’s fervor and spurred him
toward repentance,
he was not far from salvation.

G

Now remembering Solomon’s goodness,
let us greet him with compassion, instead of
the blame with which he has been trampled and
pilloried for ages.
His repentance filled the banquet hall with
a torrent of tears that gushed over the roof.18
And in passionate penitence he exceeded his father.
I pray that your long-suffering forgiveness will blend
his tears with the tears of your Son, the Word,
who subjected himself to our frail human condition.
May the Psalm sometimes
thought to be addressed to Solomon
rather be addressed to your Son, co-equal in glory,
thereby granting him the sweetness of salvation
along with the other wretched of the earth.19
For living poets, it is ample reward for their words20
to be mingled with Solomon’s
and to be offered on his behalf
in harmonious prayer to you.
My justification for this plea is this:
his work, the parable of Job, the man from Uz,
is a work of miraculous talent and prophecy,
that alone earns Solomon a place of honor in
the ranks of God’s defenders.
Hence, it is acceptable to plead for him rather than
speak ill of him.

H

Now I too, with greater confidence, hope
my cries will be offered to you with his,
for if you destroy us, judging us by our deeds,
your glory will not be diminished, for you will
be judged as just.
But if you accept us, you will be exalted
as befits your majesty.
Lean then, Lord, incline yourself in sweetness
with compassion and freely give the gift of
love to comfort us,
who like Solomon are chronically feverish with incurable
grief and turmoil.
Lay your hand of salvation on us.
Renew us, forgive and defend us
from the destruction of sin.
And to you alone, who are
the beginning without beginning,
the source of all beginnings,
the holy Trinity and One Divinity,
to you alone are due
glory and dominion forever.
Amen.
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Notes
  1 ...... Mt. 22:3-16.

  2 ...... Dt. 32:34.

  3 ...... Job 14:17.

  4 ...... Ps. 37:6.

  5 ...... Wis. 15:2-3.

  6 ...... Wis. 12:16.

  7 ...... Wis. 12:18.

  8 ...... 1 Kg. 2:1-8.

  9 ...... 1 Kg. 8.

  10 ...... 1 Sam. 15:23.

  11 ...... Ps. 95:9, 96:5-7.

  12 ...... Dt. 32:12.

  13 ...... 1 Kg. 2:5.

  14 ...... 1 Cor. 1:29, 10:18.

  15 ...... Ec. 1:2.

  16 ...... 2 Chr. 9:29.

  17 ...... 1 Pet. 3:19.

  18 ...... Ps. 6:7.

  19 ...... Apparently a reference to Psalm 71, which is inscribed “To Solomon,” see, Ps. 71:4, 13.

  20 ...... Sir. 47:22.