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Prayer 72

Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart

A

Now to you, monastic brothers,
communities of disciples,
you who, bared-handed, have enlisted
as the Lord’s soldiers, in expectation
and hope of infinite good gifts,
for you I set this table with
my burnt sacrifice of words.

Accept this testament of confession
for the edification and salvation of your souls.
Know through it the frailty of the body.
Remember the warning words of the prophet
and the apostle: “No flesh should exult
before God.” And, “No one,
not a single person, is just.”1
Do not forget the word of the Lord:
“Even when you have done the things commanded,
admit, we are useless servants.”2
Do not permit yourselves to become the prey
of the Deceiver. Take heed from the scriptures.
“The chosen are also Devil’s food.”3
For even I, who nourish you with these meager fruits,
willingly blaming myself
with myriad accounts of all the incurable sins,
from our first forefather through the end
of his generations in all eternity,
I charge myself with all these, voluntarily,
taking the debt of all your wrongdoing upon me.4

B

I heard an innocent person once speak
in a most unfitting manner to the One
before whom no earthly being can be justified,5
and it was not pleasing as he boasted,
“I have never committed adultery
or fornication or tasted any other mortal pleasures
of this world.” Saying this is no less impious
than those deeds. May God forgive him,
for even if what he said were true
by bragging he shows he has not progressed
as far as he has fallen.
Repeating Zechariah’s words to the people of Israel:
“Praise the Lord that we are great,”6
echoing the voice of the Pharisee who exalted himself.7

C

But since I am condemned before the all-knowing God,8
who has placed the unseen passions of the mind
onto the scale of justice, and seeks to judge me
by these in the most just way, I shall not
pretend before the all-seeing,
deceive the one who scrutinizes everything,
lie to the one who counts faults when conceived, not
       when committed,
use trickery to favorably impress the Great One,
mask my unruly debauchery with the appearance of
       a good person,
take on airs of self-discipline while being
       forever weak,
dress in other’s costumes,
bask in other’s splendor,
put on finery to cover the ugliness of my body.
No one is so sinful as I,
so unruly, so impious,
so unjust, so evil,
so feeble, so misguided,
so foolish, so crafty,
so mired, so embarrassed, so blameworthy.
I alone, and no one else,
I in all, and all in me,
not the pagans, for they did not know,
not the Jews, for they were blind,
not the ignorant, for they were confused and
lacking wisdom.

D

I was dubbed, “Master,” which testifies against me.9
I was called, “Teacher, teacher,”
detracting from the praise of God.
I was said to be good because of my miserable plight.10
I was considered a saint by men,
though I am unclean before God.
I was proclaimed just, though by all accounts
I am ungodly.
I reveled in the praise of men,
thus becoming a mockery before the tribunal of Christ.
I was called, “Awake” at the baptismal font,11
but I slumber in the sleep of mortality.
On the day of salvation I was named “Vigilant,”
but I closed my eyes to vigilance.
So here are judgment and blame,
new reprimands and old sentences,
shame to my face and turmoil to my soul,
pleas about seemingly small things and very
grave matters.

E

But you alone, Lord God, who loves mankind without
revenge and with forbearing,
on the day of the terrible last judgment
when my sinful soul is judged, take into account
these heart-rending words of self-reproach
and contrition that I myself have written instead
of waiting to hear them from you, God of compassion.

Now lift away and annul the instances of my unruliness
for I am bound to you with all of the desires of my soul.
Take away the reproaches of shame and scandal.12
Cover the ugly appearance of my naked body
with your mighty right hand. Lead me to your rest,
for I am worn by the burden of sin.13
Set me on the path of goodness toward you,
refuge and life. Remember me in mercy
even after death, O perfect life.14
Blessed in heaven and honored on earth,
praised always in all things forever and ever.
Amen.
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Notes
  1 ...... Jer. 9:22, 1 Cor. 1:29.

  2 ...... Lk. 17:10.

  3 ...... Hab. 1:16.

  4 ...... Rom. 5:12.

  5 ...... Ps. 143 (142):2.

  6 ...... Zech. 11:5.

  7 ...... Lk. 18:11-12.

  8 ...... Mt. 5:28.

  9 ...... Mt. 23:7, 8, 10.

  10 ...... Mk. 10:18.

  11 ...... A reference to St. Gregory’s baptismal name: Gregorios means “Awake” in Greek.

  12 ...... Ps. 119 (Arm. 118):39.

  13 ...... Mt. 11:28.

  14 ...... Lk. 23:42.