pieties

Travelling: leaving a blessing

‘He led them out as far as Bethany.’ We should understand that this occurred on the fortieth day after the Resurrection. You, O reader, should understnad that the events which the Evangelists describe in brief actually took place over many days. Luke himself says in the Book of Acts that Jesus was ‘seen by them for forty days,’ for He appeared and vanished many times. He blessed the disciples, placing in them a protecting power until the coming of the Holy Spirit and at the same time teaching us, when we depart on a journey, to leave a blessing with those who are in our care, in order to protect them.

The Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke.

Preparation For Confession

St. John of Kronstadt

A meditation for those preparing to stand before the Creator and Church community in the awesome Mystery of Holy Confession, thereby being given the renewal of a second baptism.

I, a sinful soul, confess to our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, all of my evil acts which I have done, said or thought from baptism even unto this present day.
I have not kept the vows of my baptism, but have made myself unwanted before the face of God.
I have sinned before the Lord by lack of faith and by doubts concerning the Orthodox Faith and the Holy Church; by ungratefulness for all of God’s great and unceasing gifts; His long-suffering and His providence for me, a sinner; by lack of love for the Lord, as well as fear, through not fulfilling the Holy Commandments of God and the canons and rules of the Church.
I have not preserved a love for God and for my neighbor nor have I made enough efforts, because of laziness and lack of care, to learn the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Holy Fathers. I have sinned: by not praying in the morning and in the evening and in the course of the day; by not attending the services or by coming to Church only halfheartedly.
I have sinned by judging members of the clergy. I have sinned by not respecting the Feasts, breaking the Fasts, and by immoderation in food and drink.
I have sinned by self-importance, disobedience, willfulness, self-righteousness, and the seeking of approval and praise.
I have sinned by unbelief, lack of faith, doubts, despair, despondency, abusive thoughts, blasphemy and swearing.
I have sinned by pride, a high opinion of my self, narcissism, vanity, conceit, envy, love of praise, love of honors, and by putting on airs.
I have sinned: by judging, malicious gossip, anger, remembering of offenses done to me, hatred and returning evil for evil; by slander, reproaches, lies, slyness, deception and hypocrisy; by prejudices, arguments, stubbornness, and an unwillingness to give way to my neighbor; by gloating, spitefulness, taunting, insults and mocking; by gossip, by speaking too much and by empty speech.
I have sinned by unnecessary and excessive laughter, by reviling and dwelling upon my previous sins, by arrogant behavior, insolence and lack of respect.
I have sinned by not keeping my physical and spiritual passions in check, by my enjoyment of impure thoughts, licentiousness and unchastity in thoughts, words and deeds.
I have sinned by lack of endurance towards my illnesses and sorrows, a devotion to the comforts of life and by being too attached to my parents, children, relatives and friends.
I have sinned by hardening my heart, having a weak will and by not forcing myself to do good.
I have sinned by miserliness, a love of money, the acquisition of unnecessary things and immoderate attachment to things.
I have sinned by self-justification, a disregard for the admonitions of my conscience and failing to confess my sins through negligence or false pride.
I have sinned many times by my Confession: belittling, justifying and keeping silent about sins.
I have sinned against the Most-holy and Life-creating Mysteries of the Body and Blood of our Lord by coming to Holy Communion without humility or the fear of God.
I have sinned in deed, word and thought, knowingly and unknowingly, willingly and unwillingly, thoughtfully and thoughtlessly, and it is impossible to enumerate all of my sins because of their multitude. But I truly repent of these and all others not mentioned by me because of my forgetfulness and I ask that they be forgiven through the abundance of the Mercy of God. {May Almighty God, by His Holy Spirit, inspire the sincere image of repentance in all our hearts so that we may learn the standards of God, truly face our sins and humbly confess them to Him, both in our private prayers and in public Confession, and so be unburdened, relieved and freed from guilt, and reunited to the Body of Christ – the Church. How great a gift is the mystery of Confession!}

Why Are Vigil Lamps Lit Before Icons

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Living Water
First – because our faith is light. Christ said: I am the light of the world (John 8,12). The light of the vigil lamp reminds us of that light by which Christ illumines our souls.
Second – in order to remind us of the radiant character of the saint before whose icon we light the vigil lamp, for saints are called sons of light (John 12,36; Luke 16,8).
Third – in order to serve as a reproach to us for our dark deeds, for our evil thoughts and desires, and in order to call us to the path of evangelical light; and so that we would more zealously try to fulfill the commandments of the Saviour: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works” (Matthew 5,16).
Fourth – so that the vigil lamp would be our small sacrifice to God, Who gave Himself completely as a sacrifice for us, and as a small sign of our great gratitude and radiant love for Him from Whom we ask in prayer for life, and health, and salvation and everything that only boundless heavenly love can bestow.
Fifth – so that terror would strike the evil powers who sometimes assail us even at the time of prayer and lead away our thoughts from the Creator. The evil powers love the darkness and tremble at every light, especially at that which belongs to God and to those who please Him.
Sixth – so that this light would rouse us to selflessness. Just as the oil and wick burn in the vigil lamp, submissive to our will, so let our souls also burn with the flame of love in all our sufferings, always being submissive to God’s will.
Seventh – in order to teach us that just as a vigil lamp cannot be lit without our hand, so too, our heart, our inward vigil lamp, cannot be lit without the holy fire of God’s grace, even if it were to be filled with all the virtues. All these virtues of ours, after all, like combustible material, but the fire which ignites them proceeds from God.
Eighth – in order to remind us that before anything else the Creator of the world created light, and after that everything else in order: And God said, let there be light: and there was light (Genesis 1,3). And it must be so also at the beginning of our spiritual life, so that before anything else the light of Christ’s truth would shine within us. From this light of Christ’s truth subsequently every good deed is created, springs up and grows in us.
May the Light of Christ illumine you as well!

The Purpose of the Pieties

“When the mind forgets the purpose of piety, then visible works of virtue become useless.” –  St. Mark the Ascetic

Better to do nothing, than anything without Prayer.

Comment: Just as before work of any kind, it is always and ever the Orthodox praxis to pray before reading the scriptures, before reading anything, including and especially the Fathers, or hearing any kind of presentation or discussion. This is to avoid self-deception, the delusions into which listeners and speakers and readers are drawn, which are wrought by pride, the other passions, and the Evil One. As with eating, it is better not to read than to read and not pray – better not to listen to any discussions or speakers than to listen without praying. God forbid we should ever begin to read the fathers or discuss anything we’ve read without a prayerful beginning, seeking humility, peace, concord, and deliverance from every vanity. This is the advice of all fathers who have written on the subject, is the most ancient practice of all Orthodox, Christ being the prime example. It is likewise appropriate to pray at the conclusion of anything. [See also the previous posts on the Celts, by whom we see that to do anything without the Holy Trinity, is folly.] – (from a recent discussion)

Some prayers Orthodox Christians have found useful:

Before Lessons: Most gracious Lord! Send down upon us the grace of Thy Holy Spirit to grant us intelligence and strengthen the powers of our soul, that we may attend to the instruction given us, and grow up to glorify Thee, our Creator, to gladden our parents, and to serve the Church and our people. In the Name of the Father… — (from the old Jordanville Prayer Book) …

Short, Useful Prayers

More short prayers Orthodox Christians frequently use or find good for repetition, from our Holy Fathers:
  • “All shall be saved, and I alone shall be condemned.”
  • “It is my fault.”
  • “Lord, Thou knowest I am the least of all, but I am Thine, save me.”
  • “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.”
  • “Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise.”
  • The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me the sinner.”
  • The Jesus Prayer for others and to avoid presumption: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy upon ___ and by his prayers save me.”
  • “Lord, save __ and, by his prayers, save me.”
  • “Lord, Thou knowest Thy sheep; I am one of the goats. Save me.”
  • “Lord have mercy.”

Adoring the Cross

“Hail! life-giving Cross, unconquerable trophy of the true faith, door to Paradise, succour of the faithful, rampart set about the Church. Through thee the curse is utterly destroyed, the power of death is swallowed up, and we are raised from earth to heaven: invincible weapon, adversary of demons, glory of martyrs, true ornament of holy monks, haven of salvation bestowing on the world great mercy.” – From the Great Vespers on Saturday Evening before the Third Sunday of Lent, The Adoration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross.

The Best Known Celtic Prayer

Is Hebrew: “The LORD bless thee and keep thee. The LORD make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The LORD lift up the light of his countenance upon thee and grant thee peace” (Numbers 6).

Remembering the Saints in All Things

Comment: Remembering the saints in everyday, mundane things is an old custom of all Orthodox worldwide, and is sometimes obscured today by the modern megachurch approach to piety. It is good to take a lesson from the Celts in this, who remind us of something older, and more universal – more catholic – than the passive prayers, passive pray-ers, and passive saints we might sometimes imagine for ourselves. – DD

Prayer at the Guarding of Flocks

May Mary the mild keep the sheep,
May Bride the calm keep the sheep,
May Columba keep the sheep,
May Maolruba keep the sheep,
May Carmac keep the sheep,
From the fox and the wolf.

May Oran keep the kine (cattle),
May Modan keep the kine,
May Donnan keep the kine,
May Moluag keep the kine,
May Maolruan keep the kine,
On soft land and hard land.

May the Spirit of peace preserve the flocks,
May the Son of Mary Virgin preserve the flocks,
May the God of glory preserve the flocks,
May the Three preserve the flocks,
From wounding and from death-loss,
From wounding and from death-loss.

— Carmina Gaedalica

Pieties among the Celts

Comment: Celtic prayer consistently shows a recognition of God in all things, in the mundane, and likewise the practice of the pieties, the “taking of pains”, in little things to remember God. These days those ways are sometimes thought to be a merely Russian or Eastern or particular ethnic thing. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as the prayers of these Celts, among the eldest of the world’s Orthodox, show us. – DD

Prayer at Smooring The Fire

I smoor (smother) the fire this night
As the Son of Mary would smoor it;
The compassing of God be on the fire,
The compassing of God on all the household.

Be God’s compassing about ourselves,
Be God’s compassing about us all,
Be God’s compassing upon the flock,
Be God’s compassing upon the hearth.

Who keeps watch this night?
Who but the Christ of the poor,
The bright and gentle Brigit of the kine (cattle),

The bright and gentle Mary of the ringlets.

Whole be house and herd,
Whole be son and daughter,
Whole be wife and man,
Whole be household all.

— “Little Book of Celtic Prayer ” by A Duncan.

The First Piety: Prayer

Some examples of pious prayers from the prayer books: 

Entering a Church: I will enter Thy gates with thanksgiving and Thy courts with praise.

Leaving a Church:  Lord, Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, O Master, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples; a light of revelation for the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.  

Before Meals: The eyes of all hope in Thee, O Lord, and Thou givest them their food in due season, Thou openest Thy generous hand and fillest every living thing with good will.

After Meals: We thank Thee, O Christ our God, that Thou hast sated us with the good things of Thine earth: do not deprive us also of Thy heavenly Kingdom.

When about to fall asleep: Into Thy hands O Lord, Jesus Christ, my God, I commend my spirit; bless me, save me, and grant unto me ever-lasting life. Amen.

Effort and Talk

“Let us seek to discover the things of heaven through the sweat of our efforts, rather than by mere talk, for at the hour of death it is deeds, not words, that must be displayed.” · St. John Climacus