122712_patrickireland_sqIn the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, we remember Venerable Hygbald, abbot in Lindsey, today. Father among the saints, Venerable Hygbald, pray for us!

Let us remember this as we have struggled and strived for another year, a gift of Mercy from our Lord and God. It has not been an easy year for any, for the world has tumbled and stumbled upon itself in a great many things, and we have witnessed many things to pass. Yet, we soldier on, upon the Mercy of our God we trust.

We are indeed called to soldier on (2 Timothy 2:1-3), not as aggressors and oppressors against others for power and wealth, but to relentlessly repent for our own slavery to our passions, so that we can empty ourselves of ourselves, and refill ourselves with the Mercy, Grace, and Strength of God.

And God is never away from us. Do not imagine God to be a distant God, but He is ever-present, with us, all the days of our lives. There will be times when we seem to find a void within us, but there is God still. There will be times when we are busy with our own deeds and thoughts, but there is God still (Psalm 61:2-5, LXX 60). Therefore, in joy and in sadness, in strength and in weakness, in health and in frailty, God has assured us, that we are not to be afraid or depressed, for our God is with us wherever we go. Therefore, beloved, as our God commanded us, be strong, be courageous, soldier on (Joshua 1:9).

Holy father, St Theophan the Recluse said, “God abandons no one. For Him all are children. None are stepchildren. And the hard occasions and situations – all is sent for our benefit.”

Holy father among the saints, St Patrick, Apostle and Enlightener of Ireland, has the beautiful breastplate prayer (the Lorica, or the Deer’s cry) attributed to him. The Lorica was also called the Deer’s Cry because through the Power and Mercy of God, St Patrick and his people were turned into deer when they were pursued by the king’s men. Let us pray this, and reflect on what it means to be a true soldier of Christ, a true believer of the Holy Trinity of our God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, with humility, with faith, with courage, and with eyes towards God:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the threeness
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the creator.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension
Through the strength of his decent for the Judgement of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim
In obedience to the Angels,
In the service of the Archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of Holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun
Brilliance of moon
Splendor of fire
Speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind
Depth of sea
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s host to secure me
against snares of devils
against temptations of vices
against inclinations of nature
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd.

A summon today all these powers between me and these evils
Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of heathenry,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.

Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Thrones,
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the Creator.

Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of Christ
May thy salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

In every breathing moment, let us call on His Holy Name, as we commend every breathing moment unto God, and focus every breathing moment into a eucharistic prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

St Theophan the Recluse admonished us, that prayer, and mere equipment of prayer, are different, and that we are to soldier on faithfully until our hearts are full of prayer:?”Not every act of prayer is prayer. Standing at home before your icons, or here in church, and venerating them is not yet prayer, but the ‘equipment’ of prayer. Reading prayers either by heart or from a book, or hearing someone else read them is not yet prayer, but only a tool or method for obtaining and awakening prayer. Prayer itself is the piercing of our hearts by pious feelings towards God, one after another – feelings of humility, submission, gratitude, doxology, forgiveness, heart-felt prostration, brokenness, conformity to the will of God, etc. All of our effort should be directed so that during our prayers, these feelings and feelings like them should fill our souls, so that the heart would not be empty when the lips are reading the prayers, or when the ears hear and the body bows in prostrations, but that there would be some qualitative feeling, some striving toward God. When these feelings are present, our praying is prayer, and when they are absent, it is not yet prayer.”

And as we step towards the Nativity of our Lord and Christ, let us especially remember our beloved Most Holy Theotokos, Mother of God. In Isaiah 7:14, our Lord would give us a sign, that we are to behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, whose name would be Immanuel (God is with us).

Our Panaghia (feminine of Greek “All Holy”) is special to us for many reasons, in our daily prayers, and in our Liturgies. Archangel Gabriel appeared to her (St Luke 1), saluted her with respect, and told her that she was FULL of grace, and that our Lord was WITH her. Our Panaghia accepted what the holy Archangel said, and submitted to the Will of God gladly, with complete faith and trust in the Lord. Let us never forget, that our Panaghia showed us just what faith in the Lord meant, and that in our struggles towards Theosis, we too, submit completely to our Lord with humility and love, and wait for His Will and His Ways, hoping in Him. She showed us what complete cooperation between man and God would be.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Readings
Joshua 1:7-9
Psalm 61:2-5 (LXX 60)
St Mark 9:10-16
Hebrews 10:35-11:7