The Little Prayer

We often speak about growing in prayer, about developing our lives of prayer. But what does it mean to grow in prayer? How do we do it?This is, of course, an inexhaustible question. Every person's life of prayer is different, just as every person is different. Everyone grows in prayer differently, even though there are certain 'landmarks' along the way that are similar for everyone.The following is a little hymn about prayer. Some sources attribute it to St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain. The theme of this hymn is the Jesus Prayer, and how it descends from your mind into your heart when you pray it with humility and stillness. I have offered here my feeble attempts at a translation of this hymn, which I have not found elsewhere in English.

Η Ευχούλα - The Little Prayer
Eίναι η έρημος πικρά μα θα γίνει και γλυκιά
όταν λεω τη ευχη με ταπείνωση πολύIt is a bitter desert, but will become also sweet
When I say the prayer with great humility.

Θεέ μου δως μου αντοχή για να λέω τη ευχή

It Is the Day of Resurrection!: Holy Pascha and the empty tomb

Christ went down alone to battle Hades,
He came up taking with Him many spoils of victory.

-Synaxarion of Holy Pascha

Sometimes it is when life seems at its lowest, when the pain of the present circumstances seems most unbearable, when hope seems most fully to have died out, that life springs unexpectedly from the grave. Sometimes we find that it is only by staying present within life's uncertainties that we are able to push through to the joy that waits on the other side of suffering.
That was surely the experience that the Apostles had while Jesus lay in the grave. Even more than that, imagine the suffering that Mary endured watching Jesus being taken down from the Cross and laid in a tomb. Mary's suffering was perhaps twice what the Apostles experienced; her son and her God died on the Cross on Holy Friday. Icons of the lamentation over Christ's body show his mother as a woman completely undone by her sorrow.

The engkomia (Lamentations) hymns that sung at the Orthros ser…

Your Cross is Life and Resurrection: Holy Friday and the Crucifixion of Christ

Even dead on the Cross, You as God are living,
O naked corpse and living God's Logos.

-Synaxarion of Holy Friday Orthros
Holy Friday is the day on which the creator of all things willingly accepted death for the salvation of his creation. It is on this day that the Word of God "for whom and by whom all things exist" (Hebrews 2:10) offered his own life to us in the ultimate act of self-empyting. The Synaxarion reading for the Orthros service of Holy Friday tells us the gravity of this day:
"On this day, Holy and Great Friday, we celebrate the awesome, holy, and saving Passion of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ: the spitting, the blows, the buffeting, the mockery, the reviling, the purple robe, the reed, the sponge, the vinegar, the nails, the spear, and above all, the Cross and Death which He condescended to endure willingly for our sakes."
The Orthros service, often referred to as the 'Twelve Passion Gospels Service' includes twelve Gospel readin…

The New Pascha: Holy Thursday and the Mystical Supper

Double Supper: it has the Law's Pascha,
The new Pascha also, the Lord's Blood and Body.

-Synaxarion for Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday is crucial to understanding the narrative of Holy Week. Holy Thursday tells us the story of the events that directly preceded the Passion. But it is not simply a prologue to Holy Friday; the events of Holy Thursday are of such great spiritual significance that the whole sacramental practice of the Church cannot be understood without understanding Holy Thursday.
The Synaxarion that is read at the Orthros service on the evening of Holy Wednesday tells us that Holy Thursday is dedicated primarily to four events: Jesus washing the disciples' feet before the Mystical SupperThe Mystical Supper itselfJesus' prayer in the Garden of GethsemaneThe betrayal of Jesus by Judas The Gospel reading that is read at the Vesperal Presanctified Liturgy on Holy Thursday morning shows us all four of these events, but also includes a retelling of the events of Ho…

Accept Me Now as I am Repenting: Holy Wednesday and the anointing of Jesus

"The harlot let out her hair for You the Master;
Judas put out his hand to the transgressors of the Law."

-Aposticha of Bridegroom Orthros for Holy Wednesday

Yesterday we saw Jesus speaking with his disciples about his second coming, and giving images to help the disciples understand what his second coming will be like. All of the Gospel readings for Holy Week that we have seen so far have focused on Jesus' the things Jesus taught while in Jerusalem. Holy Wednesday marks a transition in the narrative of Holy Week from Jesus' teaching ministry to the events directly leading up to his passion.
The focus of the hymnology and the Gospel reading (Matthew 26:6-16) for Holy Wednesday is Jesus' anointing with an expensive ointment by a woman who is identified by Luke 7:36-50 simply as a 'sinful woman.' Moreover, she is someone who is known publicly as living a sinful life. This supports her identification by the hymnology as prostitute.
This is now the second time…

Prepare Your Lamps!: Holy Tuesday and the Parable of the Ten Virgins

Let us truly love the Bridegroom, O brethren,
and prepare our oil lamps to receive Him.

-First Kathisma Hymn of Holy Tuesday Bridegroom Orthros
The services for Holy Tuesday begin with the Bridegroom Orthros celebrated in the evening on Holy Monday. The synaxarion reading for that service tells us that Holy Tuesday is dedicated to the Parable of the Ten Virgins that Christ told to his disciples. This parable gives us an image of what the experience of Christ's second coming will be like.
Although the service of the Bridegroom Orthros on Holy Monday evening sets this parable up as the major theme for the the day, it is not introduced into the Gospels readings until the Vesperal Presanctified Liturgy celebrated on Holy Tuesday morning.
At any other time of the year, the liturgical day begins with the Vespers service celebrated in the evening. In these cases, the Vespers service will match the theme of the feast being celebrated the next day. If this logic applied during Holy Week, th…

Fruits of Repentance: Holy Monday and the withering of the fig tree

Being frightened by the punishment of the fig tree, which withered because it did not bear fruit, O brethren, let us bring worthy fruits of repentance to Christ, who grants us His great mercy.
- Aposticha of Holy Monday Orthros
The observance of Holy Monday begins and ends in the evening of Palm Sunday with the Nymphios service-- the service of Bridegroom Orthros. For the duration of Holy Week, each liturgical day is pushed back by one. The Vesperal Presanctified Liturgy and Bridegroom Orthros that are celebrated on Holy Monday actually belong to Holy Tuesday, the Orthros of the 12 Passion Gospels that is celebrated in the evening on Holy Thursday actually belongs to Holy Friday, and so on. It is often said that this is an expression of our eagerness to arrive at Holy Pascha.
It is likely that this liturgical time-shifting began during the period of the tourkokratia when Orthodox Christians were under the oppression of the Ottoman Empire. Curfew laws did not allow the Orthodox to cele…