God’s attitude toward us does not change because of our prayers. It is we who change, through communicating with Him. Because through prayer we enter into a relationship. A relationship with a living Being. And, like any relationship, a relationship with God has an effect on us.
Hello, everyone! I’m Sr. Vassa, and, predictably, I’m having my coffee right now in Vienna, in Austria. Today I’m having special coffee sent to me by Abbot Tryphon of the All-Merciful Savior Monastery in Washington State in the United States. I’ll show you this coffee: It’s called “Monastery Blend, Abbot’s Choice Dark French Roast.” So, I thank Abbot Tryphon and his monastery for kindly sending me this coffee. – Don’t we have a picture of Abbot Tryphon? Could we put that up, please?! Oh, there he is! See, that’s Abbot Tryphon. See how happy he looks? Do you know, zillions, why he looks so happy? Yes, you guessed it. Because he has just received one of our colored mugs! So, you too can look that happy; emanate love, joy, and peace, – who knows, perhaps even grow your hair long –if you get one of these wonderful mugs, at the website that I talked about before: www.srvassa.com. So please do that. We also have red Christmas mugs. And I think we have more pictures of people with the new mugs… Yes, see… There’s another one. Perhaps you recognize some of these people. But we will leave most of our mugshots for the end of the video, as usual. You’ll see friends of yours, people you don’t know, and send us your mugshots, please, when you do get a mug. So, we will be… – Do you hear that? Here we go again! I’m sorry, zillions. You see, upstairs we have a new tenant. There’s a wealthy Russian businessman – I’m not sure exactly what he does – who rented out the entire two upper floors of our building. And we’ve been having all sorts of noises and strange things going on, like things flying onto our balcony. – Do you have that shoe? – Yes, here it is. – This landed on our balcony from upstairs just early this morning. And none of these guys want to go upstairs to return it, of course… I don’t know why. You don’t have to be afraid of them! I’m probably going to have to do it.
Anyway, let’s get on with our show, zillions, we have a lot to discuss about Vespers! So, we’ll be continuing our thrilling discussion of the Byzantine liturgical service called Vespers, the evening service, and we’ll be discussing today something we read or sing in the very middle of the service, called “Vouchsafe, O Lord” (or Kataxioson Kyrie in Greek). This is a very fascinating text and helpful, really, for any evening, zillions. So even if you’re not particularly interested in liturgical services, I assure you, this will be interesting, so please stay with me til the very end. (Amos Lee sings “Stay With Me”) This text, called by its first words, “Vouchsafe, O Lord,” is partly a hymn, and partly a prayer. It is comprised of phrases taken from the Bible and also of words composed in early Christian times. Parts of this text can already be found in a late – 4th century church order (Apostolic Constitutions) And some of you might know that this text also comprises part of another liturgical text from another service – it forms the end of the Great Doxology at weekday matins. But I will not bore you with those details, zillions, and let’s take a look at the text itself. Now, please, stay with me! Vouchsafe, O Lord, that we be kept this evening without sin. Blessed are You, O Lord, God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Your Name forever. (Dan 3:26) Those words are taken from the famous Canticle of the 3 youths of the Old Testament). Amen! Let Your mercy be upon us, O Lord, even as we have set our hope on You. (Ps 32:22. And those words are taken also from the Old Testament, from the Book of Psalms).
And this is followed by another verse from the Psalms (Ps 118:129), but it’s now modified to express the theology of the Holy Trinity: “Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes. Blessed are You, O Master, make me to understand Your statutes. Blessed are You, O Holy One (that’s a reference to the Holy Spirit,); enlighten me with your statutes. Your mercy endures forever, O Lord! Do not despise the work of Your hands! (this is Ps 137:8, and appeals to God as Creator. I remind you that Vespers has repeatedly thematized creation, and God as Creator. And finally we come to the conclusion of this text, which is a doxology, a concluding phrase that praises God: “To You belongs worship, to You belongs praise, to You belongs glory; to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.” And this final phrase is important, because we are often ready to ascribe glory to all sorts of people and things that aren’t always worth it: like, celebrities, and very wealthy or powerful people, – and this, zillions, perhaps subconsciously, but does make us feel insufficient or dissatisfied, at times. But glorifying God, Who is the source of all glory, always enriches us, because we participate in His glory by stepping into His sunlight, so to say, and lending our voices to His glory.
Now let’s talk about the very first words of this text: Vouchsafe, O Lord (in Greek: Kataxioson, Kyrie, meaning “Make us worthy, O Lord”) that we be kept this evening without sin.” Some of us might wonder immediately: Why would we ask God for this? Doesn’t it go without saying that God, Who created us, finds us “worthy” to exist without sin? This is as confusing, perhaps, as the words of the Lord’s Prayer, which say “Lead us not into temptation” (Mt 6:13). Doesn’t God always want the best for us, our holiness? You see, zillions, this might sound strange to you at first, but please listen carefully: The thing is, God’s attitude toward us does not change because of our prayers. It is we who change, through communicating with Him. Because through prayer we enter into a relationship. A relationship with a living Being. And, like any relationship, a relationship with God has an effect on us. Because God has an energy or energies, called grace, and we open up to these energies when communicating with God. We enter into something I will call “the God zone” – even though you’re gonna think that this sounds silly. We open ourselves up to His will, which is unchanging, and which steers us away from anything dark or contrary to His will. And we need this steering by God to keep our focus, so that we can keep our orientation on our ultimate goal, salvation.
But what we call “sin” distracts us from this goal. Because “sin”, I remind you, in Greek is “amartia,” which literally means “missing the mark.” It means we have been distracted somehow to some other goal, in some other direction. But it’s God’s grace that keeps our focus, that keeps us hitting the mark. So, what we are asking for in these words, when we ask that we be made worthy to remain “without sin,” is for God’s grace to steer us in the right direction. And what makes us worthy, zillions, of God’s grace, is very simply recognizing the need for it and asking for it as a result. That is, seeking direction from the right source, and that is – from God. Because He wants communion with us, knowing that He is the source for us, of all good things, if we open up to Him in prayer. If we feel our insufficiency without God’s grace, as people in need of direction, as sinners, that is, people who do “miss the mark,” then we will ask for it. And that’s what makes us worthy. That’s why Christ says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Lk 5:32)
That’s it for today, ladies and gentlemen. But stick around and check out the mugshots at the end of this video. And please, sent us your mugshot, if you haven’t done so yet. Thank you!