Same schedule as yesterday…Presanctified Liturgy in the morning and Bridegrooms Matins at night. I’ve officially lost track of what day it is…and it’s wonderful! I love this chance to live a life based around multiple services a day. Pray, work, pray, work, pray, sleep. The pattern on which every day should be based, whether it’s a “special” time or not. But sometimes it is tough to keep to the pattern without that external call from a scheduled service. When the day’s pattern is fully up to me, it’s far too easy get out of the rhythm.
During Lent, we say the Prayer of St. Ephraim over and over. It is prescribed hundreds of times throughout the Lenten season.
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.
Cross myself, fall to the floor on my knees, make a prostration by touching my forehead to the ground, and stand back up.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love unto me, Your servant.
Prostrate again with my body and concentrate on doing the same with every corner of my soul.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed are You unto ages of ages. Amen.
Prostrate one more time and mentally beat my head on the floor extra hard for that one. How tempting it is to judge others. To look. To assume. To harden.
I adore Presanctified Liturgy. It is such a participatory service. Granted, all Orthodox services demand the participation of the faithful. We are not there to observe. We are there to offer all of our hearts and bodies to Christ. Love is not a word or state of mind. It is an action.
Presanctified, though, the special Liturgy that we serve on weekdays during Lent, calls for even more participation. We prostrate as we sing the words, “Let my prayer arise in Your sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.” We prostrate again during the Prayer of St. Ephraim. We prostrate again as the priest comes out from the altar with a candle and proclaims, “The light of Christ illumines all men.” We prostrate again during the Entrance, silent and still as the priest carries the gifts of bread and wine, already sanctified on Sunday and now the body and blood of Christ. We prostrate again for the Prayer of St. Ephraim a second time.
We have fasted for weeks. We have put our bodies through paces and workouts in long services filled with prostrations. We have felt hunger. We have felt sore legs and tired feet. We have told our bodies, “No”, so that one day, when the temptation of sin comes, we will have the strength to say, “I’ve been here before, and now…now I have the strength to say ‘No’ again.”
When I prostrate in church, sometimes I admit that I’m more focused at that moment on not tripping on my skirt when I stand up than on some deep and profound moment before the Lord. Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s just something done out of habit. At those times, I always try to look at little five year old Hilary. Whenever she prostrates, she does not go down on her knees. Instead, she lays down on her stomach and spreads her arms and legs out completely. Fully down. Fully exposed. Fully open before God.
I guarantee you that no one wants to see ME actually do that in church, so I’m not tempted to replicate her physical action. However, I want to be just like that in my heart. Fully down. Fully exposed. Fully open before the King of All. I lay all of me before You, Lord. There is nothing I could hide even if I wanted to. I fall down before You, Lord. There is nothing I can do without You, nor do I want to. Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes. Blessed are You, O Master, make me to understand Your commandments. Blessed are You, O Holy One, enlighten me with Your precepts. Blessed are You, O Lord. I bow down before You…body…mind…and soul.