The Breastplate of St. Patrick

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I arise today
Through a mighty strength:
The Invocation of the Trinity
Through a belief in the Threeness
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s
Birth 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 descent
on the Day of Judgment.

I arise today
Through the strength
of the love of the Cherubim.
In obedience of Angels
In the service of Archangels
In hope of Resurrection
to meet with reward.
In prayers of Patriarchs
In predictions of Prophets
In preaching of Apostles
In the faith of Confessors
In innocence of holy virgins
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of Heaven:
Light of sun, radiance 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 shield to protect me
God’s host to save me.

From snares of devils
From temptations of vices
From everyone who shall wish me ill
Both far and near
alone and among many.

I summon today all these powers
Between me and these evils:
Against every cruel, merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul
Against incantations of false prophets
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics
Against craft and idolatry
Against spells of witches
and smiths and wizards
Against every knowledge that
corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison and burning
Against drowning and wounding
So that there may come to me
an 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 when I lie down
Christ when I sit down
Christ when I arise
Christ in the heart of everyone
who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of everyone who
thinks 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 a belief in the Threeness
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of Christ
May Thy salvation, O Lord,
be with us forever.

Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of Christ
May Thy salvation, O Lord,
be with us forever.

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Fr. Stephen Freeman: The Grammar of the Faith

velikorec3-e1340252615955Recent studies have documented the fact that we begin to acquire language from our earliest moments. Even the babbling of infants plays a role. Sounds, words, facial expressions – all have a part in perhaps the most complex of all human activities. As we learn to speak, we not only learn words and sounds, but we simultaneously learn the unspoken rules that govern every language – the rules of grammar.

I recall long, tedious lessons in elementary school surrounding the rules of grammar. We diagrammed sentences, made distinctions between direct objects and indirect objects. We learned to name everything and to describe the rules by which we spoke. We labored long to learn something that we already knew. My sense of grammar increased greatly when I studied my first foreign language – Latin. There the rules were magnified with declensions, conjugations and pages of memorized and recited inflections. In all of these academic exercises, I was learning to talk about things that any five-year old knows intuitively. Grammar is how we speak – and if we have to think too much about grammar – then our speech is halting and tortured. Fortunately, human beings are wired for grammar.

This insight has also been applied to theology. For though the faith can be articulated, it has an underlying grammar that allows it to be spoken – and to be spoken correctly. And like the underlying rules of language, the grammar of theology is often unspoken. It is acquired rather than taught. 

More than this, the Orthodox faith would say that Christ Himself is the “grammar” of all creation – this is one meaning of His description as the Logos of God.

Read the complete article here at Fr. Stephen’s blog, Glory to God for all Things.

Archbishop Demetrios: 10 Suggestions for Lent

By His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America

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1. Meditate on the History of Salvation

Think of the Lenten period as a time of meditating on the history of salvation.  Think about the creation of the universe and of Adam and Eve as the beginning of human life on earth.  Think about the fall of Adam and the entrance of sin in humanity.  We see in the hymnology of the liturgical book of Lent, the Triodion, constant references to the tragedy of the fall of the first human beings.  For example, in the Oikos of the Matins on yesterday’s Cheesefare Sunday, we read: “Adam sat and cried in those days across from the delights of Paradise; beat his hands upon his face, and said: Merciful One, have mercy on me who have fallen.”

The memory of what happened through the fall of Adam and Eve continues on in us to this day.  Think of the current condition of the world with its chaotic situation, confusion, violence, poverty, injustices, oppression, sickness and death, and remember it all started way back with Adam and Eve as a consequence of their sin and fall.  But then contemplate the course of history and how the amazing, unimaginable, and unpredictable act of God Himself to become a human being radically changed everything.  So in the course of Lent remember the history of salvation: From the fall of humankind, to the promise of redemption, the Incarnation of God as the new Adam, His Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension into Heaven, and the Second Coming.  Take time to reflect on God’s divine actions through history.

2. Review the understanding of fasting

Take fasting seriously as a very important aspect of Lent.  Think of fasting not simply as an item of diet, but as something related to the fall of humankind, and at the same time as a victory through Christ.  We fast for forty days in Lent before Holy Week not merely as an exercise, an ascesis, but also because there is an important Christological significance attached to fasting.  We have forty-day fasting models from both the Old and New Testaments.  In the Old Testament, Moses fasted for forty days on Mount Sinai before receiving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28, Deut. 9:9, 9:18) and Prophet Elijah fasted for forty days on Mount Horeb (3 Kingdoms 19:8).  Both of these instances are connected with an encounter with God at the end of their fasting.  In the New Testament, we have the forty-day fasting in the desert by our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13).  At the end of the forty-day fasting by Christ in the desert, there are the well-known “Temptations” of Christ, the first of which is related to eating: And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he [Christ] answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:3-4).  Is this event in the life of Christ in any way connected to the Fall of Adam?  Indeed, the Fall of Adam was caused by an eating situation, yet the victory of Christ also happened through an eating situation.  While Adam said “yes” to the temptation and ate (Genesis 3:1-6), Christ said “no” to the temptation and did not eat.  This is why the fasting of the forty-days during Lent is not simply a matter of abstention or an issue of diet, but is a major Christological and soteriological situation; the fall of humankind, and then the restoration through the victory of Christ.  So let us take fasting seriously and prepare ourselves for a blessed encounter with God.

3. Reconsider our life of prayer

Great Lent is a special time to pray.  But what is the content of our prayer?  What is our praying language?  For several people, their prayer is still on the same level of that when they were ten or fifteen years old; it has stayed undeveloped.  Why when speaking to God are we using a poor language?  What efforts are we making to improve and enhance our prayer in terms of content and expression?  Looking at the Triodion, we see many examples of different types of prayer language and content.  Try to pray and study the prayers that the Church has given us which are superb examples of conversing with God and try especially to prayerfully read the Psalms, the standard and universal book of prayer.

During Lent we find an increased number of opportunities for community prayer and worship.  The Church invites us each week to pray the services of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, the Presanctified Liturgy, the Salutations to the Theotokos, the Great Compline, and others.  So try to pray more frequently this Lent and develop through constant praying a more refined language of prayer.

4. Be conscious of the gravity of sin

Sometimes we don’t take sin seriously.  Yet Scripture offers a very strong and unequivocal picture of the gravity of sin.  The hymnology of the Triodion is replete with occurrences of the word “sin” or variations of it.  Sin is a very serious issue.  In the Hebrew Old Testament, there are fourteen different words to describe sin, but chiefly four: sin as a matter of human weakness, sin as a distortion or perversion, sin as a rebellion (borrowed from the political realm), and sin as an error or mistake related to ignorance.

If we believe in God becoming a human being and willingly being crucified on the Cross for the sins of the world, then we must understand the seriousness of sin.  Let’s reflect on how sin has control in our lives, and how it has distorted the divine image within each of us.  Let us deal seriously with our sins with an understanding that they are part of the huge amount of sins and evil that led Christ to the Cross.  But then remember that God has given forgiveness as the perfect antidote through the very same Cross.  Forgiveness, however, is inseparably connected to repentance.

5. Make Lent a season for repentance

Along with sin, we are called to reflect upon repentance. Repentance is a very important aspect in our lives and is a dominant theme throughout the Triodion.  We should not forget that Jesus Christ our Lord began His public ministry with the words, “Μετανοεῖτε· ἤγγικε γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.”“Repent [change your mind], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).  The whole Sermon on the Mount is a commentary on this fundamental declaration on repentance.  The writings of St. Paul and the other New Testament writings are permeated by calls to repentance.  Repentance is not merely a shallow or superficial act, but a radical change of mind, soul, will and mentality.  It is a central issue and an essential component of the Lenten period.  God is always ready to forgive, but first we must repent.

6. Reflect on our reading the Bible

Lent is a time to reflect on our relationship with the Holy Scriptures, because the Bible is central in the texts of the Triodion.  We must always keep the biblical element at the forefront in our worship and in our life.  How close are we to the Bible?  Most people think about the Bible only at the reading of the Epistle and Gospel on Sunday at the Divine Liturgy.  It is unthinkable that we as Christians do not have the Word of God as a central guide in everything we do.  The Lenten period assists us to come closer and more frequently to the Bible and encourages us to reflect upon the Scripture.  We should try to make reading from the Holy Bible a daily practice during this Lenten season and beyond.

7. Be aware of the Christocentric focus

Of course, the greatest focus of Lent should be on Jesus Christ Himself.  Sometimes we can get caught up in fasting, in saying prayers, in going to Church, on our sins, or in all the rituals of this holy season; yet in the midst of all we do, we forget about Jesus Christ Himself.  Lent is above all else a time to draw closer to Christ!  Christ is the center of this Lenten period and should be the center of our lives.  As we go through Lent and arrive at Holy Week with the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Christ must be at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of all things.  This Lenten period is a tremendous opportunity to come closer to Christ, and to be Christocentric in all that we think, say, or do.

We remember that the fall of Adam and Eve occurred through eating in disobedience to the commandment of God (Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-24), and that the restoration and victory in Christ was realized through His overcoming the temptation of eating (Matt. 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13).  But what does our incarnate God offer to us as the ultimate possibility of union with Him?  He gave us His Body and His Blood to be eaten.  He said to us, “Ὁ τρώγων μου τὴν σάρκα καὶ πίνων μου τὸ αἷμα ἐν ἐμοὶ μένει, κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ.” ”He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:56).  Here is the ultimate paradox: During Lent, abstinence from food, i.e. fasting, is accompanied by partaking of the imperishable food, i.e. the Body and Blood of Christ.  Adam and Eve fell away from paradise and from their connection to God through eating, and we are restored and united to God in the highest way through the Holy Communion by eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ.  This is much more than being Christocentric.  This is having Christ dwelling in us in a palpable way.

8. Cultivate human relationships

The season of Lent is also an opportunity to cultivate our human relationships in more authentic ways.  Looking again at the hymnology of the Triodion, we clearly ascertain that there is an emphasis on loving and caring for each other, on moving away from evil and wrong things, on forgiving one another, and on being reconnected with our fellow human beings.  The Book of Isaiah, read in its entirety during Lent, begins with a condemnation of the people of Israel because they had abandoned God, and then continues with an admonition to the Israelites to return to God and to be fair and to establish proper relationships with their fellow human beings.  So we are called to think of any relationships that are not in the proper condition and make every effort to remedy them.  This is a very integral part of living our lives during Lent.

9. Practice almsgiving

Almsgiving is a vital aspect of the Lenten period.  On one of the multiple occasions speaking about the need to be a person who takes care of others, St. John Chrysostom said that we are all called to give alms.  He continued to say that even those who claim to be poor are not free from offering alms.  Poverty is a poor excuse not to give.  Indeed there are poor people who give the half of what they have (see Mark 12:41-44).  It could be said that almsgiving is a requirement for living our life as Christians.  Christ said, “when you give alms” (Matt. 6:3), not if you give alms.  Almsgiving is especially emphasized during this Lenten period, evidenced again by the hymnology of our Church.

10. Make this Lent a time for transformation

Ultimately, our Lenten season is a time of having a transformative experience.  We are challenged to resolve that at the end of the Lenten period, when we celebrate Pascha, we are different from what we are today.  The transformative aspect of Lent is an absolute necessity for spiritually enjoying this season.  We are in the process of transformation if we steadily become Christocentric in all things, through the grace and power of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This Lenten season provides us with a tremendous possibility to prepare spiritually, to be constantly transformed, and to be with Christ in His Passion and Resurrection.

hat tip: GOA