Dear Friends in Christ,
Just a short time ago the season of the Triodion opened with us giving thought to the Publican and the Pharisee. St Luke, in his holy Gospel, shares with us Christ’s main theme, declaring that He spake this parable unto certain that trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and despised others. But as is the case with every word that came forth from the mouth of our Saviour, the depths of meaning are fathomless.
Christ describes the Pharisee by saying he stood and prayed with himself. He was addressing God but there was no communion with the Living God. If we’re honest with ourselves this pierces our conscience perhaps even more than in recognizing our Pharisaical pride. Whether at home or in the church, how often do we too just fulfill our obligation of “prayer” without ever lifting our heart to the Lord? St. Theophan wisely notes that before beginning to pray it is essential to taken even a brief moment to place ourselves sin the Lord’s presence so as to intimately pray “into the Lord’s ear,” so to speak. The Lord is omniscient and sees and hears everything but it is we who need this. Otherwise we are like the Pharisee who stood and prayed with himself.
The services of the Church are overflowing with rich meaning. When we attend them it is like swimming in an ocean of prayers. We can’t begin to take them all in (and we are typically distracted besides) but when we consciously place ourselves in the presence of the Lord, even a smiple phrase from that ocean of prayers can refresh our soul. To say Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, or the Lord’s Prayer, or the beloved Lord have mercy, with a heart turned toward the Lord and aware of His presence, fills us with living prayer. Throughout our day, if we periodically pause and place ourselves in the presence of the Lord, and humbly speak to the Lord—even a brief Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, or the heart-felt words of the thief, Remember me, O Lord, in Thy kingdom, or the wordless prayer of a broken and humbled heart—this brings living grace into the soul.
Our Lord declared that we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. What a wondrous gift: that we are given to the means to speak, to commune, with the very One Who fashioned us from the earth! And even more wondrous, that this pleases Him! How longsuffering He is, that He patiently waits for those brief moments when we remember Him, turn to Him, and lift up a sincere prayer from our heart.
The Lord is drawing us nigh to the all-revered days of His Holy Passion. Let us, in these days set before us, draw nigh unto Him.
Holding you in our prayers,
Abbess Michaila and sisters