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March 31, 2020

A Prayer
In Times of Epidemic

- Fr. Evan Armatas -




Fr. Maximos Constas, the interim Dean at Helenic College Holy Cross provided this introduction and translated excerpts from the Great Euchologion.

"The Great Euchologion - a large collection of prayers and services - has a prayer to be read during a time of epidemic. The prayer, which is deeply biblical, is striking for at least two reasons. First, it is an astonishing six-pages long, and thus one of the longest prayers in the entire Euchologion. Second, it contains often harrowing depictions of life under a deadly epidemic, including descriptions of families locked in their homes and terrified at the prospect of impending death. Yet the prayer never doubts the love and compassion of God, and its words have the power to move the soul to genuine repentance and open the heart to God's grace, love, and compassion.

Below are a few sections of the prayer which give a sense of the prayer's overall structure and spirit.

Glory to God who gives us time to live, and opportunity for sanctification."

 

Prayer in time of Epidemic

Let us pray to the Lord.

O Almighty Lord, Christ our God, you are long-suffering, full of mercy and compassion, quick to reconcile, the only friend of mankind, good and beyond good, and all-powerful. You brought us into being out of nothing, you honored us with your divine image, and placed us in paradise. And when, through our disobedience, we fell and transgressed your word, you did not cast us aside, but through your great love for mankind visited us in many ways. You gave us your law to guide us, and your angels to protect us, but we did not honor your gifts, and showed ourselves unworthy of your love. But the depth of our sins cannot compare to the height of your compassion, and so you took to yourself our own nature, renewing and recreating it in yourself, in a manner beyond understanding. You united the whole of our human nature with the whole of your divinity, and through your flesh you sanctified our flesh, through your soul you sanctified our soul, and by your suffering and death you freed us from our sufferings and death, granting us eternal life.

We nonetheless did not cease to transgress your commandments, following the impulses of our own will, desires, and passions, committing every manner of sin each and every day of our lives. We passed our days in vanity, we all went astray, we caused your great and holy Name to be mocked and blasphemed among unbelievers.

Because of this, and through your just judgment, you have allowed us to be afflicted by disease, sickness, plague, confusion, fear, and doubts, so that through these things you might draw us back to you, who alone loves mankind. Thus the sword of this pandemic has fallen upon us, surrounding us on all sides, threatening to destroy us like another flood, mercilessly sweeping away many to death. We have been struck a terrible blow, and now it is as if we were all lying on a common bed of sickness, separated from family and friends, not knowing if we shall live or die, and thus we have already become like those counted among the dead.

Today fathers and mothers, and children and grandchildren, are all crowded into one house; groups of sons, groups of daughters, and cousins and relatives. But tomorrow we may find ourselves without spouses, childless, bereft of our loved ones, as if we had lost our own limbs, the members of our own body, all our hope gone in the blinking of an eye.

We are besides ourselves, O Lord, with the scale of the unspeakable catastrophe that has overtaken us. We are overwhelmed by doubt, filled with inexplicable fear and dread, as the shadow of death falls upon us, and we do not know what to do. Each one of us imagines that he bears the mark of the disease, from which we have no shelter or place of refuge. And what is worse, we are unable to lift our eyes to heaven, or to open our mouths to pray to you as we should, for we have been wounded in our conscience and in our hearts. We have no good deeds to bring before you, and our lack of faith fills us with shame, and thus we are unworthy to ask for your help, unworthy to ask for your protection. All we can do is fall down before you with our broken and humbled hearts, and cry out to you, the only good God, saying: You are just, O Lord, and just are your judgments in all your dealings with us. You have not dealt with us according to our sins, nor have you requited us according to our transgressions. Indeed, even this affliction is not unjust, and not apart from your love for mankind, for it is in no way equal to the measure of our transgressions.

On account of our many sins, O Lord, we have no boldness to draw near to you, or to beseech your goodness, for you are a just Judge. Yet the greatness of your mercy and love, and the magnitude of your compassion, demand that we turn to you, O Merciful Lord, and dare to seek from you what is beyond our worthiness. Therefore, O good God and Lord of Mercy, we ask for the gift of your peace. Halt the sharp edge of the sword of the illness that is pointed at us. Do not judge us in your anger; let us not be lost forever, for the sake of your holy Name, do not take away your mercy from us. Open up the depths of your compassion and pour them out on the multitude of our sins. It is against you alone, O Lord, that we have sinned, but it is you alone that we worship. Apart from you, we know no other God. It is before you alone that we stand with broken and humbled hearts, and with tears we cry out to you: Lord have mercy! Receive, O loving God, the disturbance within our bodies and the pain in our hearts, just as you received the tears of Hezekiah, delivering him from death, and adding years to his life.

For it was you said, I do not desire the death of a sinner, but that he should turn and live - and so be merciful to us, turn away your wrath, and do not be angry with us forever. See, O Lord, what we have suffered; how we have been diminished. Remember, O Lord, that the only plague to touch the hearts of the unfeeling Egyptians was the loss of their first born, for we are without comfort, inconsolable, and it is to you that we turned, the all-powerful God who has the power to do all things, and it is from you alone that we seek help, refuge, and deliverance from the epidemic that surrounds us, for you are blessed unto the ages of ages.

Amen.



Father Evan is the priest of Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Loveland, Colorado. He and his wife Presbytera Anastasia are the happy parents of three daughters, Al
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Father Evan is the priest of Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Loveland, Colorado. He and his wife Presbytera Anastasia are the happy parents of three daughters, Alexia, Eleni, Maria, and a son Spyridon; they live in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado where they ski, flyfish, and hike.