Daily Devotion, February 14: We Approach with Great Humility

Daily Devotion, February 14: We Approach with Great Humility

0

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”  Isaiah 6:8

 

No one bound by worldly desires and pleasures is worthy to approach, draw near or minister to You, the King of glory. To serve You is great and awesome even for the heavenly powers. But because of Your ineffable and immeasurable love for us, You became man without alteration or change. You have served as our High Priest, and as Lord of all, and have entrusted to us the celebration of this liturgical sacrifice without the shedding of blood. For You alone, Lord our God, rule over all things in heaven and on earth. You are seated on the throne of the Cherubim, the Lord of the Seraphim and the King of Israel. You alone, Lord our God, are holy and dwell among Your saints. You alone are good and ready to hear. Therefore, I implore You, look upon me, Your sinful and unworthy servant, and cleanse my soul and heart from evil consciousness.  Enable me by the power of Your Holy Spirit so that, vested with the grace of priesthood, I may stand  without condemnation before Your holy altar table and celebrate the mystery of Your holy and pure Body and Your most precious Blood. To You I come with bowed head and pray to you: do not turn Your face away from me or reject me from among Your children, but make me, Your sinful and unworthy servant, worthy to offer to You these gifts. For You, Christ our God, are the Offerer and the Offered, the One who receives and is distributed, and to You we send up glory, together with Your Father who is from everlasting and Your all-holy, good and life creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.  Amen.

During the singing of the Cherubic Hymn, several things happen which we will explore in the next several reflections.  There is a prayer offered by the priest, which we will discuss in this reflection.  There is an offering of incense, the offering of a Psalm, and the preparation for the Great Entrance.

Today’s reflection is the longest one thus far on the Divine Liturgy.  It reflects a prayer that is of extreme importance to me as a priest, so please allow me a few extra minutes to explain this prayer and also to explain how it applies not only to me as a priest, but to you as faithful Christians.  It gives insight into the Holy Priesthood but also into what it means to be an obedient and faithful Christian.

The prayer which I’m writing about is offered by the celebrant priest.  It is a prayer the priest offers with extreme humility as he prepares to offer the Gifts of bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ and then administer them to the people.

No one bound by worldly desires and pleasures is worthy to approach, draw near or minister to You, the King of glory.

No one is worthy to do this task, no priest can ever be worthy of approaching the Holy Altar to celebrate the Liturgy.  No human being is ever worthy to partake of Holy Communion.  It is only by an act of mercy of the Lord that the human being can dare approach to touch the Divine Christ in the Holy Communion.  That doesn’t mean that we never approach or that no one can serve as a priest.  If no one approaches for Holy Communion, then no one experiences that joy, that unique oneness with Christ that He called us to in the institution of the Eucharist.  If no one serves as a priest, then no sacrament can be celebrated.  So we approach, whether to receive the Eucharist, or to celebrate the Liturgy, with great humility.

To serve You is great and awesome even for the heavenly powers.

Even the angels in heaven cannot do what we are doing.  For the angels stand around the throne of God.  In the Divine Liturgy, we, the human beings, touch the Living God.

But because of Your ineffable and immeasurable love for us, You became man without alteration or change.

God became man, in the words of St. Athanasios, so that man can become like God.  Christ took on human flesh, yet remained God—perfect man and perfect God.

You have served as our High Priest, and as Lord of all, and have entrusted to us the celebration of this liturgical sacrifice without the shedding of blood.

The priest is one who serves, and specifically serves Communion to the people of God.  Christ came to serve and to minister, giving us His own Body and Blood.  Prior to the time of Christ walking the earth, a large part of worship was offering “blood” sacrifices by offering up animals to be sacrificed.  With Christ’s death on the cross, and His shedding His blood for us, we no longer offer sacrifices by shedding blood.

For You alone, Lord our God, rule over all things in heaven and on earth. You are seated on the throne of the Cherubim, the Lord of the Seraphim and the King of Israel. You alone, Lord our God, are holy and dwell among Your saints. You alone are good and ready to hear.

We give glory to the Lord our God, and ascribe to Him honors reserved only for Him.  Only He rules over the heavens and the earth.  Only He is seated on the throne of the Cherubim (an order of angels), only He rules over the Seraphim (another order of angels), He is the one who dwells in the midst of the saints in heaven, and He alone models what is “good”, always ready to hear our prayers.

Therefore, I implore You, look upon me, Your sinful and unworthy servant, and cleanse my soul and heart from evil consciousness.  Enable me by the power of Your Holy Spirit so that, vested with the grace of priesthood, I may stand  without condemnation before Your holy altar table and celebrate the mystery of Your holy and pure Body and Your most precious Blood. To You I come with bowed head and pray to you: do not turn Your face away from me or reject me from among Your children, but make me, Your sinful and unworthy servant, worthy to offer to You these gifts.

How can a human being, intertwined in his own sins and struggles, somehow step forward from the people and be the celebrant of the Divine Services?  While the people will receive in their mouths the Body and Blood of Christ, how can anyone dare hold these elements in his own hands?  If any man who is a priest thought long and hard about this, he’d run away and spend his life begging for God’s mercies for doing this even once.  Again, though, without priests, there could be no Liturgy, so someone has to “go” for the people to do this task.  However, before doing the greatest work that a human being can do, to hold the Lord God in his hands, the priest prayerfully acknowledges that he is “sinful and unworthy,” that he is a “servant,” he “implores God” to look upon him, to “cleanse soul and heart from evil consciousness”.

When a man is ordained to the Holy Priesthood, the Bishop prays that the “Divine Grace (of the Holy Spirit) which completes what is infirm and heals what is lacking” may come upon the man being ordained.  So the priest again calls on that power of the Holy Spirit that once vested him with the grace of priesthood, to again come on him, and allow him to stand without condemnation before the Holy Altar Table to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion.  The priest bows his head before the altar and implores God to not turn his face away from the priest, or reject him and his prayer, but to somehow make him worthy for this moment in time, to be offering the Gifts that are about to be offered.

For You, Christ our God, are the Offerer and the Offered, the One who receives and is distributed, and to You we send up glory, together with Your Father who is from everlasting and Your all-holy, good and life creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The concluding statement of the prayer is that Christ is both the one who is the “offerer” of the Gifts and the One being Offered.  He is the One who receives our prayers, and yet He is the One who will be distributing Himself to us in Holy Communion.

This prayer, for me as the priest, is the most beautiful and powerful prayer of the Liturgy, because it reaffirms my calling to serve as a priest and forces me, with my mouth anyway, to utter words of extreme humility and unworthiness, with the hope that these words will be the cornerstones of my ministry not only at the Liturgy, but away from it as well.  In my humble opinion, this prayer can be altered by changing a few words and become a beautiful prayer offered by the priest or even by the people, outside of the Liturgy.  And so, with great humility, I offer this prayer again, in a way that YOU can pray it as today’s prayer. May it serve as a reminder to you and to me that to approach Christ in the Liturgy for Communion, to approach Him in prayer, or to be His “minister” through our respective jobs and roles is something that no one intertwined in worldly desires and pleasures is worthy to do.  Therefore, we must try to “cast aside worldly cares” on a daily basis (not just at the Liturgy) through prayer, obedience to the commandments and charity, so that we can experience a continual “communion” (union) with Christ, both in church and outside of it. What is in parentheses are the words of the original prayer to leave out.  What is in bold is what I have changed . Pray everything but what is in the parentheses.

No one bound by worldly desires and pleasures is worthy to approach, draw near or minister to You, the King of glory. To serve You is great and awesome even for the heavenly powers. But because of Your ineffable and immeasurable love for us, You became man without alteration or change. You have served as our High Priest, and as Lord of all, and have entrusted to us the celebration of the Divine Liturgy (this liturgical sacrifice without the shedding of blood.) For You alone, Lord our God, rule over all things in heaven and on earth. You are seated on the throne of the Cherubim, the Lord of the Seraphim and the King of Israel. You alone, Lord our God, are holy and dwell among Your saints. You alone are good and ready to hear. Therefore, I implore You, look upon me, Your sinful and unworthy servant, and cleanse my soul and heart from evil consciousness.  Enable me by the power of Your Holy Spirit so that, vested with the grace of my baptismal garment (priesthood), I may stand  without condemnation in Your Holy Church (before Your holy altar table) and receive (celebrate the mystery of) Your holy and pure Body and Your most precious Blood. To You I come with bowed head and pray to you: do not turn Your face away from me or reject me from among Your children, but make me, Your sinful and unworthy servant, worthy to receive (offer to You) these gifts. For You, Christ our God, are the Offerer and the Offered, the One who receives and is distributed, and to You we send up glory, together with Your Father who is from everlasting and Your all-holy, good and life creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.  Amen.

 

+Fr. Stavros

Visit our site each morning to read the daily devotion!

 

The Orthodox Christian Network is a commissioned agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. Our mission is to comfort, inspire, and inform Orthodox Christians and seekers around the world using digital media. OCN is not underwritten financially by any one organization, jurisdiction, or individual. Rather, OCN is supported entirely by parish and personal donations. Please remember OCN in your parish’s charitable giving. The Orthodox Christian Network is a 501(c)(3) corporation.

$20,000 MATCHING CHALLENGE FOR OUR 20TH ANNIVERSARY

Much like public radio, the Orthodox Christian Network relies on the support of our listeners.  Anonymous donors have issued a $20,000 matching challenge in honor of OCN’s 20th Anniversary! For every $1 you give, $2 will be donated! You can send your gift by direct mail, over the phone, or on our website.

OCN Spark is here!   Our Spark app is an Orthodox Christian News portal that allows you to take action.  Spark provides daily devotions, live Bible study, and you can read and learn about events going on in the Orthodox Christian world and persecuted Christians.  In addition to making it easy to share news and articles with friends, Spark allows you make prayer requests for those who are suffering.  Click here to download OCN Spark from iTunes.

___________________________________________________________________________

Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. OCN is on Social Media! Follow us on Twitter,  Facebook,  YouTube,  Google+and Pinterest

About author
avatar

Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0