Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to Thee belong all the nations! Psalm 82:8
One of the greatest misnomers about Orthodoxy is that we aren’t a Bible based church. Many of us were raised not reading the Bible. Many people put more stock in “Tradition” than the Bible. And many outside of our faith think that we eschew Scripture in favor of tradition, especially our liturgical tradition. The truth is that our Traditions are all based in Scripture, and that much of our liturgy and hymnology comes directly from Scripture.
On Holy Saturday morning, the priest announces the Resurrection by scattering leaves around the church, while chanting a beautiful hymn, “Arise O God, Judge the Earth.” This hymn, and the several verses that are interspersed with it come directly from Psalm 82.
At this service, three prophecy readings are offered. The first is from Genesis 1, the Creation of the world. The second is from Jonah, connecting the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the whale with the three days that Jesus spent in the tomb. The third is from Daniel, about the three youths who were cast into the furnace and were not burned. In the middle of this reading is a prayer, known as the “Hymn of the Three Youths.” And in the middle of this prayer, we hear “For we, O Lord, have become fewer than any nation, and are brought low this day in all the world because of our sins. And at this time there is no prince, or prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, no place to make an offering before Thee or to find mercy. Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted.” (Song of the Three Young Men: 14-16)
The Hymn “Arise O God” follows shortly thereafter. It seems that the two are connected. We are brought low this day because of our sins. It’s not just the coronavirus that brings us low, but our collective sinful state. No matter how high we rise professionally or financially, there will always be a lowliness because of our sinful state. Intentional sin brings us even lower. The consequences of sin bring about the fallen state of our relationships, and our nature. The pandemic is not tied to God, but rather to our sense of brokenness. And at this time, as we offer in the prayer, there is no prince or prophet or leader or sacrifice, etc., nothing that we can do to collectively cure what ails humanity. Yes, there will hopefully be a vaccine to inoculate us against the coronavirus. But there is no vaccine for anger and hate, nor for our overall sense of brokenness. There are capable leaders who can revive our economy, improve jobs and provide for our general welfare. But there is no leader who is going to lead us away from our fallen nature.
Christ is the only one who can heal our broken nature. Christ is the only one who can raise us from the morass of sin. This is why we pray to Christ, for HIM to arise and judge the earth, and to take the nations as His own. It is Christ who will “give justice to the weak and the fatherless; and maintain the rights of the afflicted and the destitute.” (Psalm 82:3). It is the Lord who will “rescue the weak and the needy; and deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (82:4) Therefore, we ask the Lord to do these things. We ask the Lord to be our leader, and our deliver. We ask for His help to be faithful followers and mindful servants.
It is with a contrite heart and a humble spirit that we are accepted. It is only with these things that we can dare to approach Christ. In this year of crisis, we hear a way among man to have the loudest voice, the sharpest pen, and the greatest weapon. There has been virtually no contrition or humility as we try to solve our problem. And perhaps this is the reason we haven’t solved it yet.
Today’s Psalm provides comfort, and proper perspective, as we ask the Lord to rise up from among us, and to judge all the earth, to give us a sentence not of punishment but of humility, patience and love. On Holy Saturday, we sing to God to rise up and again to lead us, all the nations, all of HIS nations. Today, let us sing to God to rise up from among us, and judge us worthy of His mercy and healing.
God has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods He holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I say “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince.” Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to Thee belong all nations. Psalm 82
Arise, God, and help all the earth!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
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