Remember, Lord, the people here present and those who are absent with good cause. Have mercy on them and on us according to the multitude of Your mercy. Fill their treasuries with every good thing; preserve their marriages in peace and harmony; nurture the infants; instruct the youth; strengthen the aged; give courage to the faint-hearted; reunite those separated; bring back those in error and unite them to Your holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
(Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, p. 33)
Thy Name, O Lord, endures forever, Thy renown, O Lord, throughout all ages. For the Lord will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants.
Christ is Risen!
Many people can look at the same thing and have a different thought about it. That’s called perspective. As I look out my office window, if you ask me what I see, I would say the green grass in front of the hall. If 20 people looked out my office window, each would see something different—someone would notice the brick wall, someone else the canopy, someone else the bleachers, etc. And all would be correct. The perspective of each person notices something different.
The same can be said for this section of the prayer of St. Basil. Each person who hears it will think of something different. That’s because these few sentences speak to each age and stage of life. In particular, this section begins with those who are present or absent on that specific day. Of course we pray for the people who are in church at a service. We probably pray for people we know who are not their as well. But how about deliberately thinking of those who have good reason to be absent—perhaps a child who is sick at home, a car that wouldn’t start, an unexpected emergency. It’s so beautiful that St. Basil included people who can’t be present for a good reason. And it’s also important to note that he didn’t offer prayers for those without good cause—baseball game, hangover, laziness, etc.
Saint Basil continues with a prayer for the aforementioned people, those present and those absent with good cause, to “fill their treasuries with every good thing.” We pray for material sufficiency in many of our services. Sufficiency and excess are different. The hope God has for us is that we will be generous in giving to those who are in need. Unfortunately, we are losing perspective on what is sufficient. As I read the phrase “fill their treasuries with every good thing,” I also include a sense of generosity in the “every good thing.” Our treasuries are hopefully filled with enough to get by and some to spare for those in need, and especially for the continued sustenance and growth of the church.
Every age of life has its challenges. Being married is a challenge. In a society that is becoming increasingly disposable—jobs, possessions and relationships—it is becoming even harder to have a marriage that lasts, let alone one that is filled with peace and harmony. The family is the most critical unit in society—how spouses relate to one another and how they parent (or don’t parent) their children is crucial for the direction the world is going. Thus, we pray for those who are married.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” One of the things I have worked hard to do in my life is to follow this verse, to focus on the things that need focusing on today, and not worry so much for tomorrow. That doesn’t mean don’t worry at all. However, we should work to be present today.
For those parents who have infants, the needs are very simple—basically good health. For an infant to eat, burp, sleep and poop. That’s a good day. It is also crucial for an infant to be nurtured with love.
The youth need nurturing with love, and we also pray for good health. The youth need knowledge and to acquire wisdom. They need safety. They need knowledge of academic things, but also moral grounding and most especially knowledge of the Lord.
On the opposite end of life, we have the “aged.” Health and vitality may have already left them, or is about to. And so we pray for strength to the physical and health challenges, and the associated mental and spiritual challenges we will face as we get older. The last steps near the top of the mountain are usually the most difficult. And so it is with the last steps of life. In the midst of serious illness, it is quite common to question faith and a temptation to lose hope.
The next three challenges can affect people of any age. To be faint-hearted is to lack confidence. Many people of every age deal with this. We pray for courage and confidence for those who are riddled with anxiety and fear.
There are people of every age who have separated themselves from God. They’ve quit coming to church, they’ve stopped praying, and perhaps even their faith is flickering. We pray for these to find their way back.
Then there are those who have lost their way because of temptation. Some have fallen away because of habitual sin. Some have erred in faith, practice and even in rhetoric and do not even know it. They think they are doing right and really they are not. And then there is sin that befalls everyone—no one is without sin. In that sense, we are all in error. Thus, unity with the holy, catholic and apostolic church is a prayer for everyone. Again, we hear the phrase “holy, catholic and apostolic,” which reinforces what we’ve discussed before, that to be holy is to be set apart, catholic refers to the universal character of the Church, and apostolic means that our church dates back to the time of the Apostles.
Going back to where we started, you can see how each person will take something different away from this section of the prayer. And the good news is that each person will at least take away something from it.
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
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