Visit us with Your goodness, Lord; manifest Yourself to us through Your rich compassion. Grant us seasonable weather and fruitful seasons; send gentle showers upon the earth so that it may bear fruit; bless the crown of the year of Your goodness. Prevent schism in the Church; pacify the raging of the heathen. Quickly stop the uprisings of heresies by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Receive us all into Your kingdom. Declare us to be sons and daughters of the light and of the day. Grant us Your peace and love, Lord our God, for You have given all things to us.
And grant that with one voice and one heart we may glorify and praise Your most honored and majestic name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
(Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, p. 35-36)
For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from the, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
2 Corinthians 6: 16-18
In past generations He allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways; yet He did not leave Himself without witness, for He did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.
Christ is Risen!
It is true that these prayers of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil are long. As a priest offering them, there is always the temptation to speed up, either to finish them by the time the accompanying hymn is completed, or if the hymn has been completed, to finish them quickly so as to not tire the faithful. I confess that many times, but the time I get this far in the prayer, I am getting through this at a quicker pace, rather than savoring every word. And that’s wrong. This prayer is so complete, that each phrase is seemingly loaded with things that are thought-provoking and prayer worthy.
The goodness of God is so great we cannot comprehend it. Compared to our state of sinfulness, we may feel unworthy to receive it. Which is why the prayer doesn’t stop with the request to be visited by God’s goodness, but follows up immediately with a request for this goodness to be manifested to us through God’s rich compassion. Perhaps we feel more worthy accept compassion, as it acknowledges our imperfections and our need for it.
The phrase for “seasonable weather and fruitful seasons,” for God to “send gentle showers upon the earth so that it may bear fruit,” is a prayer for all peoples in all places. Every country produces fruit from the earth. Nothing is produced without the proper amount of sun, rain, and good soil. Centuries ago, society was primarily agrarian, a great percentage of the people were farmers. And while most people in our society are not farmers, vast tracks of land in every country as used as farm land, providing for the sustenance of all. As concerns “showers,” many places of the world live in extremes. There are areas of extreme drought, and then we have the extreme rain in the form of hurricanes and floods. I hear this prayer as a prayer for moderation when it comes to rain, and for protection in the areas where there is an extreme amount or lack thereof. Every year is a year for God’s goodness, whether that is towards the human beings, or the activities—i.e. farming—of the human beings.
The Church is God’s kingdom on earth. And the Church also has extremes—there are churches that are extremely service oriented. There are churches that are barely subsisting. And this is because some churches are divided because they don’t understand the purpose of the church. The purpose of the Church is to serve, and the role of the parishioner is generosity in service. Schism, or dividing the church, distracts her from her purpose. Thus, we pray for the preventing of schism in the church. The “heathen” are those who seek to destroy the church, whether they are outside the church (non-believers) or even in the church (antagonists). In every generation of the church, there have been heresies, challenges to the true theology of the church. Sometimes these have succeeded in pulling people away from the church and from Christ. We pray that these will be curtailed and we call on the Holy Spirit to do that. The desired outcome is that “all” are received in God’s heavenly kingdom.
We are sons and daughters of God, all of us, whether we accept that role or act appropriately in it. The prayer continues with a plea to God to “declare us to be sons and daughters of the light and of the day. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus told His disciples “You are the light of the world.” And in John 8:12, Jesus said “I am the light of the world.” Thus, light is the attribute that we have in common with the Lord. We want to manifest that light by living the example of Jesus, to be obedient to God and to serve our neighbor. And this happens most especially when we manifest peace and love. For God has given all things to us, but to live in harmony with God and with one another, to enjoy the things He has given us, we need to live with peace and with love.
The prayer concludes, as all liturgical prayers do, with an ekphonesis which glorifies God. This ekphonesis is familiar as it appears in both the Liturgy of St. Basil and that of St. John Chrysostom (remember that the major difference in the two Liturgies has to do with the silent prayers, not the out loud petitions and ekphoneses). The ekphonesis reminds us that we pray “with one voice and one heart” in order to “magnify and praise” the “most honorable and majestic name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” What a fitting way to end this prayer that has spoken of the many diverse needs of our one world.
The anaphora (portion of the Divine Liturgy where the consecration of the Gifts occurs) ends in both Divine Liturgies, with a blessing over the people, “The Mercy of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ be with you all.” (Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, p. 36)
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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