Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hard to Be a Man of Peace

A Pre-Communion Prayer of St. John of Damascus:

I stand before the gates of Thy temple, and yet I refrain not from my evil thoughts. But do Thou, O Christ my God, who didst justify the publican, and hadst mercy on the Canaanite woman, and opened the gates of Paradise to the thief; open unto me the compassion of thy love toward mankind, and receive me I approach and touch Thee, like the sinful woman and the woman with the issue of blood; for the one, by embracing Thy feet received the forgiveness of her sins, and the other by but touching the hem of Thy garment was healed. And I, most sinful, dare to partake of Thy whole Body. Let me not be consumed, but receive me as Thou didst receive them, and enlighten the perceptions of my soul, consuming the accusations of my sins: through the intercessions of her that, without stain, gave Thee birth, and of the heavenly Powers; for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Tonight wasn't communion, but the first line was clear enough...I stand before the gates of Thy temple--tonight, even within Thy temple!--and yet I refrain not from my evil thoughts. Yet the prayer doesn't call for us, in those moments, to stuff our brains full of proper, "theological" thoughts; we are called to pray for mercy and, through the communion of the saints, open ourselves and be opened by God (at the same time!) to His grace! Found myself telling my mind tonight to "shut off," and just allowed my body to follow the movements...make the sign of the cross...bow...make three prostrations...remained bowed for the priest's prayer...cross yourself at metion of Trinity or attentive only to the words...allowed myself to let the rhythm of the Vespers service carry me along, assauging my passions, gently redirecting me.

Coffee with friends from church after Vespers--I'm pretty sure it's an undisputed fact that I talk too much, that I dominate conversations if not careful. Attempted to bring up topics pertinent to our friends, but my wife and I--dramatic, loquacious souls that we are--still seemed to talk more and listen less than our more pensive, less chatty friends. Not that they mind (at least, I don't think so). They seem to be gifted, patient listeners and will be the godparents of little John Davis or Hope Elizabeth (we'll know next Monday, Lord willling!). Good coffee, good conversation in spite of me, good afterglow from Vespers.

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