He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Priestly Prayers: St. Mark the Evangelist

The Divine Liturgy of Saint Mark, like the Divine Liturgy of Saint James, is very old.  They both take their names from the Twelve Apostles and would have been celebrated by the Apostles in an earlier form, though the liturgies as we have records of them today were likely compiled by later Christians.  In the case of the Divine Liturgy of St. Mark, it is also known as the liturgy of St. Cyril (of Alexandria), a well-known early Church Father, which means that he and/or his successors likely had a hand in compiling or reforming the liturgy in their time.

This is very similar to the Divine Liturgy of St. James, the text of which was likely compiled in the form we have records of today by St. Cyril of Jerusalem.  The shared heritage of these various liturgies jumped out at me as I was reading them, and it starts immediately with the entrance and the greeting that re-enacts Christ's greeting to the Apostles after His Resurrection.  And also with the immediately following penitential prayer in which "Lord, have mercy." (kyrie eleison) is repeated three times.

The Priest.
Peace be to all.
The People.
And to your spirit.
The Deacon.
The People.
Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.
The Priest prays secretly:
We give You thanks, yea, more than thanks, O Lord our God, the Father of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, for all Your goodness at all times and in all places, because You have shielded, rescued, helped, and guided us all the days of our lives, and brought us unto this hour, permitting us again to stand before You in Your holy place, that we may implore forgiveness of our sins and propitiation to all Your people. We pray and beseech You, merciful God, to grant in Your goodness that we may spend this holy day and all the time of our lives without sin, in fullness of joy, health, safety, holiness, and reverence of You. But all envy, all fear, all temptation, all the influence of Satan, all the snares of wicked men, do You, O Lord, drive away from us, and from Your Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Bestow upon us, O Lord, what is good and meet. Whatever sin we commit in thought, word, or deed, do You in Your goodness and mercy be pleased to pardon. Leave us not, O Lord, while we hope in You; nor lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one and from his works, through the grace, mercy, and love of Your only-begotten Son.
( In a loud voice.)
Through whom and with whom be glory and power to You, in Your most holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, henceforth, and for evermore.
The People.

We would expect that if many priests were implementing changes in the liturgies in a process of constant innovation and reform, we wouldn't find so much similarity and consistency in them a couple of millenia later.  But when I attended the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom for the first time, I had only ever attended Roman Rite Catholic liturgies (descendents of the Divine Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great), and was nonetheless very comfortable with the structure and the prayers.

It was shockingly familiar and easy to pray with for someone coming from a background with no exposure to any liturgies other than Roman ones.  And the text of the Divine Liturgy of Saint Mark seemed even more familiar to me than others as a Roman Catholic.  This, of course, does not mean that there are no differences.

The Priest, before the Gospel is read, offers incense, and says:—
Accept at Your holy, heavenly, and reasonable altar, O Lord, the incense we offer in presence of Your sacred glory. Send down upon us in return the grace of Your Holy Spirit, for You are blessed, and let Your glory encircle us.
The Deacon, when he is about to read the Gospel, says:—
Lord, bless us.
The Priest.
May the Lord, who is the blessed God, bless and strengthen us, and make us hearers of His holy Gospel, now, henceforth, and for evermore. Amen.
The Deacon.
Stand and let us hear the holy Gospel.
The Priest.
Peace be to all.
The People.
And to your spirit.
The Deacon reads the Gospel, and the Priest says the prayer of the Collect.
Look down in mercy and compassion, O Lord, and heal the sick among Your people.
May all our brethren who have gone or who are about to go abroad, safely reach their destination in due season.
Send down the gracious rain upon the thirsty lands, and make the rivers flow in full stream, according to Your grace.
The fruits of the land do You, O Lord, fill with seed and make ripe for the harvest.
In peace, courage, justice, and tranquillity preserve the kingdom of Your servant, whom You have deemed worthy to reign over this land.
From evil days, from famine and pestilence, from the assault of barbarians, defend, O Lord, this Christ-loving city, lowly and worthy of Your compassion, as You spared Nineveh of old.
For You are full of mercy and compassion, and rememberest not the iniquities of men against them.
You have said through Your prophet Isaiah,— I will defend this city, to save it for my own sake, and for my servant David's sake.
Wherefore we pray and beseech You to defend in Your good mercy this city, for the sake of the martyr and evangelist Mark, who has shown us the way of salvation through the grace, mercy, and love of Your only-begotten Son.
Through whom and with whom be glory and power to You, with Your all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit.

One of the differences here is that Mark the Evangelist is specifically commemorated in the prayers after the Gospel reading, something that doesn't happen in a Roman Catholic liturgy.  The other parts are very similar to what one would see at the average Roman Catholic liturgy today.

For example, the other commemorations (of the bishops, all the clergy and ministers, and all the faithful) should sound very familiar to the average Roman Catholic today.  On the other hand, if they attend the Divine Liturgy of Saint Mark as implemented by the Western Rite Vicariate of ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia), they may have no idea who the names of the bishops being commemorated refer to or what their jurisdictions might be.

The Priest.
O Sovereign and Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray and beseech You to fill our hearts with the peace of heaven, and to bestow moreover the peace of this life. Preserve for us through many years our most holy and blessed Papas Δ, and our most pious Bishop Δ, while they, according to Your holy and blessed will, peacefully fulfil the holy priesthood committed to their care, and dispense aright the word of truth, with all the orthodox bishops, elders, deacons, sub-deacons, readers, singers, with the entire body of the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Bless our meetings, O Lord. Grant that we may hold them without let or hindrance, according to Your holy will. Be pleased to give to us, and Your servants after us for ever, houses of praise and prayer. Rise, O Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered. Let all who hate Your holy name be put to flight. Bless Your faithful and orthodox people. Multiply them by thousands and tens of thousands. Let no deadly sin prevail against them, or against Your holy people, through the grace, mercy, and love of Your only-begotten Son.
( Aloud.)
Through whom and with whom be glory and power to You, with Your all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit.
The People.
The Priest.
Peace be to all.
The People.
And to your spirit.
The Deacon.
Take care that none of the catechumens —

The dismissal of the catechumens should also be familiar in those parishes that have catechumens entering the Church.  What would seem different to many Roman Catholics in the post-Vatican II era is the fact that many of these prayers in the Divine Liturgy of Saint Mark are not prayed aloud and that special instructions are inserted where they should be prayed so that the people can hear.

This way of doing things will be more familiar to Catholics who grew up in the Church before the Second Vatican Council, or more recently, to those young people who have chosen to attend a pre-Vatican II liturgy because of concerns related to the War of the Traditionalists that has followed the Second Vatican Council and changes in the Mass of Paul VI.

Then they sing the Cherubic hymn.
The Priest offers incense at the entrance, and prays:—
O Lord our God, who lackest nothing, accept this incense offered by an unworthy hand, and deem us all worthy of Your blessing, for You are our sanctification, and we ascribe glory to You.
The holy things are carried to the altar, and the Priest prays thus:—
O holy, highest, awe-inspiring God, who dwellest among the saints, sanctify us, and deem us worthy of Your reverend priesthood. Bring us to Your precious altar with a good conscience, and cleanse our hearts from all pollution. Drive away from us all unholy thoughts, and sanctify our souls and minds. Grant that, with reverence of You, we may perform the service of our holy fathers, and propitiate Your presence through all time; for You are He who blesses and sanctifies all things, and to You we ascribe glory and thanks.
The Deacon.
Salute one another.
The Priest says the prayer of salutation.
O Sovereign and Almighty Lord, look down from heaven on Your Church, on all Your people, and on all Your flock. Save us all, Your unworthy servants, the sheep of Your fold. Give us Your peace, Your help, and Your love, and send to us the gift of Your Holy Spirit, that with a pure heart and a good conscience we may salute one another with an holy kiss, without hypocrisy, and with no hostile purpose, but guileless and pure in one spirit, in the bond of peace and love, one body and one spirit, in one faith, even as we have been called in one hope of our calling, that we may all meet in the divine and boundless love, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom You are blessed.
Then the Priest offers the incense, and says:—
The incense is offered to Your name. Let it ascend, we implore You, from the hands of Your poor and sinful servants to Your heavenly altar for a sweet-smelling savour, and the propitiation of all Your people. For all glory, honour, adoration, and thanks are due unto You, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, now, henceforth, and for evermore. Amen.
After the Salutation, the Deacon in a loud voice says:—
Stand and make the offering duly.
The Priest, making the sign of the cross over the disks and chalices, says in a loud voice (the Nicene Creed):—
I believe in one God, etc.
The Deacon.
Stand for prayer.
The Priest.
Peace be to all.
The Deacon.
Pray for those who present the offering.
The Priest says the prayer of the Oblation.
O Sovereign Lord, Christ Jesus the Word, who art equal in power with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the great high priest; the bread that came down from heaven, and saved our souls from ruin; who gavest Yourself, a spotless Lamb, for the life of the world....
We pray and beseech You, O Lord, in Your mercy, to let Your presence rest upon this bread and these chalices on the all-holy table, while angels, archangels, and Your holy priests stand round and minister for Your glory and the renewing of our souls, through the grace, mercy, and love of Your only-begotten Son, through whom and with whom be glory and power to You.

Even those who attend the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic liturgy are probably not accustomed to giving anyone standing near them a "holy kiss" as was common in the days when Jesus walked on earth with His disciples.  That's for understandable cultural reasons, as our culture in the U.S. sees kissing as an inherently romantic act or at least a prelude to romance, and so it wouldn't be prudent for everyone to kiss one another on the cheek and give the impression that we were all romantically inclined to one another in the liturgy.

The Nicene Creed, however, should be familiar to all Catholics, as well as other things.  For example, the dialogue before the Eucharistic prayer (anaphora).
In like manner also, as after the Creed, he makes the sign of the cross upon the People, and says aloud:—
The Lord be with all.
The People.
And with your spirit.
The Priest.
Let us lift up our hearts.
The People.
We lift them up to the Lord.
The Priest.
Let us give thanks to the Lord.
The People.
It is meet and right.
The Priest begins the Anaphoral prayer.
O Lord God, Sovereign and Almighty Father, truly it is meet and right, holy and becoming, and good for our souls, to praise, bless, and thank You; to make open confession to You by day and night with voice, lips, and heart without ceasing;
To You who hast made the heaven, and all that is therein; the earth, and all that is therein; The sea, fountains, rivers, lakes, and all that is therein;
To You who, after Your own image and likeness, has made man, upon whom You also bestowed the joys of Paradise;
And when he trespassed against You, You neither neglected nor forsook him, good Lord,
But recalled him by Your law, instruct him by Your prophets, restore and renew him by this awful, life-giving, and heavenly mystery.
And all this You have done by Your Wisdom and the Light of truth, Your only-begotten Son, our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ, Through whom, thanking You with Him and the Holy Spirit,
We offer this reasonable and bloodless sacrifice, which all nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun, from the north and the south, present to You, O Lord; for great is Your name among all peoples, and in all places are incense, sacrifice, and oblation offered to Your holy name.
We pray and beseech You, O lover of men, O good Lord, remember in Your good mercy the Holy and only Catholic and Apostolic Church throughout the whole world, and all Your people, and all the sheep of this fold. Vouchsafe to the hearts of all of us the peace of heaven, but grant us also the peace of this life.
Guide and direct in all peace the king, army, magistrates, councils, peoples, and neighbourhoods, and all our outgoings and incomings.
O King of Peace, grant us Your peace in unity and love. May we be Yours, O Lord; for we know no other God but You, and name no other name but Yours. Give life unto the souls of all of us, and let no deadly sin prevail against us, or against all Your people.
Look down in mercy and compassion, O Lord, and heal the sick among Your people. Deliver them and us, O Lord, from sickness and disease, and drive away the spirit of weakness.
Raise up those who have been long afflicted, and heal those who are vexed with unclean spirits.
Have mercy on all who are in prison, or in mines, or on trial, or condemned, or in exile, or crushed by cruel bondage or tribute. Deliver them, O Lord, for You are our God, who settest the captives free; who raisest up the downtrodden; who givest hope to the hopeless, and help to the helpless; who liftest up the fallen; who givest refuge to the shipwrecked, and vengeance to the oppressed.
Pity, relieve, and restore every Christian soul that is afflicted or wandering.
But You, O Lord — the physician of our souls and bodies, the guardian of all flesh — look down, and by Your saving power heal all the diseases of soul and body.
Guide and prosper our brethren who have gone or who are about to go abroad. Whether they travel by land, or river, or lake, by public road, or in whatever way journeying, bring them everywhere to a safe and tranquil haven. Be pleased to be with them by land and sea, and restore them in health and joy to joyful and healthful homes.
Ever defend, O Lord, our journey through this life from trouble and storm.
Send down rich and copious showers on the dry and thirsty lands.
Gladden and revive the face of the earth, that it may spring forth and rejoice in the raindrops.
Make the waters of the river flow in full stream.
Gladden and revive the face of the earth with the swelling waters.
Fill all the channels of the streams, and multiply the fruits of the earth.
Bless, O Lord, the fruits of the earth, and keep them safe and unharmed. Fill them with seed, and make them ripe for the harvest.
Bless even now, O Lord, Your yearly crown of blessing for the sake of the poor of Your people, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, and for the sake of all of us who have our hope in You and call upon Your holy name; for the eyes of all are upon You, and You give them bread in due season.
O You who gives food to all flesh, fill our hearts with joy and gladness, that at all times, having all sufficiency, we may abound to every good work in Christ Jesus our Lord.
O King of kings and Lord of lords, defend the kingdom of Your servant, our orthodox and Christ-loving sovereign, whom You have deemed worthy to reign over this land in peace, courage, and justice.
Subdue under him, O Lord, every enemy and adversary, whether at home or abroad. Gird on Your shield and armour, and rise to his aid. Draw Your sword, and help him to fight against them that persecute him. Shield him in the day of battle, and grant that the fruit of his loins may sit upon his throne.
Be kind to him, O Lord, for the sake of Your Holy and Apostolic Church, and all Your Christ-loving people, that we too in his peaceful reign may live a calm and tranquil life, in all reverence and godliness.
O Lord our God, give peace to the souls of our fathers and brethren who have fallen asleep in Jesus, remembering our forefathers of old, our fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, bishops, and the souls of all the holy and just men who have died in the Lord.
Especially remember those whose memory we this day celebrate, and our holy father Mark, the apostle and evangelist, who has shown us the way of salvation.
The Deacon.
Lord, bless us.
The Priest.
The Lord will bless you in His grace, now, henceforth, and for evermore.
The Deacon reads the record of the dead.
The Priest bows and prays.
Give peace, O Sovereign Lord our God, to the souls of all who dwell in the tabernacles of Your saints. Graciously bestow upon them in Your kingdom Your promised blessing, which eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what You, O God, have prepared for those who love Your holy name. Give peace to their souls, and deem them worthy of the kingdom of heaven.
Grant that we may end our lives as Christians, acceptable unto You and without sin, and be pleased to give us part and lot with all Your saints.

The prayers for the dead are done somewhat differently here than in the Roman Rite liturgy, but we do pray for the dead and even pray Masses specifically for the sake of our dead.  One of the differences is a difference that would be very noticeable to Roman Catholics in the case of many parts of the Divine Liturgy of Saint Mark; the deacon takes a much more prominent role in the liturgical prayer of the community.

Also, the priest's prayers seem even more poetic and militant than the prayers in the post-Vatican II Mass.  This more poetic and militant feel to the prayers would be more familiar to those who attend the pre-Vatican II Mass, though the exact prayers have some differences.

Accept, O God, by Your ministering archangels at Your holy, heavenly, and reasonable altar in the spacious heavens, the thank-offerings of those who offer sacrifice and oblation, and of those who desire to offer much or little, in secret or openly, but have it not to give.
Accept the thank-offerings of those who have presented them this day, as You accepted the gifts of Your righteous Abel:
The Priest offers incense, and says: —
As You accepted the sacrifice of our father Abraham, the incense of Zacharias, the alms of Cornelius, and the widow's two mites, accept also the thank-offerings of these, and give them for the things of time the things of eternity, and for the things of earth the things of heaven. Defend, O Lord, our most holy and blessed Papas Δ, whom You have fore-ordained to rule over Your Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and our most pious Bishop Δ, that they through many years of peace may, according to Your holy and blessed will, fulfil the sacred priesthood committed to their care, and dispense aright the word of truth.
Remember the orthodox bishops everywhere, the elders, deacons, sub-deacons, readers, singers, monks, virgins, widows, and laity.
Remember, O Lord, the holy city of our God, Jesus Christ; and the imperial city; and this city of ours, and all cities and all lands, and the peace and safety of those who dwell therein in the orthodox faith of Christ.
Be mindful, O Lord, of the return of the back-sliding, and of every Christian soul that is afflicted and oppressed, and in need of Your divine mercy and help.
Be mindful, O Lord, of our brethren in captivity. Grant that they may find mercy and compassion with those who have led them captive.
Be mindful also of us, O Lord, Your sinful and unworthy servants, and blot out our sins in Your goodness and mercy.
Be mindful also of me, Your lowly, sinful, and unworthy servant, and in Your mercy blot out my sins. Be with us, O Lord, who minister unto Your holy name.
Bless our meetings, O Lord.
Utterly uproot idolatry from the world.
Crush under our feet Satan, and all his wicked influence.
Humble now, as at all times, the enemies of Your Church.
Lay bare their pride.
Speedily show them their weakness.
Bring to naught the wicked plots they contrive against us.
Arise, O Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered, and let all who hate Your holy name be put to flight.
Bless a thousand times ten thousand Your faithful and orthodox people while they do Your holy will.
The Deacon.
Let those who are seated stand.
The Priest says the following prayer:—
Deliver the captive; rescue the distressed feed the hungry; comfort the faint-hearted, convert the erring; enlighten the darkened; raise the fallen; confirm the wavering; heal the sick; and guide them all, good Lord, into the way of salvation, and into Your sacred fold. Deliver us from our iniquities; protect and defend us at all times.
The Deacon.
Turn to the east.
The Priest bows and prays.
For You are far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come. Round You stand ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands of holy angels and hosts of archangels; and Your two most honoured creatures, the many-eyed cherubim and the six-winged seraphim. With two they cover their faces, and with two they cover their feet, and with two they fly; and they cry one to another for ever with the voice of praise, and glorify You, O Lord, singing aloud the triumphal and thrice-holy hymn to Your great glory:—
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.

As we can see here, this more poetic and militant feel to the prayers continues through the anaphora, and the commemorations.  One point of interest is that many of these prayers make more sense for a Church that is under persecution from all sides and fighting to survive.

The Divine Liturgy of St. Mark is one that was formed under the pressures of a society that did not find Christianity palatable or acceptable.  Not only was it politically unacceptable to refuse, as the Christians did, to participate in the worship of the Imperial cult, but the teachings of the early Church were hard to accept.  This was not just a problem for the people of the Roman Empire.

When Christ told those who were following Him that they needed to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have life, many left Him, saying that this was a hard teaching and asking who could bear it; and He asked the Twelve Apostles if they would leave as well.  But they didn't, and the early Church was faithful to His words that were so hard for even the Jews to bear.

It will be interesting to see how many Christians can continue to bear Christ's teaching on the Eucharist, and how our Eucharistic prayers in the liturgy might change as we are once again surrounded by an Imperial culture whose reign is increasingly hostile to any culture that challenges its deeply-held beliefs in the primacy of human reason, technology, and money.

I hope that we can remain faithful to those teachings just as the early Church, lead by the Apostles who were the first bishops, remained faithful even unto death.  St. Mark the Evangelist, ora pro nobis!

St. Basil the GreatSt. Gregory the Great - St. Mark the Evangelist

Note:  The above is an icon of Mark the Evangelist, whose name I took when I was confirmed in the Catholic Church.  I recently purchased this icon from the Paracletos monastery.

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