St. John the Forerunner and Sts. Peter and Paul
This week has been a veritable vesperal feast! Monday evening we had Vespers for the feast of The Nativity of St. John the Baptist. After all the praying, chanting and incensing, there was the annointing, with blessed oil, of our foreheads and hands. This is to help us keep our thoughts and the work of our hands as a pure offering to God, as well as strength for the journey. I always feel such spiritual power come from holy anointing, and often physical benefit, as well.
The woman who had been barren becomes fertile and gives birth today to the Forefunner of Christ. He is the greatest and last of the prophets, for standing in the water of the Jordan River, he placed his hands on Christ whom all the prophets had announced, and in so doing he became a prophet himself, a preacher, and a forerunner of the Word of God. (Kontakion of the feast)
Then last evening, we had Great Vespers for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. We were honored with the presence of our Bishop, John Michael, and the monks and nuns of the eparchy, as well as many other priests and congregants. The entire service was gorgeous, full of the rich, integral harmonies of Eastern Chant, incensing, many blessings and Psalms, and of course, the beloved anointing. The one prayer, of the many we said, that has hung on to me through the night and into this morning, is this one:
By the three fold question: "Peter, do you love Me?" Christ amended Peter's threefold denial. Wherefore Simon cried out to the Lord who knows all the secrets of the heart:
"Lord, you know all things : You know that I love You!" And the Saviour answered him "Feed my sheep, feed my lambs, feed those sheep I have fashioned to be saved with my own blood." Apostle blessed of God, beseech Him to bestow His great mercy upon us.
How often I cry out "Lord, you know I love you!" Sometimes I think I am trying more to reassure myself than I am Him!
Praying in this manner is such an organic expression of the soul's longing for God. We pray with our whole selves, with our souls, our minds, our hands, our voices, our eyes, our ears, and with touch and taste (we share in blessed bread after the anointing). We are entirely offering ourselves to a God that entirely offered Himself for us.
I am still basking in all that love!