We arrived near the end of Psalm 103:
"The sun knows the time of its setting:
You establish darkness and it is night.
How great are Your works O Lord!
In wisdom You have wrought them all."
Then the Litany of Peace, part of which is:
"That we may be delivered from all distress, wrath, tribulation, and want, let us pray to the Lord"
"Lord, Have Mercy"
Then Psalm 119, 120, 121, 122, 123..
At this point I feel I am taking real breathes for the first time all day. My shoulders drop, my forehead relaxes. Yes, Holy Mother Church is nurturing me, soothing me.
As I sing, "Let my prayer rise like incense before You, and the lifting of my hands, like an evening sacrifice. Hear You me, O Lord!" I feel the depths of my heart pouring out to its creator. My son sings with me, and I realize this moment is a gift, and a treasure, and so unexpected. My boy, who that very day had expressed his transition from childhood by giving many of his toys to his younger brother during a cleaning session, was praying with me, resting in the Lord with me, after a long, productive day.
Then comes the Prayer of St. Ephrem. In the translation we use at church, the word "faint-hearted" is stated as "acquisitiveness". I know I have to discipline myself in this area as well, as evidenced by the need for the "40 Bags in 40 Days" I am participating in again. I don't yet see the connection between "faint-heartedness" and "acquisitiveness", but then, Lent has just begun.
Shorty, we are at the "Great Entrance", when the Pre-Sanctified Gifts are escorted through the church. During the week in Great Lent, there are no consecrations: Sunday is the only day the Eucharist is consecrated, with the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts taking place Wednesday and Friday during the week.
"Now the powers of heaven
Minister with us in an invisible manner;
For, lo, the King of glory is coming
And, behold, the Mystic Sacrifice
Pre-sanctified and perfected is escorted in.
Let us approach with eager faith,
So as to become sharers in eternal life.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia"
Then the priest carries in Our Lord, from the side altar of repose, out of the iconostas, around the church, and back to the altar thorough the Royal Doors, in silence, while the congregants prostrate themselves. The solemnity and experience of God amongst us brings tears.
Another Litany, with all the begging for mercy, followed by the Our Father, and then, Communion. The Bread of Life.
Another Psalm (33):
Approach the Lord and be enlightened,
and your face shall never be shamed.
The poor cried out, and the Lord heard them
and delivered them from all their afflictions.
And then a blessing, and dismissal.
And the day was finished.
Every year, the beauty and nurturing quality of the Pre-sanctified Liturgy takes me by surprise, sort of knocks the air right out of me, so I can take a real, deep cleansing breath.
This year more than ever I feel the gentle hand of the church on my head, guiding me, tending to me, strengthening me in my weakness.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, henceforth, and forever!