The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America has issued a statement responding to recent tragic events. They mourn the death of Mr. George Floyd and condemn the brutal acts that lead to it. They reject racism in all forms and, "In the face of civil unrest, we call upon the members of the Orthodox Church in America, and to all the communities they live in, to engage in the service of righteousness and peace in the Holy Spirit." You can read the statement of our bishops in its entirety on the OCA website.
In these days of affliction, righteous anger and unrighteous deeds, we need more than ever to stop and return to the Lord for wisdom, strength and peace. Father John Mikitish recently shared the following prayer from the new edition of the St. Tikhon's Prayer Book. Fr. Joshua adapted the language very slightly for our parish use. We will be using it in our services; consider including it in your own daily prayers:
A Prayer for One’s Earthly and Temporal Homeland
O Lord Jesus Christ, eternal God, who within time have become perfect man from the womb of the Virgin: from your heavenly throne hearken to our prayer for this land of the United States of America. Prepare it for us as a temporal homeland, so that we may easily and safely travel from it to our true homeland with you. Give strength to your people and bless them with peace. As Joseph prospered when he sojourned in Egypt, so prosper the Orthodox Church and her leaders during our sojourn in this land. Adorn our earthly rulers with the faith of Ehud, the hope of Barak, the steadfast trust of Jephthah, the holiness of Samuel, the prudence of Moses, the meekness of David, the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of Hezekiah, the zeal of Josiah, and the nobility of Zerubbabel.
Correct the laws of this land to guide aright the deeds of its people and so make their hearts upright; and let us no longer shed innocent blood and be putrid with it, defiling ourselves with works of darkness. Make our households to be like flocks of sheep, and our children like olive trees around our table. Go forth, O God, with our armed forces, protecting those that serve in them by the power of thy Cross. Grant peace to our cities, towns, and countryside, and by your mighty right hand and wisdom support and guide the police and all those charged with enforcing the law. Enlighten with the true light of the Gospel the minds of all the educators of this land, to whom we commend the instruction of ourselves and our children. Send us rain and sunshine, and also snow and wind from your storehouses, all in due season. Make our harvests bountiful and multiply them to feed the poor of our land and of the whole world. Make honest the scales of merchants and bankers, and make the earthly economy of this land ever more to reflect, even as in a mirror darkly, the heavenly economy of your Father. Guide aright the hands of all doctors, nurses, and other healers in this land, and grant that they may employ their arts for the sake of health and life in this world leading unto true life and salvation, and not for the sake of death and the devil.
Have mercy and strengthen our bishops and priests ever to offer prayers at evening, morning, and noonday, and to serve the holy Liturgy in righteousness and purity, so that all who repent and turn to you may partake of your Flesh and Blood and so become one Body with you in your holy Church. Bless our monasteries and those who dwell there, and multiply in our land those that aspire to the angelic life on earth. Hearken, Lord Jesus, and we shall give thanks to your holy Name and bless your wondrous works, proclaiming them with rejoicing. For you are the Son of the heavenly Father and also rule the seas and the dry land, and yours is the dominion, together with the same Father and your All-holy Spirit, our King and Comforter. Sweet is your mercy, O Lord, from age to age. Amen.
Notes on People Named in the Prayer:
This prayer calls to our minds faithful leaders of the Old Testament, who faced great trials and temptations. Ehud and Barak were heroes who took courage and confronted powerful enemies, when most others sought to appease tyrants and forget the Lord God. You can find their story in the Book of Judges, chapters 3 and 4.
Barak is especially interesting, because he was an admired leader, but he was afraid to act until the judge Deborah stiffened his spine and promised to stand with him in battle, as a sign of the presence of the Lord!
Jephthah was another judge of Israel in the Book of Judges (11-12), who at first was rejected and driven out by his own people, but later was called back as a last resort. He always trusted in the Lord despite overwhelming opposition, and faithfully lead the people for many years. Along with Barak, he is named in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the list of people of great faith we hear on the Sunday of All Saints.
Moses we know led the people of Israel out from slavery in Egypt, and by the power of the Lord delivered them out of the hand of Pharaoh crossing the Red Sea. But his prudence and determination was necessary to lead and instruct that same people for forty years in the wilderness, when they often complained and longed for the predictable life under slavery.
David was a great king, beloved by God, but one who also committed terrible wrongs. But he was quick to repent and return to the Lord, giving us many of the Psalms. Above all, we constantly pray his words: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy." Solomon was David's son and ruled after him. When the Lord asked him what blessing he most desired, Solomon asked for wisdom above all.
When Israel first demanded they be ruled by kings like other nations, the Lord warned them they were making a mistake. And truly, most of the kings of Israel, like most rulers at all times, were terrible disappointments who forgot justice and mercy and pursued what seemed easy and safe, but which led to destruction. Among the few kings of any good are Hezekiah, who had the courage to continue to trust in the Lord when all others were insisting only way to survive was to bow to false ways, and Josiah, the last king to remain faithful to God, until the destruction of the kingdom.
For generations, Israel dwelt in captivity in Babylon, but under Zerubbabel they were permitted to return. He worked diligently with the people to rebuild the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, and the Lord prized him: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Holy Spirit.” From his line, we know in the Gospel of St. Luke, the Son of God took flesh, born of the Virgin Mary under the protection of her bridegroom Joseph.