Glory to Jesus Christ!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
Today is Sunday 31 July 2022 and for the 158th day the Ukrainian people are shielding their Motherland with their chests, defending their native land, their free, conciliar, independent Ukrainian state.
Again, during the last day and night, the Ukrainian land shuddered from Russian bombs, rocket attacks, and military artillery. Human blood is flowing again. This morning, just a few hours ago, a powerful blow was delivered through an air strike on the city of Mykolayiv, the strongest since the beginning of the war. There is a lot of destruction, a big fire engulfed the city. The enemy is also methodically shelling and destroying our Kharkiv. Every day, our heart bleeds when we pray, remember, and listen to the testimonies of eyewitnesses from this large, million-strong city, the great cultural, intellectual, industrial centre of Ukraine. But the biggest fighting was concentrated in the last hours in the direction of Donetsk, around the city of Bakhmut. And yesterday we heard from the President of Ukraine that our state announced the mandatory evacuation of the civilian population from the Donetsk region. We painfully have to accept this and do everything in order to save people, particularly in the face of the approaching winter period in Ukraine, so that as few people as possible suffer from the murderous hand of the Russian occupier.
But Ukraine is standing. Ukraine is fighting. Ukraine is praying.
Today, on Sunday, every Christian rushes to the church in order to take part in the Divine Liturgy, to partake of the Holy Mysteries, to gain strength and optimism from the Mystery of the Eucharist, which is an antidote to death, to be filled with divine grace, in order to overcome, to defeat evil in their daily life in order to remain human in the inhumane circumstances of war.
You and I continue our journey along the paths of the wisdom of Christian prayer of the Church of Christ. And today I would like to think with you about a psalm, which for almost 2000 years shaped the conscience and prayer life of Christians. But praying the psalms is a school of prayer that is much older. Psalms occupy a special place in the life of God’s people.
We know that the Book of Psalms belongs to the divinely inspired books of the Holy Scriptures. It is so interesting that psalms are prayers, they are the word of man, the word of a supplicant, spoken to God. But as a divinely inspired text, these words of prayer became the Word of God, which is addressed to man. Here the words of the Apostle Paul are fulfilled, that it is the Holy Spirit Who teaches the person praying how and what to pray for. And the psalms are precisely those prayers of the Old Testament people of God, which became a divinely inspired biblical text, the Word of God, addressed to us even today, and thus a school of a true prayerful person.
We know that all the churches that preserved the apostolic tradition developed the prayer life of their communities thanks to the Book of Psalms. All our services of the daily cycle—Vespers, the Hours, Matins—naturally developed as psalm prayers. Therefore, I encourage all of you to pay special attention to this Word of God, to this school of God’s prayer, which the Lord God is giving us today. We know that Jesus Christ himself prayed with psalms, the Holy Theotokos and all those people we read about in the Holy Scriptures, they prayed with psalms.
We attribute the psalms to the psalmist, the Prophet David, and today they can be an invaluable treasure for us, which we can use to compare our feelings, our thoughts, our intentions with what we find in God’s Word, the Book of Psalms.
In the tradition of our Church, we have a special type of psalm prayer, which is called a prayer Psalter. This is a book that divides all 150 psalms into 20 parts, 20 kathismata. And we remember well that we were all brought up in the prayer of the Psalter, especially when we bid farewell to our deceased. This tradition of reading the Psalter over our dead, whom we accompany to the Heavenly Kingdom, is an integral part of the treasury of the Church’s prayer tradition. And every time we are met with or beset by some difficult circumstances, God’s people pray the Psalms. I encourage all of you to discover this book of Christian prayer wisdom. I remember how in our people it was always considered a duty to know several psalms by heart, in particular the penitential Psalm 50 “Have mercy on me, O God…,” or Psalm 90 “He Who dwells in the help of the Most High…,” which are a prayer, a request for God’s protection among dangers.
May these divinely inspired psalms, which we, passing through our own hearts, will direct to the Lord God, will make us successful supplicants. May the Lord God accept from the lips of our Church psalms and prayers, as the Apostle Paul says about it, for the living and the dead, for all those who especially ask for our prayers today.
OnGod, bless Ukraine. O God, teach us to pray. Accept the prayers of Your children, be with us in the midst of all these sufferings, sorrows, dangers of our existence in the midst of war. O God, give us the strength to endure everything, give us the strength to win, give us the power of prayer to defeat the power of the enemy’s weapons. May Your peace reign in our hearts, and Your grace grant victory to Ukraine.
May the blessing of the Lord be upon you through His grace and love of mankind, always, now and ever, and for ages of ages. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!