Dear brothers and sisters,
As we fervently pray for peace, even a fragile-one, in Ukraine, not only must our prayer be intensified, but we must take a deep and serious look at ourselves, and our relationship with loved ones, neighbour, colleague, and all with whom we come into contact in our daily lives.
How can we have the audacity to respond to the Deacon’s calling, ‘In peace, let us pray to the Lord’, if we have conflict, disputes, jealousy, rivalry, anger, resentment, or any negative feeling towards any other human being?
Is our ‘Lord, have mercy’ an accusation against us, when we hypocritically answer, as though peace was the first desire of our lives and prayers, as it is in the Liturgy.
Furthermore, have we come to Divine Service whilst the divisions of conflict hang over us, unresolved, as open stinking wounds, which are far from the ‘incense’ that our prayers should be in rising to the Lord?
If our prayers for the peace of the whole world and the good estate of the Holy Churches of God are to have any force, and any meaning, let us struggle for love and reconciliation in our lives, lest our prayers are to our shame and dishonour.
Whilst ordinary believing Orthodox people in Ukraine and Russia – or here – may be powerless to stop the political and military machine, we can all make a difference to the world and fight conflict by embodying Christ-like love in our lives, making the Beatitudes the reality of our daily living knowing that…
Blessed are the poor in spirit…
Blessed are those who mourn…
Blessed are the meek…
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness…
Blessed are the merciful…
Blessed are the pure in heart…
Blessed are the peacemakers…
Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake…
To live each of these Beatitudes is to actuate Christian love, to follow Christ’s commandments, and to truly live up to the calling of our Baptism in which we were meant to have put on Christ, who is Love Incarnate.
Whilst we cannot find the answer to why politicians, strategists, and military bosses, who claim to be Orthodox Christians see things differently, we can struggle in prayer, in reconciliation, in humility and love, becoming peace-makers in our own lives, homes, parishes, work-places and communities.
In the Trebnik (The Book of Needs) we have the service ‘for the increase of love’, which includes petitions to be added the Great Litany: the Litany of Peace.
These are petitions which we have often used in our community, especially at times of trial and temptation, and I have included them below, so that they might be an inspiration in our personal prayers in our homes.
That we may be cleansed of our sins and transgressions which have dried up in us love for Him and for our neighbour, and that it may be established by the power, action and grace of His Most-holy Spirit, and rooted in all our hearts, earnestly let us pray to the Lord.
That there may be planted and rooted in us by the grace of His Most-holy Spirit the new commandment of His New Testament: that we love one another, and not merely satisfy ourselves, but rather always strive for His glory and the building-up or our neighbour, let us pray to the Lord.
That there may be uprooted in us hatred, envy and jealousy and all other passions which destroy brotherly love, and that there may be planted unfeigned love, fervently let us pray to the Lord.
That there may be kindled in us the fervent love of God and our neighbour by the grace of His Most-holy Spirit, and thus burn out to the very roots the passions of all our souls and bodies, let us pray to the Lord.
That there may be uprooted in us the passions of self-love, and rooted, instead, the virtue of brotherly love by the power of His Most-holy Spirit, with broken and contrite hearts let us pray to the Lord.
That we may not love the world and that which is in the world, but rather have true love for God and His glory, and that we may love that which is profitable and for the salvation of our neighbour, so that we may ever gaze on the good things prepared in heaven, and that we may seek these with all our souls, let us pray to the Lord.
That truly we may love, not just our friends and brothers, but also our enemies, and do that which is good to those who hate us, with the power, action and grace of His Most-holy Spirit moving us, let us pray to the Lord.
That we may examine ourselves, condemn ourselves, and ever looking upon our own transgressions, humble ourselves before God and before everyone, never judging our brothers or sisters, but loving them as our very self, by the power, action and grace of His Most-holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord.
That we may imitate the burning love of the Christians in ancient times for God and neighbour, and that we may be their heirs and successors, not only in word, but in true action, by the power, action and grace of the Most-Holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord.
Let us struggle in heartfelt and fervent prayer, with our families in our icon-corners, in the worship of parishes, and wherever we are in the day and in the night, and with humility, love and compassion, let us struggle to achieve the fruits of the miraculous power of peace, summed up by our beloved St Seraphim of Sarov:
“Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.”
Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess: Father Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity consubstantial and undivided.
With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark