Drawing Near to the Theotokos: The Tale of the Five Prayers

From the times of the Apostles, Christians of all ages, when entering upon a task, began it with prayer, and the end of it they also hallowed with prayerful thanksgiving to the Lord, in Whom we live and move and have our being. And let us do the same, beloved reader.

But not having the gift of effectual prayer, let us recall and commit to memory what once was offered to the Lord by the grace of the Holy Spirit out of the inspired heart of the great Russian man of prayer, our father among the Saints, Dimitri, Metropolitan of Rostov and Yaroslav.

I am sure that for you, as for me, in offering to your attention “The Tale of The Five Prayers” the work of the great Bishop, it will be both welcome and useful, especially in the view of the wonderful promises which it contains. So hear this tale, my beloved reader.

You will not blame me for offering you in this Tale something new – it is not mine, and not new, but only fundamentally and completely forgotten, forgive me that I have disturbed the dust of ages: but this dust is holy …

One of the holy fathers, standing in prayer and being in ecstasy, heard the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ speaking to the Immaculate and Holy Mother of God, His Mother, saying to her: “Tell me, My Mother, which were the greatest of your sufferings, when you lived in the world, which you suffered for My sake?” The Immaculate One replied: “My Son and God, five times I have endured my greatest suffering for you: First, when I heard from the Prophet Simeon that you were to be killed; Second, when I looked for you in Jerusalem, and did not see you for three days; Third, when I heard that you were seized and bound by the Jews; Fourth, when I saw you on the Cross crucified between the robbers; Fifth, when I saw you placed in the Tomb.” And the Lord said to her: “I tell you. My Mother, whoever reads every day each of your sufferings with My prayer, i.e. ‘Our Father,’ for the first suffering I will give the knowledge of his sins and sorrow for them; for the second, I will give the forgiveness of all his sins; for the third, I will restore to him the virtues lost through sin; for the fourth, I will refresh him at death with my Divine Body and Blood; for the fifth, I will appear to him Myself at his death, and receive his soul into eternal life. Amen.”

After this vision of the Holy Father, the following prayers were added by St. Dimitri:

At the beginning of the five prayers:

“Glory to Thee, Christ my God, that Thou hast not destroyed me a sinner, with my sins, but even till now hast borne -with my sin.”


Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep me this day without sin. Grant, O Lord, that I may not anger Thee, my Creator, in thought, word or deed, but that all my actions, counsels and thoughts may be to the glory of Thy Holy Name.”


“God be merciful to me, a sinner, throughout my whole life. In my passing and after death, forsake me not.”


Falling low on the earth, say:

“Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, accept me, dead in mind and soul, accept me, a sinful prodigal, impure in soul and body. Take from me all shameless enmity and resistance, and turn not Thy Face from me, O Lord, nor say: I know not who thou art. But hear the voice of my prayer: save me, for Thou hast a wealth of compassion and desirest not the death of a sinner. I will never leave Thee nor depart from Thee, my Creator, till Thou hearest me and givest me forgiveness of all my sins, through the prayers of Thy Most Pure Mother, the intercession of the honourable Bodiless Powers of Heaven, of my holy and glorious Guardian Angel, of Thy Forerunner and Prophet, the Baptist John, of the God-speaking Apostles, of the holy and victorious martyrs, of our Reverend and God-fearing fathers, and all Thy Saints, have mercy and save me, a sinner.”

O Heavenly King, O Comforter…
Holy God, Holy Mighty…
Our Father…

Virgin Mother of God, rejoice, Mary full of grace; the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Saviour of our souls.

First Prayer

“O merciful Mother, Virgin Mary, I thy sinful and unprofitable servant, remembering thy suffering on hearing from the Prophet Simeon of the merciless murder of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, offer thee this prayer and the Angelic Salutation. Accept it in honour and memory of thy suffering, and pray thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to grant me the knowledge of my sins and sorrow for them.”


Second Prayer

Our Father… 
Virgin Mother…

“O Divinely-blessed and Immaculate Maiden, Mother and Virgin, accept from me, thy sinful and unprofitable servant, this prayer and the Angelic Salutation, in honour and memory of thy suffering when thou didst lose thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple, and for three days didst not see Him. Pray and beg of Him the forgiveness and remission of all my sins, O only Blessed One.”


Third Prayer

Our Father… 
Virgin Mother…

“O Mother of Light, most blessed Virgin Mother of God, accept from me, thy sinful and unprofitable servant, this prayer and the Angelic Salutation, in honour and memory of thy suffering on hearing that thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, had been seized and bound. Pray Him to restore to me the virtues lost through sin, that I may magnify thee, O Most Pure One, for ever.”


Fourth Prayer

Our Father… 
Virgin Mother…

“O Fountain of Mercy, Virgin Mother of God, accept from me, thy sinful and unprofitable servant, this prayer and the Angelic Salutation, in honour and memory of thy suffering when thou didst see thy GOD, our Lord Jesus Christ, on the Cross between the robbers. Pray Him, O Lady, to grant me the gift of His mercy in the hour of my death, and to refresh me with His Divine Body and Blood, that I may glorify thee, my Defender, for ever.”


Fifth Prayer

Our Father… 
Virgin Mother…

“O my Hope, Most Pure Virgin, Mother of God, accept from me, thy sinful and unprofitable servant, this prayer and the Angelic Salutation, in honour and memory of thy suffering when thou didst see thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, placed in the Tomb. Pray Him, O Lady, to appear to me in the hour of my death, and to receive my soul into eternal life. Amen.”


The “Unexpected Joy” – a miracle of the Mother of God

Christ is Risen! Христос воскресе! Hristos a înviat! Χριστός ἀνέστη!

As we celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Cheltenham today, our thoughts were very much with Mother Melangell, as she celebrated the altar-feast of her skete, named for the icon of the Mother of God, “Unexpected Joy”.

The story of this icon appears in The Fleece Bedewed, by St Dimitri of Rostov: a work which describes various miracles of the Mother of God.

The icon “Unexpected Joy” actually consists of an icon within an icon, with words of dialogue and narration often woven into its design.

We see a young man, who despite a life of crime never lost his devotion to the Mother of God, and prayed before the icon of Our Lady and the Infant Saviour every day, repeating the Archangel’s greeting: “Rejoice, O Virgin full of grace!”.

However, his prayer never stopped him then going out and stealing until the Mother of God interceded in this situation, for when he turned to the icon, he saw the Mother of God and Christchild in the flesh, and the Infant Saviour had bleeding wounds on His hands and feet, and blood flowed from a wound in His side. The horrified man fell to his knees and instinctively questioned the Mother of God: “O Mistress! Who did this?”

The life-changing answer for the man was in the challenge of the Virgin’s quiet words: “You and other sinners. Over and over again you crucify My Son by your sins.”

The horrified man cried out, “Have mercy upon me,” but the Mother of God rebuked him saying, “You call Me the Mother of mercy, yet you offend Me and bring Me sorrow by your deeds.”

In this, is a challenge for us all. We call the Saviour our Lord, yet we disobey and offend Him; we call our Lady Mother, yet we bring hurt and insult that we would not even think of throwing at our mother according to the flesh.

The man, who had tried to mix devotion to the Mother of God with a life of disobedience and crime appealed to her, as a source of help, hope and rescue:

“No, Mistress. May my malice not overcome your indescribable kindness and mercy! You alone are the hope and safe haven of all sinners! Have mercy upon me, O benevolent Mother! Entreat your Son and my Creator on my behalf.”

The horror of the words he had heard had already awakened his soul and brought him to profound repentance, and seeing this purification and change the Mother of God entreated her Son, our Saviour:

“My benevolent Son! For the sake of My love have mercy upon this sinner.” But the Son replied to Her: “Do not be angry, My Mother, if I do not obey You. I, too, entreated My Father to have this cup of suffering pass Me by.”

Though the Mother of God continued to pray for this man, who brought her Son grief and great sorrow, the Saviour seemed immovable until Our Lady placed the Infant on His own feet and prepared to fall at His feet to beg for the repentant thief.

It was then that the Saviour spoke and stopped her:

“What do you wish to do, Mother?!”

And the Mother of God, our perpetual-intercessor replied, “I shall remain, lying at Your feet together with this sinner until You forgive him his sins.”

The Saviour replied, “The law requires a son to venerate his mother, while justice demands that the giver of the law be himself obedient to the law. I am your Son; you are My Mother; I am obliged to do you homage by fulfilling your request. Let it be as you wish! His sins are now forgiven for your sake! And as a token of forgiveness, let him press his lips to My wounds.”

The man rose up, trembling, still wrapped in the vision and approached the Infant Saviour, and kissed His wounds, and begged that he should always be able to see his own sins and repent of them, and in the gift of this knowledge, his life was transformed, and he lived the rest of his life in knowledge and repentance.

This knowledge is one so greatly needed, as we become conscience-numbed, very often not even understanding that our behaviours are even sins. The world – and even the Christians in the world – loses all sense of sin and error. People come to confession, saying that they can’t really think of anything that has gone wrong since their last confession, and that all seems to be well.

We need to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us, that we might receive the knowledge of the repentant criminal remembered through this miracle recorded by St Dimitri, and we need to remind ourselves how like this once deluded man we are, asking how we can be spiritually wakened and enlivened, as he was – being mindful of our errors, the need to change and repent.

Let us begin by praying the Canon to the Mother of God by the Monk Euthymios, the Chancellor, that we might be brought to realisation and repentance, and to amendment, and newness of life, in which we understand our culpability and our responsibility for the Saviour’s sacred wounds.