Sunday, December 13, 2009

Prayers at The Banquet

Today's Gospel: "Go out into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame." And the slave said, "Lord, we have done what You ordered and there is still room." And the Master said, "Go into the roads and highways and compel people to come in that My house may be filled." Luke 14:15-24

O God, I've heard enough sermons to know you have called me to repent of my distractions. It is right that I claim to be the one who makes all manner of excuses for rejecting Your gracious invitation to Your banquet. It is proper to say that I am trapped in the world and by its fascinations, I am distracted by the world's shiny objects of security, of stability, of a peaceful and profitable present, of a bright future. I am the "Excuse Maker", I reject Your banquet because I attend to my land, my house, my work and not my soul. So in false humility I claim the parabolic label before You and before men. Yet I truly have not repented of my worldly attachments and concerns. Have mercy on me a sinner, O God. (And I know from what I have read and heard, this is the right thing to say.)

O God, I've read enough of the "Sayings of the Desert Fathers" to know You have called me, the outcast, to repentance. I know it is even more spiritual to claim that I am the poor in virtue and faith, that my limbs are broken and my hands do not stretch out toward You, my arms do not embrace Your commandments, my lame body has no strength to resist sin, my legs cannot dance with my Beloved to the Song of Songs. I have read that the truly humble man claims a darkened soul, to resist the Light, to walk in the way of perversity and sinners. It is a finer thing to be seen in the eyes of spiritual men to be known as one who was further from the light than they. So in greater false humility I claim to be the poor, the cripple, the blind and lame of Your parable. But it is not my faith that claims to have no virtues, but my ego. It is not a vision of the Light that blinds me, but looking at my self. I am crippled yet I can run perfectly toward the praise of men on legs strengthened by my vainglory. I present myself to the world as broken that I may be seen as healed. It is not true humility that makes me stand beside the broken, halt and blind Publican and imitate his downcast gaze and mimic his accent of whispered penitence, but my pride. Have mercy on me a sinner, O God. (I know it is the right thing to say, but I am saying it anyway, with a dim awareness of my counterfeit sincerity.)

O God, You have called to all of my sins, yet there is still room for repentance. Send Thou Thy messenger of grace into the darkest alleyways of my heart, to my most remote and dangerous highways, into the narrow paths uncharted and untrodden by even my own conscience and call me, compel me, drag me the outcast into the blessed feast, the Light of Thy countenance, to Isaiah's Dance. Have mercy on me a sinner, O God. (I know it is the right thing to say, but I ask that you bless my willingness to say it even as a vain exercise. And when You bless it by your Appearing, when You have filled me with Yourself, give me the grace to taste the feast of true humility.)


Ranger said...

I had the distinct pleasure of reading Sunday's Gospel at our Typika service. It was very moving, and you have emphasized very well why it moved me. Because i am not the lame, the crippled, etc. I am one who does not accept the invitation, or I look at the Banquet as a come and go event.
Of course it also reminds me of a VBS song "I cannot come to the banquet, don't bother me now. I have married a wife, i have bught me a cow. I have fields and commitments.... I cannot come."

And if I do accept the invite, do i then go out and bring the rest in? or am I cast out because I am not wearing the wedding garments... the celestial party crasher?

James the Thickheaded said...

See a lot of crosscurrents from both the Broader Orthodoxy and Broader Steve in this. Thanks for the courage to post it.

Like the repeated call of going out to fill the banquet with guests. Yeah. We don't want to do it. Lots more fun to hang around the punch bowl talking up our cool ortho-schtick and dreaming of being one of the cool MIB! MIB! MIB!

Silouan said...

Reminds me of reading the counsels of Sts Barsanuphius & John, where they rebuke a disciple for his false humility. When I read that part, I thought "But I can't quit acting - because false humility is all the humility I have!"

When I gain some actual humility I'll blog about it so you'll know how it's done.

s-p said...

Silouan, Please send me the link when you do so I can steal your post and make a podcast out of it. :)