• Epistle Reading
  • Gospel Reading
  • In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! In this morning’s lectionary readings, we have two phrases—one from the Gospel and one from the Epistle—that come together in the Orthodox Church to form one of our most central and most often repeated prayer. The blind man sits by the roadside near Jericho, and his plea, his prayer, is: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And in St. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy, he writes: “Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” These two statements, that we hear together intentionally this morning, form one of the most important prayers of the Church, often referred to as the “Jesus Prayer.” “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” This brief prayer has been taught, written about, and prayed by countless numbers of Christians. The Father’s of the Church teach this simple prayer as the most direct and simplest way to fulfill the New Testament commandment to pray without ceasing. In the same way that the blind man called out constantly to Christ for mercy, we’re taught to do the same. The Jesus Prayer is a prayer that we can carry with us, and constantly offer to Christ, no matter what we’re doing. It’s a prayer that anyone, from the smallest child to the most successful businessman, can pray. But like with anything, we have to know that it’s available. And what I’d like to look at now for a moment, we should know what it means. Just like the Liturgy continues to gain meaning for us as we grow in Christ, we continue to enter more deeply into the prayer of the Church as we gain knowledge of God and understanding of the prayers that we pray. The blind man begins his prayer by crying out: “Jesus, Son of David.” He calls the Lord by name, Jesus—and then he addresses Christ with one of the recognized messianic titles, “Son of David.” He knows who Jesus is, and he recognizes that this man is the promised Messiah. In the Jesus Prayer this opening address is slightly modified to “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.” Lord is a common address for God—the Prayer is addressed to God, the Lord over the heavens and the earth. To call someone Lord is to place yourself under them as a subject—we’re calling on Christ as our Master. Yet we continue to call on Jesus by name. The Father’s say this is one of the most important aspects of the Prayer—the Name of Jesus. We call on God by Name, the Name of Jesus, a Name that burns the demons, and a Name that brings us into the very presence of Christ. When you speak with someone on a first name basis, it assumes a relationship. We pray to Jesus in the context of our relationship with Him. We approach God because we know Him. And we know Him because He reveals Himself in Jesus. Then we call Lord Jesus “the Christ.” In recognition that He is the Christ, He is the promised one, the Messiah. The Messiah come to save man from sin and death, to re-unite man with God. So now the messianic title “Son of David” is no longer needed, because we’ve already recognized Jesus as the Christ, and the phrase “Son of God” is used instead. Now we know that not only was the Messiah sent, but that Messiah was God in the flesh. We address our Prayer very specifically. To the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who is God the Lord Himself, Who came to earth as a human man, Jesus, the promised Messiah, the Christ, It’s like an entire course on Christology in that six-word address. Every time we begin the Prayer, we’re reminded of exactly who Jesus is, and all that God has done for man by sending the Christ. We then continue our prayer in the exact same way that blind Bartameus did: “have mercy on me.” Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. In the Greek, kyrie eleison, is a command. “Lord, mercy me.” And if we understand that prayer in the context of the Church, “Lord, be how You are.” The exact same as our petition in the Our Father—“Thy will be done.” Lord, be how You are. Merciful, forgiving, long-suffering. God desires not the death of the sinner but that he turn and live. God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth. Otherwise we’d all be destroyed for our sin. So our prayer is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, be how You are to me.” Show me Your love, goodness, forgiveness, salvation. Be the way You’ve shown Youself to be to me. And then we end, “on me, the sinner.” Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. Be merciful to me as You were merciful to Adam and Eve and Noah and Lot and Abraham and the thief on the cross. Because, as St. Paul says, I am the chief among sinners. I deserve nothing but death. By the breaking of one commandment, Christ says we break them all. Once we transgress the law of God one time, we’re numbered with the worst of sinners. So our only hope lies in the mercy of God. And in His great mercy, Christ asks blind Bartemeus—what do you want? He knows what Bartemeus wants, but Christ wants him to ask. We have the same question to answer. We can pray and pray, but–Do we truly want the mercy of God? Do we want what God’s mercy brings? We obviously want eternal life in the Heavenly Kingdom—but are we willing to make the sacrifices that the mercy of God requires of us? Today is the Leave-taking of Theophany—a baptized Christian no longer belongs to himself, but is a servant of Christ. A bondslave of Christ his Lord. We have a Master that’s no longer “what do I want,” but is now “what is God’s will.” The Jesus Prayer reminds us of our servitude to the Good Master, of our state of seperation from God that we cause by our own sin, and of our total reliance on the mercy of God. But at the same time it’s not a prayer of despair, but a prayer offered with the knowledge that God’s desire is man’s salvation. This is why the Prayer is so central in Orthodox Spirituality. It’s a Prayer we can never exhaust. Always becoming more acutely aware of our own lack, and of the overwhelming love and mercy of God. A Prayer that we can always enter more deeply, and more completely. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!