March 2015 Letter
During the Great Lent the church repeats in the fraction during liturgy the significance of linking fasting with prayer. Thus it would be of benefit to quote from an article by H.G. Bishop Mettaos exercises for the best way to pray with the Agpeya, that we may pray in the best way for our benefit:
+ Have your own special Agpeya book: no one else shall use it. Write in its margins some contemplations and interpretations of some of the difficult words, which will help with your understanding during the prayer, and pray in spirit and mind.
+ Pray using the Agpeya: even if you’ve learned the prayers by heart, because this makes you use several senses, which keeps the mind focused and stops it from wandering.
+ Pray your prayers aloud in order to prevent your mind from distraction. When the Lord said: “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place” (Mat 6: 6), He did not mean to pray discretely but rather to not show off by praying, or by performing it in a manner of hypocrisy and pride.
+ Pray with tunes and singing because it relaxes and comforts the soul. Originally the psalms were hymns performed by different musical instruments because this gives a comforting effect on the worshiper.
+ At the start of every prayer remember the purpose it was arranged for by the church. For example, the sixth hour prayer was arranged in remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion, and prayer of the ninth hour in remembrance of His life-giving death. So try to live the atmosphere of the occasion.
+ Pray dynamically with movements: raise your hands when you pray: “I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness” (1st hour). Beat on your chest when you seek repentance and ask forgiveness. Bow and make the sign of the Cross when worship is mentioned. Raise your face and your eyes to heaven when you say: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help” (11th hour).
+ Repeat some phrases that comfort you and suit your condition during prayer. While you pray a Psalm and reach a strong word that touches your heart and fits your present condition, repeat it several times and interact with it.
+ Mention the sweet name of Our Lord Jesus Christ: whenever in a Psalm you come across the word “Lord”, add after it the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, such as: “Lord (Jesus Christ) how they have increased who trouble me” (1st hour).
+ Do not forget improvised prayer at the end: because praying with psalms is the preparation to engage in self-improvised prayer, where you present to God our yearnings, and expose all your pain and your hopes.
The blessings of St. Mary & St. Mercurius, and this Holy Lent be with us, Amen.
Fr. Youssef Halim & Fr. Luke Istafanous
Belleville, March 1, 2015