So much of the Byzantine Christian prayer life is at odds with society today. We are told that we suffer from a low self-esteem, that we need to appreciate how amazing we really are. Now, at first glance, that’s actually something that we would also affirm, being made in the image and likeness of God. The image of God, in our Tradition, is indelible. The likeness, well, some of us have done our best to erase it from any vestige. But it remains, in varying degrees, in all mankind.
But I think that on a very fundamental level, we have a life of Prayer which sees God in all things, including our own broken bodies. We revel in the magnificence of Christ, singing hymns of His victorious resurrection. And yet, at the same time, we can look to our flaws and find God in those very flaws as well.
As one example of this, note the hymns that are proper to some of the Paschal Sundays. In the Sundays of the Paralytic and the Man Born Blind, we do not shy from the ugliness of sin and disease. Instead, we see them as portals into heaven, whereby we reflect upon our own weaknesses.
“With eyes that are spiritually blind, I come to You O Christ; and like the man who was blind since birth, I cry out to You with repentance: You are a light shining to those in Darkness”.
“O Lord, with your divine authority, as You once raised the paralytic, now raise my soul, paralyzed dreadfully with all kinds of sin and disgraceful deeds, that, being saved, I may cry out to You: Glory to Your merciful power: O merciful Christ.”
This is not a perspective that shies away from the imperfections of this world. No, this is a perspective that sees the flaws and sadness brought about by our sin, to be an occasion of eye-opening embrace of our fallenness, with the hope of moving beyond that fallenness. The paradox of understanding our weakness, and God’s open arms who accepts us, and yet takes us and molds us as clay in His merciful power that shines as a light in our Darkness, answers our longing to be made whole, and loved at the same time.
This all comes to mind because of the very many complaints that could justly be thrown against our Bishops and priests, and ourselves. While not denigrating the importance of them, there is something to this idea of acknowledging our own blindness, and our own inability to walk. It is hope for the meanwhile, for the today, when I am not all put together. We have such a long way to go, but even in our broken state of affairs, we can see a beautiful story that is being created after that ideal likeness that came to this earth to save us all.