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Lent Day 37 - Tuesday

“O almighty Master, who hast made all creation and by thine inexpressible providence and great goodness hast brought us to these all-revered days, for the purification of soul and body, for the controlling of passions, and for hope of resurrection, who, during the forty days didst give into the hands of thy servant Moses the tablets of the Law in characters divinely traced by thee:  Enable us also, O good One, to fight the good fight, to complete the course of the fast, to preserve inviolate the faith, to crush underfoot the heads of invisible serpents, to be accounted victors over sin; and, uncondemned, to attain unto and worship the holy resurrection.  For blessed and glorified is thine all-honorable and majestic name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages, Amen.”

This is the Ambon prayer of the Presanctified Liturgy.  The ambon prayer is the one at the end of any liturgy, when the priest comes out through the holy doors and stands (on the “ambon” which simply means “step” and refers to the two steps going from the solea into the altar), stands before the icon of Christ to, as I like to imagine it, pray the prayer that ushers the people from the church back into the world.  In the Sunday liturgy, it’s the prayer that goes: “O Lord, You Who bless those who bless You, and sanctify those who trust in You, save Your people and bless Your inheritance.  Protect the complement of your Church; sanctify those who love the majesty of Your house; glorify them in return by Your divine power, and do not forsake us who hope in You…” and so on.  Immediately after that prayer, the priest blesses the people for the final time: “The blessing of the Lord and His mercy come upon you through His divine grace and love for mankind…” and so on.

But the ambon prayer in the Presanctified Liturgy is different.  It’s one of my favorite prayers, we’ll spend the next three days examining parts of it.  This prayer does not refer to place, but to time.  The Sunday prayer defines the church as the Kingdom of God, and prepares the people to leave the protection of the Kingdom of God in order to return to the fallen kingdom of the world.  It addresses the subject of place.  But the Presanctified Liturgy ambon prayer doesn’t do that.  It sees us as already in the world, in keeping with the solemn character of that liturgy.  Since there is no consecration, no great entrance, no gospel reading (except for the ones during Holy Week), it’s almost as if, liturgically speaking, we have not left the world.  We, liturgically, are living in the time before the coming of Christ, we’re living in (what I call) the Lent of Creation, that is, all the time between the Creation of the world and its redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ.  I believe this is why Moses is mentioned, the friend of God who, despite being the most holy man who ever lived, didn’t get to see and experience God the way you and I do all the time.  He lived in the Lent of Creation.  And in the Presanctified Liturgy, we join him.  The prayer says that we have come to the forty days “for the purification of soul and body, for the controlling of passions, and for hope of resurrection.”  But we have already experienced the resurrection right?  In fact, every Sunday liturgy, even during Lent, is a celebration of the resurrection.  So what is that prayer saying?  It defines Lent for us as it was experienced by all those who lived before Christ, it describes life under the law.  Spiritual life was struggle, and deprivation, darkness – and hope.  We place ourselves in that time with the readings of Lent, the Old Testament readings we’ve been doing every day, and with the darkness and hopeful Psalms of the Presanctified liturgy.

I pray that both of us, my beloved, finish Lent this year with our hearts full of hope, and our steps firmly placed in the marks of the saints of old, that we may celebrate Christ’s resurrection with joy, Amen.   

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