Monday, May 16, 2016

Let the words of my mouth

Learning about Orthodoxy through books, and having an Orthodox worldview are very different things. The books are a beginning, but developing "the mind of Christ" is a slow process.

I have noticed that there are many phrases that you frequently hear the Orthodox use that reflect the rich theology deeply woven into the life of the faithful. God is present here and now, and every act and person is commended to him. I have collected some of these here:

"Lord have mercy."
"May God receive."
"By your prayers."
"Esm il salib."  
"Thank God."

"Lord have mercy."
We pray this frequently in all of our services (For the sick, the suffering... Lord have mercy. For travelers... Lord have mercy), but also privately, when we hear of someone in need of prayer. For every need, in every situation, we ask God for his mercy:
"The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil; a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for 'Lord, have mercy,' are 'Kyrie, eleison'  that is to say, 'Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.' Thus mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal  a very Western interpretation but to the infinite loving-kindness of God, and his compassion for his suffering children! It is in this sense that we pray 'Lord, have mercy,' with great frequency throughout the Divine Liturgy." - GOARCH
See also this from the Antiochian Archdiocese. 

"May God receive."
Or "May God receive your efforts."
I first heard this in the book A Scent of Holiness, and have found it very helpful to me. When someone offers some act of kindness or other almsgiving, the recipient responds not with "Thank you," but with "May God receive." In this way the recipient acknowledges the kindness of the other is a service to God, and also offers a prayer as their thanks. Similarly, if someone does respond with, "thank you" the giver may reply with "May God receive," which points back toward God, rather than just deflecting with something like, "it was nothing." See also here and here

"By your prayers."
Or "Through the prayers."
I also first read this in the The Scent of Holiness, but also from Fr. Stephen at Glory to God. It is used both in the services, but also in daily life, by which we attribute our accomplishments (or even our salvation) to the prayers of others:

"It is a recognition that we cannot make this journey alone. I have days when I think I’m doing ok, and then there are much longer periods when I realize that only by the prayers of others and the mercies of God will I make this journey in any shape or form." - Fr. Stephen

"Esm il salib."  اسم الصليب

Forgive me if my transliteration here is poor - I relied on Google translate. I hear this frequently from a dear friend at my parish who says it three times (in Arabic) every time she picks up my infant daughter. She told me it means, "in God's name," but I also see it translated as "by the name of cross," which is a shorted form of "may you be saved by the name of the Holy cross." She is commending to God something beautiful and precious.

"Thank God."

I still forget so much to say this, but hearing it from others, especially frequently from our khouria, has made a deep impression on me. Whenever someone compliments another, instead of replying, "you're welcome" or deflecting, we reply "thank God." So, "that was a big help to me!" is answered with "thank God!" Similarly, we may say, "what beautiful weather, thank God!" All good things are from God. This is different from a prosperity gospel, because we thank God in all things, not only in prosperity. In our morning prayers, we thank God for raising us up in each day. 


elizabeth said...

Orthodoxy really is a life that everything is impacted by, including what we say! beautiful examples here, thank you.

Emmie said...

I am so grateful for you taking the time to elucidate some of the language we use. A great help to me. Thank you!