Sown in dishonour, raised in glory

The splendour of the heavenly bodies.
1 Corinthians 15:40-45.

THE splendour of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendour of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendour, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendour.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

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A small field near St Mary's on the Isles of Scilly. © Bob Embleton, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original photo.

“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” A small field near St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly. © Bob Embleton, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original photo.

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“O Lady more splendid than the brilliance of sunbeams.”
At Vespers for January 15. Source.

REJOICE, lamp filled with light, Lady more splendid than the brilliance of sunbeams. Rejoice O Lady undefiled, who hast loosed the ancient curse (Gen 3:13-19; Dt 11:26-28), hope of the hopeless, the recalling of our race. Rejoice most splendid palace of the King of All, most trusty* mountain, from which the Redeemer came forth. Rejoice, God the Word’s divine and delightful lamp (Ex 38:16 LXX). Rejoice, lampstand all light. Rejoice, fiery throne (Dan 7:9).

* My text has τὸ Ὄρος τὸ πιστότατον, ‘most trusty mountain’. But I wonder whether this should be πιότατον, ‘most fertile’, a key phrase for the Virgin. See the notes below.

Cross-Theotokion.

WHEN the unblemished Ewe-Lamb saw her own Lamb willingly dragged as mortal man to sacrifice, she would lament saying: Thou wouldst quickly make me childless, who bore thee as my child, O Christ. What is this which thou hast done, Redeemer of all? Yet I raise my hymn, and I give glory, to thy supreme goodness beyond spiritual sight (ὑπὲρ νοῦν) and beyond reason (ὑπὲρ λόγον), O lover of mankind.

REJOICE, star shining like the sun (cf. Rev 12:1-2). Rejoice, unblemished Lady, cause of everything good. Rejoice, thou who didst contain the uncontainable God, who budded forth with the grain* of incorruption (Jn 12:23-24, 1 Cor 15:35-45). Rejoice divine chariot, gate filled with light. Rejoice, Maiden who hast destroyed the curse of our forebears, who yet liveth to be the provider of blessings.

* στάχυς, an ear of wheat. As it happens, it was also the Greek name of the largest star in the constellation Virgo, Spica virginis (Latin for “the virgin’s ear of grain”).

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Frédéric Chopin, Nocturne in F Major.
Played by Valentina Lisitsa.

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Notes

“God the Word’s divine and delightful lamp”.

IN these prayers, we are presented with the supreme glory and splendour of the Theotokos in heaven. After her natural death, she was taken to heaven and anticipated our deification and our resurrection, as the one from whom God began his refashioning of the whole creation. Now she outshines the sun and the stars as a lamp brighter than all of them. Even so, while Mary is the lamp and lampstand, her living flame, the light with which she shines, is always her son Jesus, who is God the Word, Light from Light.

The metaphor of the light and the lampstand, like many other titles for the Virgin, comes from the vessels of the Temple in Jerusalem, where God was present with his people. The golden lampstand (Menorah), decorated with blossoming almond buds and flowers (Ex 25:31-40), was one of the central features of the sanctuary. Because light was regarded as essentially gentle, the lampstand is referred to by Zechariah in a prophecy of the peaceful restoration of God’s people (Zech 4:1-6): “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty”.

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“Fertile mountain.”

The reference to Mary as a “most trusty mountain” (τὸ Ὄρος τὸ πιστότατον) is a bit unusual, so I wonder if it should be τὸ Ὄρος τὸ πιότατον, most fertile mountain, instead, commonly related to the Mother of God in the liturgy. You can see why I might think so from this, my own translation of the Greek text of Ps 67:16-20 LXX (Ps 68:15-19 Heb), which speaks of Sion, the hill in Jerusalem chosen for the Temple:

O MOUNTAIN of God, fertile mountain, O curdled mountain, fertile mountain! Why do you suppose, O curdled mountains, that this is the mount which God was pleased to dwell in? Indeed the Lord will make his tabernacle there for ever. The chariot of God is ten thousand fold, thousands are flourishing. The Lord among them was in Sinai, in his holy place. You went up on high, you took captivity captive; you accepted their gifts in order to pitch your tabernacle among men even though they were faithless. Blessed is the Lord our God, blessed is the Lord day after day. The God of our salvation will prosper us.

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“The grain of incorruption.”

JESUS replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

John 12:23-24.

AS a mother, Mary watched Jesus fall to earth like a grain of wheat, and die in dishonour, mocked and scourged. One can only imagine how this tore at her. Yet God remained for her a lover of mankind, she gave him glory, remaining by the cross when others had fled (Mk 14:50-52), willingly to be identified with him when the others were not (Mk 14:66-72), and present with them in Jerusalem when the holy Spirit descended at Pentecost (Acts 1:14) — the Jewish feast of the spring harvest, the moment when all the early grain would begin to be gathered (cf. Lk 10:2).

The Divine Liturgy in Scriptural Quotations

NO eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Cor 2:9)

He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, (2 Pet 1:4) marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:13-14)

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor 13:12)

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Ps 13[14]:1) I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. (Job 19:25-26)

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 Jn 3:2)

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The Little Entrance, before the reading of the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy

“Stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thess 2:15) The Little Entrance, before the reading of the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy.

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SO then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thess 2:15)

Test everything. Hold on to the good. (1 Thess 5:21) What you heard from the Apostles, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 1:13) Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (Eph 4:14)

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God, who came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)

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SEEK first his kingdom and his righteousness (Mt 6:33). Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, (1 Thess 5:17) saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. (Luke 18:13) Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:19-20)

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that confess his name, (Heb 13:15) giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (Col 1:12)

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HOW can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? (Ps 115[116]:12)

You have no need of my goodness. (Ps 15[16]:2 LXX) We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty. (Lk 17:10) The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Ps 147:11) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps 50[51]:17)

He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ (1 Cor 11:25)

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. (Ps 115[116]:13)

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Celebrating the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, on the occasion when relics of St Seraphim of Sarov came to the Monastery of St Augustine of Hippo and St Seraphim in Trikorfo Fokidas, Greece

“I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” (Ps 116:13) Celebrating the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, on the occasion when relics of St Seraphim of Sarov came to the Monastery of St Augustine of Hippo and St Seraphim in Trikorfo Fokidas, Greece

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I LOOKED, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. (Apoc 7:9)

WHO may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? (Ps 23[24]:3) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Mt 7:21)

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (1 Jn 3:23)

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. (Ps 23[24]:3-4) Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Ps 51:10) Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Mt 5:8)

First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Mt 5:24) I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” — and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Ps 31[32]:5) I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, O Lord. (Ps 25[26]:6) Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. (Ps 42[43]:4)

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Elder Ephrem, Abbot of the Vatopaidi monastery, affectionately greets a fellow monk

“And this is his command: to love one another as he commanded us.” (1 John 3:23) Elder Ephrem, Abbot of the Vatopaidi monastery, affectionately greets a fellow monk

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SUDDENLY the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come. (Mal 3:1)

Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in, (Ps 23[24]:9) a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek, (Ps 109[110]:4) a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven; (Heb 8:1) he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (Heb 9:12)

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. (Heb 9:24) Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Heb 7:25)

Lord, remember me when you come in your kingdom. (Lk 23:42)

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I PRAY to you, O Lord, in the time of your favour. (Ps 68[69]:13)

An angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. (Apoc 8:4)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. (Heb 12:1)

Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven. (Lam 3:41)

All my grandfather’s descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who eat at your table. So what right do I have to make any more appeals to the king? (2 Kgs [2 Sam] 19:28) So he said to them, … “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (Jn 16:23-24)

I POUR out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. (Ps 141[142]:2) For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. (Ps 87[88]:3) Do not be far from me, trouble is near and there is no one to help. (Ps 21[22]:11)

All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves. So I looked for him but did not find him. (Cant 3:1-2)

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! (Lk 24:5-6) It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon. (Lk 24:34)

FOR you who revere my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. (Mal 4:2) Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart. (Rom 10:6-8)

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (Jn 6:51, 56)

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SOVEREIGN Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. (Lk 2:29-32)

For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:47)

Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. (Ps 125[126]:2-3)

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. (vv5-6)

This is the glory of the Church, this the riches of the Kingdom

COME, let us be glad in the Lord, in him that hath shattered the dominion of death, and enlightened the race of men, and cry together with the bodiless powers: Glory be to thee, our Creator and Saviour. (twice)

THOU didst endure a cross, O Saviour, and a grave for us, but being God thou didst make death dead by death; therefore, we worship thy resurrection on the third day: O Lord, glory be to thee.

WHEN the Apostles saw the Rising of the Creator, they cried out in wonder the angelic song of praise: This is the glory of the Church, this the riches of the Kingdom. O Lord who sufferedst for us, glory be to thee.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Now and Forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

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IT is the Day of Resurrection, let us celebrate the feast in splendour,
Let us embrace one another.
Brethren, let us say, even unto them that hate us:
Let us forgive everything upon the Resurrection,
and so cry out:
CHRIST is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,
and granting life to them that are in the grave.

(Sung by Sophia Manou, with brief extracts (in Greek)
from the Gospel, read by actress Katerina Lechou. See Mark 16, vv. 1-5, 6, 7-8).

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Dogmatic Theotokion.

O LADY without defilement, the mystery accomplished in thee is unspeakable, and we tremble at it. For thou gavest birth to the Word, the cause of all things, beyond cause and beyond word, embodied by the holy Spirit, taking flesh from thee while remaining unaltered in the nature that is his own. For when both had come together, while self-subsistently one single person, he sprang forth twofold in nature, wholly God, yet wholly man, and in each one shewing that wholeness by active properties. For while he truly suffered in a fleshly way upon the cross, he remained divinely untouchable by suffering, in the same way that he truly died as he is mortal, but being God rose up again on the third day, throwing down the dominion of death, and delivering what is human from corruption. O beseech him, God’s own mother, as he is the Redeemer and Saviour of our race, to send down upon us the Great Mercy of his compassion.

Resurrectional Stichera on Sundays of the Grave Tone. Source.

Ed.- It is not fashionable, I know, to regard dogma as important. But

TELL me the story slowly, that I may take it in,
That wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon;
The early dew of morning has passed away at noon.

Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story
Of Jesus and his love.

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem

IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

John 1:1-4.

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An icon of the Resurrection, showing Jesus, Adam and Eve

An icon of the Resurrection, showing Jesus, Adam and Eve

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MAKE thy illumination shine in me, where is the darkness of the passions, thou that conceived the Light of truth, O Virgin Mother, and gave God birth in the flesh; make haste and bring the steps of my soul up from the depths of despair, and plant them firmly on the rock of a sure way of life.

Execute judgment upon the demons that make war upon me without ceasing; be quick to end the pain of my wretched heart, O hope of the ends of the earth, who giveth unto the world the Great Mercy.

From Vespers for today, November 7. Source.

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MAGNIFY, O my soul, him who suffered willingly, and was buried, and rose from the grave on the third day.

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Dance now and be glad, O Sion, and you too rejoice, pure Mother of God, at the arising of him to whom you gave birth.

Magnify, O my soul, Christ the Giver of life, who arose from the grave on the third day.

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Dance now and be glad, O Sion, and you too rejoice, pure Mother of God, at the arising of him to whom you gave birth.

From the Canon of Pascha. Source.

Let creation rejoice and flower

THEN said he, “I am going to my Father’s; and though with great difficulty I have got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am.

“My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles who will now be my rewarder.”

When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the river-side, into which as he went, he said, “Death, where is thy sting?” And as he went down deeper, he said, “Grave, where is thy victory?”

So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.

John Bunyan, “Pilgrim’s Progress”.

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An icon of the Resurrection (11th century) in the Monastery of St Luke, Greece

An icon of the Resurrection (11th century) in the Monastery of St Luke, Greece

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LET creation rejoice and flower like a lily; for, being God, Christ hath been raised from the dead. ‘Where now O death is thy sting?’ we cry. ‘Where, Hades, is thy victory?’ He  who lifted up our horn hath cast thee to the ground, for he is full of tender pity.

Most holy Theotokos, save us.

THOU bearest up him that beareth up all things; thou holdest in thy hands as an infant child him that delivereth us from out the hand of the enemy that warreth upon us, O immaculate Lady; and thou seest lifted up upon the Cross him that lifteth us up from the depths of wickedness.

Sunday Matins, Tone 6. Source.

The promise of the light of life

CHRIST is that morning star who, when the night of this world is past, brings to his saints the promise of the light of life, and opens everlasting day.

St Bede, Commentary on the Apocalypse. This text is written over his shrine in Durham Cathedral.

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Cormorants in the sunrise over Croome River, Croome Park, Worcestershire. © Philip Halling, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

Cormorants in the sunrise over Croome River, Croome Park, Worcestershire. © Philip Halling, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

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IN the night of life the darkness of the passions hath laid hold on me, Christ God; it is good, then, that thou art Light without evening: flood me then with rays of repentance, save me, O thou that lovest mankind, that I may glorify thee.

Glory be to thee, our God, glory be to thee.

Matins on Mondays, Tone 4. Source.

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HAIL, heavenly beam,* brightest of angels thou,
sent unto men upon this middle-earth;
Thou art the true refulgence of the Sun,
radiant above the stars, and from thyself
illuminest for ever all the tides of time.
And as thou, God indeed begotten of God,
thou Son of the true Father, wast from aye,
without beginning, in the heaven’s glory,
so now thy handiwork in its sore need
prayeth thee boldly that thou send to us
the radiant sun, and that thou come thyself
to enlighten those who for so long a time
were wrapt around with darkness, and here in gloom
have sat the livelong night, shrouded in sin;
death’s dark shadow had they to endure.

HOPEFUL now, we trust in the salvation
brought to the hosts of men through Gods own word,
which was in the beginning co-eternal
with God, the Almighty Father, and is now
flesh void of blemish, that the maiden bare
to help the wretched. God was seen ‘mong us
in all His sinlessness; together they dwelt,
the Creator’s mighty Son and the son of man,
in peace on earth. Wherefore, as it is meet,
we may well thank the Lord of triumph aye,
that He vouchsafed to send to us Himself.

Cynewulf, “Christ”. Translated by Israel Gollancz. There was a Cynewulf who was bishop of Lindisfarne from 740 to 780.

* The Anglo-Saxon word here is actually Eärendel, the Morning Star.

Then he arose, and there was a great calm

AND, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

Matthew 8:24-26.

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An icon of Christ enthroned in glory

“But we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2

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AND now, our God, as we sing the praises of thy Rising, pilot our life, and grant thy peace unto us, O thou that lovest mankind.

Matins, Sundays of the Plagal of the Fourth Tone. Source.

O IMMACULATE Lady, calm amid this life for storm-tossed mortals, sure and firm anchor, and harbour, and pilotage: by it dost thou guide us, and lead us by the hand.

Theotokion, Matins, October 8. Source.

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SUNSET and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

Alfred Lord Tennyson.

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Sir Hubert Parry / St Paul’s Cathedral Choir

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BELOVED, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

1 John 3:2