A HOMILY ABOUT EVENING PRAYER

     This Sunday, brothers and sisters, my homily will consist of just a few words about evening prayer.

     The day of an Orthodox Christian begins and ends with prayer.  As a Christian prepares for his daily activities, he prays; and when he completes them, he prays again.

     In our morning prayers, we primarily ask for God’s blessing and protection during the forthcoming day.  In our evening prayers – as we make our evening sacrifice to God – we primarily beg His forgiveness for the sins we have committed during the hours just past.  We seek pardon for our various lapses:  our slips of tongue, our criticism of others, our forgetfulness of the Creator and Redeemer, our wandering eyes, our pride, our vainglory, our remembrance of wrongs suffered or imagined.

     Wounded by sin, man stumbles very often on the path of life.  But as it is, after a fashion, “normal” or “natural” for us in our fallen state to stumble, so it is normal and natural for us to perceive our lapses, to acknowledge them, to repent, to strive for self-amendment.  Every day, as the Christian stands before the holy icons for evening prayers, as he prays sincerely and with understanding, as he offers up the evening sacrifice to God, he is re-initiated into the grace-filled process of repentance.  Is someone unable to break a bad habit or reverse a harmful tendency over a long period of time?  Is he perpetually indifferent to the Holy Church’s admonitions and counsels, or even defiant of them?  Is his spiritual life moribund?  Then likely he is not as devoted to the grace-filled process of repentance as he should be; he does not offer up the evening sacrifice faithfully or attentively or with a simple, sincere heart.  Neglecting evening prayers, he fails to examine his conscience regularly and thoroughly.  He is not true to himself or to God.  Much time passes, yet he fails to return his wayward heart to his Saviour.  Truly, many spiritual ills result from neglecting evening prayers, from not offering up the pure evening sacrifice!

     The day has ended…  Man quietly stands before God…  He speaks with God; he speaks with Him about whatever he wishes, about whatever is troubling him, about whatever weighs on him, about whatever his soul longs and strives for…

     Most of you work or attend classes or are busy with children or daily tasks during the daytime hours.  In the morning you are rushing about to get everything ready, to get out of the house.  Then, your whole day is full of business until the evening.  When will you ever be alone and quiet with God, if not at night?  And so, what a loss, if you pass night after night heedlessly and idly, doing nothing but relaxing and making a few preparations for another round of worldly cares.  What a loss if night after night passes without the evening sacrifice…

     Long ago the prophet David wrote, I remembered Thy name in the night, O Lord, and I kept Thy law.1  Night is the best time for prayer.  Its darkness hides from us all the vain sights of the daytime, and we are almost involuntarily drawn by it to the hidden mystery of the Beginningless One.  For the Christian, night is not a time of temptation and sin, but an image of the blessed stillness in which God is revealed.

     The minutes of our evening prayer, however brief, are the sweetest of the day.  During them, our soul reaches out to God, and God bows down from heaven.  Our sins of the day are forgiven, and we arise spiritually even as our bodies lie down to sleep.  As we offer our God the evening sacrifice, we repeat with John, the sweetly singing harp of Damascus:  “An evening hymn and rational adoration do we offer Thee, O Christ.  Accept our evening prayers, O holy Lord, and grant us the remission of sins; for Thou alone are He Who hath shown forth resurrection unto the world.”  Amen.

 

1. Ps. 118:55