Peter Bouteneff has taught theology and spirituality at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary since 2000. He serves the Orthodox Church in America in its committees on church relations and on canonization. His interest in the arts and his experience and training as a musician have led him to co-direct the Arvo Pärt Project – a collaboration with the world-renowned Orthodox Christian composer. He also directs the choir at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Yonkers, NY. Dr. Bouteneff has written several books and essays, edits the Foundations Series for St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, and has an occasional podcast on Ancient Faith Radio called “Sweeter than Honey.”
The Merciful One: Telling God Who He Is
“…through thy mercies and bounties and love for mankind”
“…for thou art good and the lover of mankind”
These kinds of exclamations come at the end of many of the Church’s liturgical prayers. One of them is particularly strong and striking:
“…for Thine it is to show mercy and to save us.”
It is a way of saying that God is merciful. Rather, it is a way of telling God that he is merciful.
Prayer works in different ways. Sometimes we petition God: “Grant, O Lord.” Sometimes we address ourselves: “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” And other times we are affirming something about God, by way of telling him.
“Thine it is to show mercy and to save us” – We are telling God that being merciful to us and saving us is his vocation. It’s what he does when he is truly himself. And he is always truly himself.
Does God need to hear this from us? No. Does God need any of our prayers? No. This prayer is for us. It is both a sign and builder of our confidence in the saving love of God, lest we despair. Because despair too is an option.
When we tell God that he is merciful, that he separates us from our sins as far as the Heavens are from the Earth, as far as the East is from the West, we are reminding ourselves of the character of the God to whom we are praying and on whom we place our hopes, fears, doubts, sins, joys, gratitude
7th Monday after Pascha
Saints and Feasts Commemorated
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