Below the reader will find my translation from Russian of Sermon Fourteen on the Div. Liturgy by St. Seraphim (Zvezdenski). This sermon is part of a continuing series of sermons by St. Seraphim (twenty-two in all) that I am in the process of translating. The preceding sermons may be found here. The sermon title is my own for the purposes of this blog (in the original the sermons are simply numbered).
That you may stand more easily and without distraction during the Divine Liturgy, do the following: while the hours are being chanted, remember the living and departed in your prayers. These commemorations will rise to heaven together with the commemorations being offered by the priest during proskomedia and will bring great consolation to the souls of those remembered. Here it does not matter if the commemorations are made in the altar before the table of oblation, at the doors of the altar, or in the midst of the church, for the Lord is everywhere and hears everything. When the opening exclamation of the Liturgy is made, “Blessed is the Kingdom …” pray that the Lord would grant unto you the Heavenly Kingdom. At the offering of the first litany of peace,1 pray that the Lord would give you His peace during this day.
Nothing acts so favorably on the soul as a peaceful state, and so the enemy of salvation especially seeks to disturb it. He desires by every means – through quarrels, irritations, spite, frustrations, and grumbling – to lead a person out of a peaceful disposition and to destroy it. Therefore, when you pray for peace to be sent down into your soul, feel yourself as if but a small plank in the midst of raging waves, perceive your own feebleness and ask for help from the Lord. After this, the antiphons are sung. While they are sung the priest offers prayers for the protection of the Church, and so you also should offer prayers to the Lord that He would deliver this place in which you live from unbelief, heresy, and schism.
At the Little Entrance, the priest says the prayer, “Grant that with our entrance there may be an entrance of holy angels ….” During this time, the church is filled with a myriad of holy angels. And so, you should beseech your Guardian Angel that he would stand beside you and pray with you, “Holy Guardian Angel, have mercy on me and visit me.” While the apostolic Epistle and the Gospel are read, the angels, unseen by us, light countless candles. The priest prays, “Illumine our hearts, O Master Who lovest mankind, with the pure light of Thy divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our minds to the understanding of Thy Gospel teachings ….” At this moment, pray the Lord to send His Divine Light to you also, and that it would shine in your heart.
After this is the litany of fervent supplication, here the choir thrice repeats “Lord have mercy” after each supplication. This litany represents the entire earthly life of the Lord when great crowds followed after Him, crying out, “Lord have mercy on us!” Bring before your eyes this multitude – the Canaanite, the blind, and the lepers – and with all your soul fall down before the Lord; perceive yourself to be a leper, possessed, and blind. Mentally cling to the hem of the Lord’s robe and entreat His mercy. Here it is good to bow yourself before an icon. The exclamation following the litany gives hope that the Lord will hear your cry, according to His great mercy, “For Thou art a merciful God, Who lovest mankind, and to Thee we send up glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit …”
At the time of the litany of the catechumens, pray for all unbelievers. Maybe you have an acquaintance or family member who are unbelievers, pray that the Lord would have mercy and enlighten their souls with the light of faith. After this, give thanks to the Lord that by His providence you yourself are counted within the number of the faithful.
The Cherubic Hymn is the prayer of the Lord in Gethsemane. At this time, hold before your eyes the whole podvig of our Lord in Gethsemane – His prayer with sweat like great drops of blood and His suffering for people’s sins. Remember that you came before the eyes of the Lord, with all your falls and sins. Feel deeply that on that night the Lord suffered for you. Especially acknowledge the fullness of your unworthiness – how could you repay the Lord for all He has done for you – and ask for His mercy. Remember how the Lord Himself was obedient to His Father’s will, and so entrust yourself to the will of the Lord and resolve to patiently endure the crosses sent to you.
The time of the Great Entrance represents the Lord’s crucifixion. Beseech Him to remember you in His Kingdom. At the exclamation, “Peace be with you all,” the Lord’s descent into Hades, for the salvation of all the departed there before His coming, is depicted. Therefore, pray in this manner, “Descend, O Lord, into the hades of my soul and save me.” When you hear the exclamation, “Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess,” pray that the Lord would plant in you holy love and give you to love everyone, most of all those that you do not love or have offended, and also those who do not love you and have offended you.
At the exclamation, “Let us stand aright, Let us stand with fear,” pray that the Lord would plant in you His fear and that you would always remember the presence of the Lord. At the exclamation, “Let us give thanks unto the Lord,” offer up fervent thanksgiving. During this time, the priest reads a prayer in which all of the blessings of the Lord to mankind are remembered; so you also offer thanks for them and for the service of the Liturgy. At this point, everyone is obliged to give thanks for these things and in particular for the things given to him personally by the Lord, for all the mercies poured out on him. At the time of, “We praise Thee, we bless Thee …” you should call to mind your sins, especially the serious ones, and ask the Lord for forgiveness. In this manner, if you are diligently attentive to the Liturgy, then you will without fail receive great profit.
1The Great Litany