A PRAYER FOR THE NIGHT SEASONS
Lord, O Lord, who hast delivered us from every arrow that flieth by day, deliver us also from everything that walketh in darkness. Receive the lifting up of our hands as an evening sacrifice. Make us worthy to pass without blame through the course of the night, untempted by evil. And deliver us from all anxiety and cowardice that come to us from the devil. Grant compunction to our souls, and make our thoughts mindful of the trial at thy dread and righteous Judgment.
Nail down our flesh with the fear of thee, and mortify our earthly members, that in the stillness of sleep we may be enlightened by the vision of thy judgments. Take from us every unseemly fantasy and pernicious carnal desire. Raise us up at the hour of prayer, established in faith and advancing in thy commandments: through the grace and goodness of thine Only-begotten Son, with whom thou art blessed, together with thine all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
-St. Basil the Great
This is the last of the three sample prayers of St Basil that I’d planned to share,
from the book Orthodox Christian Prayers. Previous: First Hour and Sixth Hour.
A PRAYER FOR MIDDAY
O God, the Lord of Hosts and Author of all creation, who in thine ineffable and tender mercy hast sent down thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for the salvation of our kind, and through his precious Cross hast torn up the record of our sins, and thereby triumphed over the princes and dominions of darkness: do thou, O Master who lovest mankind, accept these prayers of thanksgiving and supplication even from us sinners, and deliver us from every dark and deadly transgression and from all visible and invisible enemies that seek to do us harm.
Nail down our flesh with the fear of thee, and let not our hearts incline to evil words or thoughts; rather, wound our souls with thy love, that ever gazing upon thee, guided by thy light, and beholding thee, the eternal Light that no man can approach, we may offer up unceasing praises and thanksgiving unto thee: the Father without beginning, together with thine Only-begotten Son, and thine all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
That is not me in the picture, but I just realized that about the time that this post is published, I will be standing at a similar lectern and reading aloud this prayer in church. The Prayers of the Third and Sixth Hours are typically read before Divine Liturgy, and today we celebrate The Elevation of the Holy Cross. St. Basil’s prayer above comes at the very end of the Sixth Hour prayers.
In the Orthodox Christian Prayers book published by St. Tikhon’s Press in 2019, I noticed that several in the “Prayers Throughout the Day ” section are by St. Basil the Great, one of the Cappadocian Fathers and one of the Three Holy Hierarchs in Orthodox tradition.
The prayers in the prayer book have come into use because they teach us how to pray, giving us the appropriate words and phrases that put us into the most helpful attitude, often straight out of Holy Scripture and ancient hymns. All of these from St. Basil warmed my heart, so I decided to post a series of three of them, starting with a morning or First Hour Prayer:
O Eternal God, everlasting Light without beginning, Fashioner of all creation, Fountain of mercy, Ocean of goodness, and searches Abyss of love for mankind: cause the light of thy countenance to shine upon us, O Lord. Dawn in our hearts, O noetic Sun of Righteousness, and fill our souls with thy delight, and teach us always to meditate on and proclaim thy judgments, and to render to thee our unceasing praise, O our Master and Benefactor.
Direct the work of our hands according to thy will, and help us to do those things which are all-pleasing and dear unto thee, that through us unworthy ones thy most holy Name may be glorified: of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one Godhead and Kingdom, to whom is due all glory, honor and worship, unto the ages. Amen.
The 40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste are commemorated on March 9. Their martyrdom was in 320 under the Emperor Licinius, and St. Basil eulogized them only 50 years later in a homily on their feast day:
Homily on The Forty Martyrs
Wikipedia has this to say about the saints:
“A church was built at Caesarea, in Cappadocia, and it was in this church that Basil publicly delivered his homily. Gregory of Nyssa was especially devoted to the Forty Martyrs; two discourses in praise of them, preached by him in the church dedicated to them, are still preserved, and upon the death of his parents he laid them to rest beside the relics of the confessors. Ephrem the Syrian has also eulogized the Forty Martyrs. Sozomen, who was an eye-witness, has left an interesting account of the finding of the relics in Constantinople, in the shrine of Saint Thyrsus built by Caesarius, through the instrumentality of Empress Pulcheria.”
Those noble soldiers of the Master of all let us honor,
for they were united by their faith
as they passed through fire and water,
and being enlisted by Christ
they entered to divine refreshment.
Now those pious warriors stand and intercede
with Christ God for those who cry out.
Glory to Him that hath given you strength.
Glory to him that hath crowned you.
Glory to Him that made you wondrous,
Holy Forty Martyrs.
-Hymn for the feast