The Heritage of the Coptic Orthodox Church

3 - The Saturday Psali

Bishoy K. R. Dawood & Ragy Sharkawy
May 18, 2011

Contemplations on the Saturday Psali.

Introduction

The Saturday Psali, also known by its first words, Aftee Em Ep onof, has a continuous form of the Jesus Prayer, which, in its fullest form, is: “Lord Jesus Christ, only-begotten Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The Jesus Prayer is one of the oldest prayers, and it is based on Scripture. We can recall three incidents in the Gospel where people call to the Lord Jesus Christ in this manner:

The ten lepers: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Lk. 17:13).
The publican: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk. 18:13).
The blind man: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Lk. 18:38).

Early Christians used this prayer at all times and without ceasing, without interruption. Why? First, we notice that the Lord Jesus Christ responded to the calls of those who said this prayer, with all their hearts, and with faith. This is not a prayer of vain repetition, but a prayer truly from the heart, with thanksgiving and fire. These are indeed prayers heard by our Lord, for He taught saying: “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Mt. 21:22). The Good Lord promised, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it” (Jn. 14:13,14). The Apostles proclaimed with joy “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” (Lk. 10:17).

Through the practice of the Jesus prayer, our father, Saint Paul the Apostle wrote to us that we must always practice the Jesus Prayer: “We also constantly give thanks to God” (1 Thess. 2:13); “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess.5:16-18); “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer” (Rom.12:12).

Saint Paul the Apostle was aware that the Jesus Prayer had a great effect in all of his life, for he knew the Power that was in the Name of our Lord Jesus, which we must continuously confess along with him saying “God has highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

The Egyptians and Syrians were among the first people to withdraw into the silence of the desert, to practice the Jesus Prayer, and terrified the demons in the Lord’s name. They were our fathers the monks of the desert, who lived a life of silence, meditation on Scripture, and constant prayer. The monks of Egypt, while gathering during the Synaxis during the midnight hours, preserved the Jesus Prayer in the praises, which we continue to chant to this very day by the grace of God. These were the fathers who compiled the Psalis for every single day. The Psalis include many beautiful meditations on the wonderful acts of our Lord, reminding us of His great mercy and kindness.

In this hymn, we remember that our Lord is our Good Savior, Who humbled Himself and took the form of a servant, and through His crucifixion and resurrection we were reconciled to God and our humble nature is exalted. He became poor so that we may become rich. He became a servant so that we may become His friends. He became Man, so that we may become gods by adoption.

There came a time in history when the Jesus Prayer was under attack in an attempt to lead it to extinction. The monks of the whole world were being punished because they were practicing hesychia (silence), to be able to say the Jesus Prayer continuously. It was a disaster played about by the Devil to attack the Church. However, the monks of Egypt, with all the Christians in the land, persisted in saying the Jesus Prayer, and preserved the Psalis for our Lord Jesus Christ, so that its fruits may remain forever. Through their faith, they served the future generations, and preserved for us a treasure from the Apostles. Let us continue to learn and preserve for the future of our great Church. Let us practice to pray continuously, with thanksgiving and joy. Let us teach others about the wonderful Jesus Prayer, the Prayer of the Heart, whenever we get the opportunity.

Sayings of the Fathers

“The name of Jesus should be repeated over and over in the heart as flashes of lightning are repeated over and over in the sky before rain.” - St. Hesychios the Priest.

“To human beings it seems hard and difficult to still the mind so that it rests from all thoughts. Indeed, to enclose what is bodiless within the limits of the body does demand toil and struggle, not only from the uninitiated but also from those experienced in inner immaterial warfare. But he who through unceasing prayer holds the Lord Jesus within his breast will not tire in following Him, as the Prophet says (cf. Jer. 17:16.LXX). Because of Jesus’ beauty and sweetness, he will not desire what is merely mortal.” - St. Hesychios the Priest.

“A brother named John came from the coast to Father Philimon and, clasping his feet, said to him: ‘What shall I do to be saved? For my intellect vacillates to and fro and strays after all the wrong things.’ After a pause, the father replied: ‘This is one of the outer passions and it stays with you because you still have not acquired a perfect longing for God. The warmth of this longing and of the knowledge of God has not yet come to you.’ The brother said to him: ‘What shall I do, father?’ Abba Philimon replied: ‘Meditate inwardly for a while, deep in your heart; for this can cleanse your intellect of these things.’ The brother, not understanding what was said, asked the Elder: ‘What is inward meditation, father?’ The Elder replied: ‘Keep watch in your heart; and with watchfulness say in your mind with awe and trembling: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me.’”

“Our whole life, every act and gesture, even a smile must become a hymn or adoration, an offering, a prayer. We must become prayer - prayer incarnate.” - Paul Evdokimov.

Remembering Your Holy Name…

Remembering Your Holy Name,
Brings joy to our souls,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

How often do I the sinner remember the Lord in my life? How often do I give thanks to Him and praise His wonderful works? Is the Lord indeed a priority in my life, to the extent that I am always reminded of His great mercy and love towards me? Indeed, it is my very existence that should be enough for me to remember the Lord, for without Him, I am nothing, and I do not exist to experience His eternal love and tender mercies. Remembering the Lord at all places and times; remembering His great creation which He has made; remembering His only-begotten Son who brought Salvation to all the earth; remembering the Holy Spirit, whose gifts we have received through the Sacraments. Should not all these bring joy to our souls? Indeed it is God who brings joy, for it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and not the worldly lusts and pleasures, which deviate us from the Truth.

Everyone blesses You…

Everyone blesses You,
The heavenly and the earthly,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

The tens of thousands of angels in the heavens declare the Glory of God, praising continuously without ceasing saying “Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Sabbouth, heaven and earth are full of Your Glory.” It is our service here on the earth, as the Creation of God in His Image, to praise Him continuously with one accord, for He is worthy of praise and glory. May the Lord have mercy on us, and we be made worthy to praise Him on earth and in heaven, for we all pray in the prayer of every hour saying “You, who at all times, and at every hour, is worshipped and glorified,” and, “surround us with Your holy angels.”

For You alone are worthy…

For You alone are worthy,
To be blessed,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Truly You are worthy,
Of the glory and the honor,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Who other than the Lord God Most High is worthy of praise, blessings, honor and glory? No one in this world, no power on this earth, no creation, can come close to the glory, power and majesty of the one True God, the Holy Trinity, Eternal, and Existent from before the ages, Who created all things seen and unseen, Who sees all, and knows all, Who is Merciful, Compassionate, Just, Mighty and Strong, Who suffered for His own people, yet loved them to the end? What great love is this, My Lord and My Savior? How can I not praise you, O Most High? Who dares not to praise the Lord for all His works?


All the tribes of the earth…

All the tribes of the earth,
Praise Your Holy Name,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

It is amazing how the word of God has reached all the nations of the world, through the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles and Fathers. It is also a blessing that we are born into the Orthodox Faith, which has always seen persecution and faced heresies throughout the ages. But it is the perseverance of the Fathers who have kept the Faith as a Jewel, the Church as a Diamond for all generations. It is thus our responsibility to represent ourselves as Orthodox Christians to the whole world, for this is what we were commended by the Lord Christ when saying “You are the Light of the world… you are the salt of the earth.” May the word of the Lord grow and multiply; may it reach the hearts of all the people in the world; may we praise with all the nations, glorifying God in all what we do.

Six stone jars…

Six stone jars, You have changed
Into choice wine,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

We ask you our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who was crucified on our behalf, as You have changed the water into wine at the wedding of Cana of Galilee, change our hearts, enlighten our souls, strengthen our faith, and guide us in the way of righteousness. For indeed wine is the symbol of joy, and we pray and ask that we may experience this fruit of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, our minds, and our thoughts. May we experience the heavenly joy of praising Your holy Name.

Seven times everyday…

Seven times everyday,
I will praise Your Holy Name,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

May we always praise Your Name, O Lord and Savior throughout our lives, everyday. We may not be able to pray with the Agpeya seven times, but we are able, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, to praise the Lord at all times. As the Fathers taught us, let us fight the thoughts of the Devil as we pray continuously, “My Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior, have mercy on me.”

With delight we praise You…

With delight we praise You,
All of us Your people,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

We indeed rejoice, O our Lord, in praising Your Holy Name with one accord, one spirit, and one voice. We rejoice in learning how to praise Your Name. We are Your people, and You have loved us unto death. You were crucified for our sins, and sacrificed Your Body and Blood for the salvation of the world. You are truly worthy of all praise, and we rejoice in Your praise, because You are our Heavenly King and Comforter.

The beauty of Your Holy Name…

The beauty of Your Holy Name,
Is on the mouths of Your saints,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

The Saints proclaimed the beauty of the Name of the Lord throughout their lives. Indeed the beauty of the Lord is beyond one’s imagination. For He prepares for us the Kingdom of Heaven, which no words can describe. The Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the eternal beauty. It shows us the beauty of His Glorious Throne, with the angels and archangels surrounding it, praising and singing. How wonderful and beautiful is the Creation of God. The universe in its entirety is created in perfection, for God saw that His Creation was good. Mankind was created in the Image of God, to reflect the beauty of Love. For God Himself is Love, and the Holy Trinity is in complete unity of this love. Through Jesus Christ, we experience the beauty of Godís love through His Sacrifice, and offer this love to all.

From morning to evening everyday…

From morning to evening everyday,
I will praise Your Holy Name,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we continuously pray and thank You for the all the blessings you give us, and ask for Your mercy and forgiveness of our many sins. Though we may not have the ability to pray from morning to evening (as some of the great saints), however, we chant this verse together in reminder that we owe it to the Lord to praise His holy name at all times, and in all places, asking for the prayers of the Saints, and the Intercessions of His Mother, the Theotokos Saint Mary, to intercede for us. For truly they praise the Lord with the angels from morning to evening, without ceasing.

With every breath that I take…

With every breath that I take,
I will praise Your Holy Name,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Each breath we take is another moment in life that the Lord has granted us. May we use the all the chances the Lord gives us. May we learn to use this temporary time on earth with all wisdom, giving thanks to the Lord Most High, thanking Him, praise Him, and glorifying His Holy Name, in preparation for eternal life with Him, His Saints and the Angels.

All the causes of sin…

All the causes of sin,
Remove from our souls,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

We pray to You Lord to cleanse us from “all blemish, all guile, all hypocrisy and all malice” (The Liturgy of St. Basil). “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin… create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51:2,10). As you have cleansed us from the sin of Adam through the Sacrament of Baptism, we ask you to purify our hearts, our souls, and our minds, so that we may be made worthy to stand in front of You. For it is through Your grace that we are made worthy to participate in the Communion of Your Holy Body and Blood on the altar. Purify us Lord from our many sins which we have committed before You on earth, for You indeed “show mercy to sinners, among whom I am the first” (The Prayer of Every Hour).

All the thoughts of the enemy…

All the thoughts of the enemy,
May they be cast away from me,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Remove from our minds the thoughts of evil, hatred and revenge. Remove from our minds, O Lord, the temptation of the Devil, and strengthen us to focus on You at all times. Fill our thoughts with all good. Give us Lord a mind of love, charity, and thankfulness. Let us forget those who sinned against, for we all pray to You saying: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespassed against us.” O Holy Spirit, teach us to forgive and forget. We ask You, O Holy Trinity, clear our minds from all the worldly lusts and temptations, and have mercy upon us.

Every breath praises You…

Every breath praises You,
As said by the Prophets,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

The prophets have all prepared for the coming of Christ our Lord throughout the Old Testament, testifying of His great love and salvation. They indeed gave Him praise, thus we, His children Whom He has chosen, have also this desire, to proclaim the Name of Lord to the people around us, and praise Him as the Almighty God. It is our appointed duty as “ambassadors of Christ” to praise His Name with no shame or fear.

You are above all principalities…

You are above all principalities,
You are the King of kings,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Truly the Lord Christ is the King of kings, Who has the ultimate authority over all creation. The wind and sea hear His words and obey them. Must not we also, the creation of God, created in His own Image, obey His Holy Name at all times? How much more worthy is the Lord, the King of kings, who reins forever, and who offered to me His life upon the Cross? The King was crucified for me, the sinner - how can this be? Who can offer this love than the Lord? Indeed, He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who is above all principalities, authorities, dominions, powers, and the whole creation. He is the Creator, and we are His Creation.

Yours is the glory with Your Father…

Yours is the glory with Your Father,
And the Holy Spirit,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

My Lord, My Savior, My King, we praise You and glorify You, O Most Holy and Powerful, with Your Good Father, Creator of all things seen and unseen, and the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life. “My heart and my tongue, praise the Trinity. O Holy Trinity, have mercy upon us.” (The Litany of Kiahk)

Your Name is blessed and sweet…

Your Name is blessed and sweet,
In the mouths of Your saints,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

My mouth praises You,
And my tongue glorifies You,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

The Lord Christ is indeed worthy of all praise and glory. As the Saints have praised Your Holy Name, we too glorify You at all times and places. Let my tongue O Lord never cease to bless Your Name, to pray to You at all time and places, thanking You and praising You.

Yes indeed we praise You…

Yes indeed we praise You,
Yes indeed we glorify You,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

We will never get weary,
Nor cease to praise You,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

We stand before You, Lord, confirming our commitment to serving You and praising Your Holy Name, for this is the least we can do. We bow before You in reverence and fear, affirming and accepting the duty of serving You. We pray that You strengthen us, and give us the power of the heart, mind, body and soul, to praise you without ceasing and weariness.

All the praises of blessings…

All the praises of blessings,
We send up unto You,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Yours is the glory,
The honor and thanksgiving,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Who My Lord is more deserving of praise and glory than You, O Heavenly King, Creator of all things seen and unseen? Who is worthy of thanksgiving and honor more than You? For You are the Lord God, Who gives to all in due season, Who hears the cry of His people, Who sends the Comforter from above, Who raises the poor and humble, Who saves from sin and eternal death.

Holy O Lord and Holy…

Holy O Lord and Holy,
You are Holy indeed O my God,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Every soul praises You,
Every knee bows to You,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

We praise You our Lord with the angels and Saints, bowing before You and proclaiming Your Name to all the world, praising without ceasing saying “Holy, holy, holy, O Lord of Sabbaouth.” We bow before You, O King, so that we may be worthy to call You Father, so that our prayers may be accepted before You. Every soul whom You have saved praises You, and blesses Your Holy Name, for through the most sacred sacrifice of Your only-begotten Son, and Sacrament of Baptism that He instituted, we are freed from the bondage of sin, and are cleansed from burden of eternal death. What greater Love than Yours, O Lord, what greater Love?

O Name full of glory…

O Name full of glory,
O Name full of blessings,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Forever and ever,
We will not cease to praise You,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Yours is the blessings,
The glory and the honor,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

With blessings we bless You,
With glory we glorify You,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

O our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, indeed Your Name is glorified with Your Father in Heaven, and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, the one God. Your Name, O Lord, is full of glory and blessings, thus You are deserving of all praise, glory and honor, O Holy and Mighty one, Lord of Hosts, teach us Your Holy Name. Teach us Our Savior to pray. Teach us our King the way to eternal life. We live our lives in praising You, as Your angels do continuously, that you may grant our weak souls the opportunity to take a glimpse of Your glorious Heavenly Throne, that You may grant us eternal life. We stand before You, Lord, confirming our promise and commitment to You, to praise You on earth and in Heaven, forever.

As long as we live we will praise You…

As long as we live we will praise You,
As long as we are here we will glorify You,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

How wonderful is it, to stand in front of the Lord’s holy altar, facing the East, and proclaiming together our final promise in the hymn: “As long as we live we will praise you, as long as we are here we will glorify you.” This is where we learn from the Saints, who dedicated their lives to the Lord, who praised His Holy Name through all their words and actions, and not just in prayer. This is our responsibility on earth, to praise the Lord and Savior and King of us all, Jesus Christ, to lead the life that will grant us eternal life with Him, to obey His words and to follow His commandments. We are His people. We are His children. May He be praised as long as we live on this earth, for on earth we prepare ourselves for the eternal life of praise in Heaven.

The perfection of all blessings…

The perfection of all blessings,
Is in Your Holy Name,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

Indeed Lord, the perfection of all blessing is in Your Name, and only in You. Let us not praise the earthly matter and authorities that will one day vanish and perish from this world, but let us give praise, glory and honor to the one True Eternal and Powerful King, for He, and only He is deserving of all worship.

Receive our prayers…

Receive our prayers,
We who are sinners,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

O our Lord, Jesus Christ, who accepted to be crucified for the sake of Mankind, for us the sinners; O Holy one who accepted the shedding of His blood for His own flock, accept our prayers, we who are sinners in this world. Grant us, O Lord, the forgiveness of our many sins, for we have sinned against You in heaven and on earth. Teach us, O Lord, to forgive the trespasses of others, so we too may be forgiven from our iniquities.

Grant us Your true peace…

Grant us Your true peace,
And forgive us our sins,
O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior.

O Heavenly King and Comforter, grant us Your true peace, not as the world gives, but as You give from above. The peace of the world is weak and temporary, but Your peace, O Lord, is comforting to our hearts, minds, souls and bodies. For You are the Lord, the Creator, who knows all, and gives to all in due season.

Accept O Lord this praise of sacrifice, when we chant in one accord, “O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Savior, have mercy on me.” Receive, O Lord, this humble prayer, through the never-ending intercessions of Your Holy Mother, Saint Mary the Virgin, and the prayers of all the angels and the Saints who have pleased You since the beginning, Amen.