Both of my children, Seamus and Jonah are speech delayed. Because of this, I have always tried to find simple prayers for Seamus- who can talk- to say. After many tries, we finally accomplished the short and simple, but oh so mighty prayer, ‘Lord have mercy.’ And the smile on that boy’s face, I tell you…
There are times that I get discouraged that my children are delayed: when they are playing at a park with other children, the phrase “I don’t understand you,” gets said often. And Seamus is always asked to repeat himself, even by me and mom. And of course some of the speech issues overlap into other processing issues: sounds, touch, coordination, etc. It always saddens me that if we forget to prepare Seamus for something, he freaks out; like when we go up to get anointed by our priest, or if we switch communion lines. Sometimes simply trying to leave the house results in meltdowns.
But there are times when I forget all about these issues. Times when I revel in the sheer beauty of my children. The simple way they attempt to cross themselves. The way Seamus will prostrate every time because it was Lent when we started teaching him to pray. The way my two year old, Jonah, still smack-kisses the icons, each and every one of them, each and every time! And how proud he is when he sees the icon of the Archangel Gabriel and he pats his chest, telling us and everyone around him that that is his icon, his patron.
But recently, nothing has gotten to me more than a story my four year old told me. Seamus quietly came up to me one night and told me that he was playing with Mary. ‘Who is Mary?’ I asked him, only to have him lead me to his room and show me. There he proceeded to show me the icon of the Theotokos that is at his height. “This is Mary!” he said to me.
He went on to tell me that he and Mary play together often. That she is in his room a lot, and that she has a house she lives in in our house. I’m sure some of this is simple make believe. But I believe very much, that he is interacting with Mary, and the other saints, too. And I believe whole-heartedly that he knows and experiences God in a way that I can only hope to.
“Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Mat. 19:14
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.
– Opening for all Divine services in the Orthodox Church
We are people of the Kingdom. We have a Lord, a Kyrios, a King. One Godhead in three persons: God the Father God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We are part of His Kingdom. Indeed the Kingdom is within us! “For behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Luke 17:20-21
For an interesting meditation on the idea of the Kingdom being “in our midst” and “within us” see my To Ponder on the word ἐντός.
When we gather as church or when we pray alone in our closet we must make present the Kingdom of God. “Thy Kingdom come” is a petition for just this. It is a request to be a subject in the Kingdom – to be in the Kingdom of heaven here on earth and actualize it within our hearts.
This petition also has an eschatological character. In the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, speaking of Christ we say “He shall come again with Glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.” We are also looking forward to resurrection – to life eternal in the Kingdom.
Naturally coupled with our desire for the Kingdom is a desire for the will of God to be done. “Thy will be done.” Here we are placing ourselves personally in the Kingdom by aligning our will with the will of the Father. “Father…not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Christ the perfect man reveals in himself this perfect union of our will with the will of the Father.
“For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40
Brothers and sisters let us always desire the Kingdom of Heaven, perfectly submitting our will to the will of the Father in the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So too the Church in and by the Holy Spirit brings Christ into the world, in both a mystical and carnal sense. The Gospel of Christ is communicated by the Holy Spirit. Prayer for the world is accomplished in the Holy Spirit. The bread and wine – offered upon the altar on behalf of all and for all – at the epiclesis (the invocation of the Holy Spirit) becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
The second element I wish to draw attention to is the Apostles and more specifically Peter and Paul. Obviously Paul was not with the disciples and the women at the Descent of the Holy Spirit. By placing Paul among those in the upper room the icon reveals the mystical reality of the church. Paul is an Apostle. The Apostle to the Gentiles. Nearly half of the books comprising the New Testament are attributed to him. Here in Peter and Paul we see another image of the Church. Peter and the twelve represent the Israelites – Paul the Gentiles. Here is the Church – the fullness of humanity gathered in the Holy Spirit.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27
Oh Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth,
Who art everywhere present and fillest all things,
Treasury of blessings and giver of life,
Come and abide in us, cleanse us from all impurity,
And save our souls, O Good One.