Kneeling Prayers at Pentecost Vespers (1)
Orthodox Christians do not kneel for prayers from Pascha until Pentecost. Following the canon of the first Nicene council, we don’t kneel on Sundays, either. So Vespers on the evening of Pentecost is the first time since Pascha that we kneel; and three marvelous prayers are contained in these “Kneeling Vespers.” Here is the first:
Immaculate, undefiled, without beginning, invisible, incomprehensible, unsearchable, unchangeable, unsurpassable, immeasurable, long-suffering Lord, who alone possess immortality and dwell in unapproachable light; who made the heaven, the earth and the sea and all that was created in them; who grant to all their requests before they ask; we pray and beseech you, Master who love mankind, the Father of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who for our sake and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and Mary, the Ever-Virgin and glorious Mother of God.
Teaching us first by words and later also showing us by deeds, when he underwent the saving Passion, he granted us, your humble, sinful and unworthy servants, an example to offer supplications by the bending of neck and knees for our sins and those committed in ignorance by the people. Do you, then, who are full of mercy and love for mankind, hear us on whatever day we call upon you; but especially on this day of Pentecost, on which after our Lord Jesus Christ had been taken up and been enthroned at your right hand, God and Father, he sent down on his disciples and Apostles the holy Spirit, who settled on each one of them and they were all filled with his inexhaustible grace and spoke in strange tongues of your mighty works and prophesied.
Now therefore hear us as we pray, remember us, humble and condemned, and turn back the captivity of our souls. Receive us as we fall before you and cry out, ‘We have sinned’. On you we have been cast from the womb. From our mother’s womb you are our God. But because our days have wasted away in vanity, we have been stripped of your help, we have been deprived of all defence. But confident of your compassion we cry, ‘Do not remember the sins of our youth and cleanse us of our secret faults. Do not cast us aside in the time of old age. When our strength fails, do not abandon us. Before we return to the earth, count us worthy to turn back to you and give heed to us with kindness and grace. Measure our iniquities by your acts of compassion. Set against the multitude of our offences the depth of your compassion. Look from your holy height, Lord, upon your people here present and who await from you rich mercy. Visit us in your goodness; deliver us from the oppression of the devil; make our lives safe with your holy and sacred laws. Entrust your people to a faithful Angel guardian; gather us all into your kingdom; give pardon to all who hope in you; forgive their sins and ours; purify us by the operation of your holy Spirit; destroy all the wiles of the foe against us’.
Blessed are you Lord, Master almighty, who made the day light with the light of the sun and the night radiant with the rays of fire; who have granted us to pass through the length of the day and to draw near the beginnings of the night. Hear our supplication and that of all your people. And pardoning all of us our offences, voluntary and involuntary, accept our evening entreaties and send down the multitude of your rich mercy and acts of compassion on your inheritance. Wall us about with your holy Angels; arm us with the arms of justice; fence us with the rampart of your truth; guard us by your power; deliver us from every misfortune and from every trick of the adversary. Grant us also that both the present day with the coming night and all the days of our life may be perfect, holy, peaceful, sinless, without stumbling, without dreams, at the prayers of the holy Mother of God and of all the Saints who have been well-pleasing to you since time began.