Why Paraklesis Services?
Being a parent teaches one how and why to pray. I’m sure there are many other stations and situations in life that invoke a spirit of prayerfulness but for me the school of prayer began in earnest when our children started arriving. It was easier when they were very young and still under our roof, when a problem could be solved by a kiss on the forehead, a hug, a glass of milk, and a bedtime story. But as the children grew into young adulthood so too did the size and complexity of their challenges.
Gone are the days when Denise and I could look in on our sleeping little ones and pray for them from the doorway of their bedrooms. And as they have moved off into their university days and beyond, living now across the span of the U.S. and in Europe, how can the distance between us be bridged? How can we manifest our love and concern for our now grown children when a glass of milk and a bedtime story no longer suffices? The answer is, of course, through our constant prayers for them.
To say that parents pray for their children is axiomatic. All parents, and I suspect even non-believing parents, pray for their little ones. It is a reflexive response, after all. We pray as much to console ourselves when we so desperately miss our kids as we do about their specific needs. Prayer is the glue that binds human hearts together around the world. It is in the Eucharistic prayer in the Divine Liturgy that the catholicity, the fulness, of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is most perfectly expressed. The Body of Christ comes together in that sacred and sacramental act of assembling for worship where we, to quote Fr. Alexander Schmemann, become a whole “greater than the sum of its parts.” And on the paten where the commemorative particles rest after the service of Preparation we see a visible clue to the undivided nature of the Church.
There have been times of great need in the lives of our children when simply mouthing a quick prayer wouldn’t do, when the gates of Heaven simply had to be stormed for the protection and salvation of our children. And during these times there is one powerfully effective service of prayer to which I have resorted time and again; the Paraklesis Service to the Mother of God. The very term “paraklesis” gives an idea of its purpose; “para” is a Greek prefix that means “alongside of” and the verb “kaleo” means “to call out.” Hence “paraklesis” means “to call out alongside of” or to invoke the intercessory prayers of the one being addresses, in this case the Mother of God.
The hymnology of the service itself is breathtaking in its beauty. The service, once learned, almost sings itself so lilting and spiritually moving is the experience as the music weaves through the texts of the prayers. And many times I have “sought refuge” (to quote from one of the stanzas, in the comfort of these prayers as I’ve stood in front of our family altar invoking the protection of the Theotokos for an urgent need.
We will introduce the Paraklesis service at St. George beginning the evening of August 1st and continuing every weekday evening at 6:00pm (except on the 5th when we celebrate the Vespers of the Transfiguration) through the 13th. This long-standing tradition in the Church affords us the opportunity to provide the names of our loved ones for whom we wish to fervently pray to the priest before the service begins. Their names will be lifted up to God in the litanies that occur within the service. The timing of this prayer service couldn’t be any better as we begin in August to send our little ones back to school for another school year. What better way to fortify them for the trials and challenges they will face in the year ahead?
The texts for the Paraklesis service can be found on the Greek Archdiocese website at http://www.goarch.org/chapel/
The music for the service itself as recorded by the group Eikona can be found at http://liturgica.com/cart/
I pray that this blessed season of intercessory prayer will be a blessing to you and to your family!