one, many

Open our mouth and fill it with your praise, that we may be able without distraction to sing and confess that you are God, glorified in all and by all, the eternal Father, with your only begotten Son, and your all holy, good, and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.

Open our mouth, not my mouth. It’s a wonderful truth that the Orthodox tradition has honored far better than other Christian traditions: every act of prayer or praise is always an act done in the company of others, even when done by a single person alone. How can this be?

Although I don’t think about it very often, I do nothing alone. Everyone who came before me in my family tree lives in my genes and in my upbringing. My grandfather who whistled and had a great reverence for the written word; my grandmother who kept a spotless house and a growing garden; my father whose deep faith supported my own, even without words; my mother who gave me breath and form, but knew that God authored my life. Without them and countless others long forgotten, I would not pray and praise because I would not be alive.

I can thank God for the blessings in my life, but only partially. I’m too small and limited to see the breadth of grace that holds my life. But I can add my own unique voice to the others who pray and praise. Through my words, they speak. Through their faith, I can praise my infinite God. The many speak as one, the one prays for the many. It isn’t a mathematical truth, but it’s a mystical one. I for one (and with many) am grateful for it.


For the complete prayer, click on Prayer of Saint Basil above.

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