How we ought also to Offer our Firstfruits to the Lord

An exhortation of Abbot Theonas from The Conferences of St. John Cassian; Conference 11: Chapter 26.

But what shall I say of the firstfruits which surely are given daily by all who serve Christ faithfully? For when men waking from sleep and arising with renewed activity after their rest, before they take in any impulse or thought in their heart, or admit any recollection or consideration of business consecrate their first and earliest thoughts as divine offerings, what are they doing indeed but rendering the firstfruits of their produce through the High Priest Jesus Christ for the enjoyment of this life and a figure of the daily resurrection? And also when roused from sleep in the same way they offer to God a sacrifice of joy and invoke Him with the first motion of their tongue and celebrate His name and praise, and throwing open, the first thing, the door of their lips to sing hymns to Him, they offer to God the offices of their mouth; and to Him also in the same way they bring the earliest offerings of their hands and steps, when they rise from bed and stand in prayer and before they use the services of their limbs for their own purposes, take to themselves nothing of their services, but for His glory advance their steps, and set them in His praise and so render the first fruits of all their movements by stretching forth the hands, bending the knees, and prostrating the whole body. For in no other way can we fulfill that of which we sing in the Psalm: “I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help;” and: “My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word;” and: “In the morning my prayer comes before You;” unless after our rest in sleep when, as we said above, we are restored as from darkness and death to this light, we have the courage not to begin by taking any of all the services both of mind and body for our own uses. For there is no other morning which the prophet “rises before,” or which in the same way we ought to rise before, except either ourselves, i.e., our occupations and feelings and earthly cares, without which we cannot exist — or the most subtle suggestions of the adversary, which he tries to suggest to us, while still resting and overcome with sleep, by the phantoms of vain dreams, with which, when we presently awake, he will fill our minds and occupy us, that he may be the first to seize and carry off the spoils of our firstfruits. Wherefore we must take the utmost care (if we want to fulfill in act the meaning of the above quoted verse) that an anxious watchfulness takes regard of our first and earliest morning thoughts, that they may not be defiled beforehand being hastily taken possession of by our jealous adversary, and thus he may make our firstfruits to be rejected by the Lord as worthless and common. And if he is not prevented by us with watchful circumspection of mind, he will not lay aside his habit of miserably anticipating us nor cease day after day to prevent us by his wiles. And therefore if we want to offer firstfruits that are acceptable and well pleasing to God of the fruits of our mind, we ought to spend no ordinary care to keep all the senses of our body, especially during the hours of the morning, as a sacred holocaust to the Lord pure and undefiled in all things. And this kind of devotion many even of those who live in the world observe with the utmost care, as they rise before it is light or very early, and do not at all mix in the ordinary and necessary business of this world before hastening to church and striving to consecrate in the sight of God the firstfruits of all their actions and doings.

 

A Morning Prayer ascribed to St. Bishoy

(known as St. Paisios in the Eastern Orthodox Church)

 

O Lord Jesus Christ my God, give me a good, sinless, and spotless day.

O Lord, forsake me not.

O Lord, do not stand afar off from me                        Ps 37(38):31

O Lord, stretch out to me a helping hand.

O Lord, support me with the fear of You.

O Lord, plant this fear and the love for You in my heart.

O Lord, teach me to do Your will.                               Ps 142(143):10

O Lord, grant mourning and humility to my heart.

O Lord, give me unceasing tears, compunction, and the remembrance of death.

O Lord, free me from every temptation of soul and body.

O Lord, expel from me every unclean thought, and every shameful and improper imagination.

O Lord, wipe out of me the negligence, the indolence, the sorrow, the forgetfulness, the insensitivity, the hardness, and the captivity of my mind.

O Lord, have mercy on me, as You know and as You wish, and forgive all my transgressions.

Grant that my pitiful soul may depart from my wretched body in quietude, in good repentance, in unhesitating confession, and in pure and spotless faith. Amen.

 

The above prayer was taken from p. 19 of Voices in the Wilderness: An Anthology of Patristic Prayers edited and translated from the Greek by Nikolaos S. Hatzinikolaou, published by Holy Cross Monastery, Brookline, MA  © 1988