As I think I have posted before, I have been steadily transcribing the Matins and Vespers prayers of the Church into my computer, formatting them into a Franklin Compact planner size so that I can take them with me either when I travel, or on my way to class, or just out for a morning walk. It started when I first learned of praying the Hours, when I was 12; something about having a fixed time for praise and supplication has just always fascinated me, and when I came across a Horologion for laymen (now, unfortunately, out of print), I scarfed on it. That was something like 12 years ago. Then I attended the Summer School of Liturgical Music in Jordanville, NY (being at the time a choir director), and learned that there were a whole lot of other prayers that I wasn't praying, and without them, I couldn't learn the music I needed to in order to graduate from the course.
That finished me, and over the past year, I have been transcribing first the Octoechos, then the Triodion, and lately the Pentecostarion. I do have permission from my spiritual father, though he asked, "Did another priest tell you to do this, or is this something you dreamed up on your own?" Once I explained the circumstances to him, he blessed me to keep praying these prayers, and I must say that my understanding of the Church has taken off since reading the various Canons. For example, who knew that the entire week of the Fourth Tone has Canons to the Theotokos asking for her protection specifically from Moslems?? Could have used that around 9/11!
Today I have entered the rubrics for the Matins of the final Saturday of the Souls. There is no form of death that is not covered in these rubrics. It's sobering to read prayers for people who have "been rent asunder by beasts, who have been devoured by fish, or who were buried in earthquakes or pits or under cliffs" -- among many other forms of perishing. And all of them committed into the compassionate hands of the Lover of mankind.
It brings a thought to mind, though. We all have people in our lives whom we just can't stand, who just rub us the wrong way. There are multitudes of people who have seemingly gone out of their way to wrong us. And there are people who have inadvertently wronged us, people who live to stir up trouble, and idiots with whom we share the road. And they all cross our paths at one point or another.
Now, someday, all these people will also die and face God. And what then? I mean, supposing you were already dead, and by God's mercy you found yourself in paradise, and along comes this schmuck who tried to steal your job, or who made your work or school life miserable. And he's standing there before God, being judged, and his life is the usual mess of good stuff and bad stuff that all of us have. You get to see him as he really is, wretched and trembling and possibly terrified at finding himself not in his body anymore. And -- what? Would you really stand there and say, "I hope I don't have to live with this guy in eternity, too"? Because what would be the alternative? Could you really hope *anybody* would spend eternity in hell???
I don't think I could, and I've known some doozies in my lifetime. Thing is, there are people walking around out there who, when they say they've known some doozies in their lifetime -- I'm at the top of their list. Yet I know I hope not to spend eternity in hell, so what makes me better than my own doozies? Which means...either I go to hell, or I'm gonna have to spend eternity with these characters. Including all those wretched teachers who made my son's life so miserable when he was just a kid. You have no idea what forgiveness costs until you have to extend it to somebody who hurt your kid, especially when they should have known better.
Could I really wish them in hell, for eternity??....