Seraphim, Monk of Sarov, Spiritual Guide, 1833
Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah, Bishop in South India, Evangelist, 1945
I love you, O Lord my strength.
The Lord is my crag, my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield,
the horn of my salvation and my stronghold.
I cried to the Lord in my anguish
and I was saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entwined me
and the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the Pit fastened about me
and the snares of death entangled me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord
and cried out to my God for help.
He heard my voice in his temple
and my cry came to his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked;
the foundations of the mountains shook;
they reeled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils
and a consuming fire went out of his mouth;
burning coals blazed forth from him.
He parted the heavens and came down
and thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode upon the cherubim and flew;
he came flying on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering round about him,
dark waters and thick clouds his pavilion.
From the brightness of his presence,
through the clouds burst hailstones and coals of fire.
The Lord also thundered out of heaven;
the Most High uttered his voice with hailstones and coals of fire.
He sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he hurled down lightnings and put them to flight.
The springs of the ocean were seen,
and the foundations of the world uncovered at your rebuke,
O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your displeasure.
He reached down from on high and took me;
he drew me out of the mighty waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
from foes that were too mighty for me.
They came upon me in the day of my trouble;
but the Lord was my upholder.
He brought me out into a place of liberty;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
The Lord rewarded me after my righteous dealing;
according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me,
Because I had kept the ways of the Lord
and had not gone wickedly away from my God,
For I had an eye to all his laws,
and did not cast out his commandments from me.
I was also wholehearted before him and kept myself from iniquity;
Therefore the Lord rewarded me after my righteous dealing,
and according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
With the faithful you show yourself faithful;
with the true you show yourself true;
With the pure you show yourself pure,
but with the crooked you show yourself perverse.
For you will save a lowly people
and bring down the high looks of the proud.
You also shall light my candle;
the Lord my God shall make my darkness to be bright.
By your help I shall run at an enemy host;
with the help of my God I can leap over a wall.
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there for about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons or her husband.
Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had had consideration for his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.’ Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, ‘No, we will return with you to your people.’ But Naomi said, ‘Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband.
Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.’ Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
So she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said,
‘Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die - there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!’
When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’ She said to them,
‘Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara,
for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.
I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty;
why call me Naomi
when the Lord has dealt harshly with me,
and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?’
So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.
Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.
Lord God,whose servants Basil and Gregory
proclaimed the mystery of your Word made flesh,
to build up your Church in wisdom and strength:
grant that we may rejoice in his presence among us,
and so be brought with them to know the power of your unending love;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.