Paraklesis: Ill am I in body, Ill am I also in my soul
Ms Christina Andresen
Some days I am acutely aware of my complex psychosomatic existence. Hmm, that sounds dramatic. What I mean is that there are days when I can feel my bad mood become a headache or my sore muscles come out as crankiness at my family or my lack of prayer in the morning hang over my day as a gloomy cloud of lethargy. I can feel my emotions mixing with my thoughts mixing with my bodily functions mixing with my spiritual state, and I can’t tear any of it apart. It’s completely exasperating.
Well, here’s some good news for Orthodox Christians: that mixed up feeling between body and soul is part of what it means to be human and we have a service for that.
Diseased is the body and the soul;
Deem me truly worthy
Of divine guidance and your care
For you along are God’s Mother,
As the good and the birthgiver of the Good.
Paraklesis (or, as my husband calls it: Pair-uh-KLEE-sus…please, please don’t say it like that) is a canon of supplication (read: long poem asking for help) to the Theotokos. The funny name means “consolation” or “solace” because the service is sung to the Mother of God asking for her to bring comfort and solace to our broken bodies and souls through her prayers to her Son and our God.
In the Byzantine tradition, the Paraklesis is sung especially during the fast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, but it can be offered up at any time of the year. The service is centered around the chanting of the canon itself which is broken into nine parts or odes. The canon overflows with beautiful poetry, describing that confusion and suffering which our bodies and souls can cause us when we lack God’s grace and asking for the intercessions of the one who can bring miracles to fruition before their time.
What makes Paraklesis even more special? Each person brings a list with names of their family and friends–especially those who are sick, suffering, or feeling lost in life–and gives them to the priest. During the litanies of Paraklesis (you know, the ones that start with “Again we pray for…”), the priest offers up these names individually so that they are lifted from our hearts and into the heavens, placing our hope in the Theotokos who shelters and protects us in our times of need. The Theotokos relieves us with her love and her prayers of all of the anxiety, confusion, and mixed-up craziness of our lives and the lives of those we love.
All of your servants, from dangers, O Theotokos;
After God, we all flee to you,
For shelter and covering,
As an unshakable wall and our protection.
College students, want to learn more about Paraklesis and share its beauty with others? Check out OCF’s newest Praxis Program, Day of Light to help make liturgy a way of life, not just a Sunday thing.