The Paraklesis Services to the Mother of God (Theotokos) are chanted in times of distress and sorrow of soul and during the first fourteen days of August, and at any other time throughout the year. When we come to church for these services, we bring a list of names of those living people whom we love, care about, and who are in need of prayer. We give this list of names to the priest to be prayed for out loud at times throughout the service.
The Great Paraklesis, as chanted by the monastics at Ormylia Monastery.
As I read the “Great Supplicatory Canon” to the Most Holy Theotokos, I ponder upon my lack of living faith, compared to the trustful, experiential faith that rises out of the lines of this Canon.
With what filial affection and love does a king, Theodore Doukas,00 no less, run to Panayia (the most holy one), when the afflictions and vicissitudes of life tended to become overbearing and overwhelming, pressing him from all sides.
By comparison, we turn to “God” to ask for help—but in a cold, detached way. Our heart is not in it. The prayer is not burning within us. We don’t have παρρησία (parresia), boldness, courage, confidence before God. But that’s where Panayia comes in—she does! King Theodore Doukas knew it. All true Christians know it. And we run to Panayia, who has parresia.
The meaning of Paraklesis
The word Paraklesis has various meanings: calling to one’s aid, imploring, invocation, request, etc. It is most commonly rendered as “supplication”, however an even better rendering is comfort, consolation.
Keep also in mind that the word Parakletos, the Paraclete (John 14:16.25), comes from the same root, meaning, the Comforter, the Helper, the Consoler, the One Christ promised to send us to precisely be with us forever, to guide us, to protect us, to strengthen us, to encourage us, to comfort us.
“Most Holy Virgin Theotokos, save us through your prayers.”
“…through your prayers” is normally understood and implied when we say “save us”. In this Paraklesis refrain, by adding “through your prayers” to “save us,” not only does the English translation now fit the original melody of the Greek words, but the addition also serves to elucidate the implied understanding of how the Mother of God “saves us”.
But in our case, we go to the Mother of the Master, not out of calculated action, but spontaneously, with the simplicity and naturalness with which a child runs to its mother for protection and comfort.
Yes, with trust and confidence, we approach the Theotokos as we would with our own mother:
my trust and my hope I place.
Mother of our God:
keep and hold me
in your protecting arms.” 0
We are consoled and comforted by the mother of the Lord—and she is our mother—for if she is the mother of the head, surely she is the mother of the entire body. If she can contain God in the flesh, surely she can contain His Body, the Church. That’s why she is represented behind and above the altar in many churches, as the Platytera ton Ouranon, “More Spacious than Heaven”.
Placing ourselves under her maternal protection we have nothing to fear, just as when an infant clings to its mother’s breast, all its fears, anxieties, disquietude and danger disappear. A child, in case of imminent danger and threat of harm, automatically cries out, “Mom!” And it doesn’t stop to think, “Well, let’s see, I have here an option: I can call upon my father, or my uncle Harry, or my mother. I think I’ll call upon my mother.” No. It is a spontaneous cry, that surges naturally from the heart. Why? Because the mother is always there. She has been and we can count that she will be there—if at all humanly possible.
So too in the case of Panayia, she is there and more so than any natural mother. Because she is not limited in any way, as an earthy mother is. She is “able and willing.” Not only “able and willing,” but eager and potent. Because her love is great.
So when our heart is troubled, when the adversities seem to multiply, when suffering seems intolerable, when grief, sorrow, sadness strike us; when anguish and anxiety have the upper hand, when we are “stressed out”—where do we go? To Panagia.
When we are upset, agitated, nervous, irritated, aggravated and distressed; confused, bewildered and disoriented; when we don’t feel well, when we feel sick and are not in a mood of doing anything—where do we go? To Panagia.
Do we address our condition as one needing visitation and comfort “from above?” Do we see a personal God behind every happening and occurrence in our lives and in the world that surrounds us?
May we always see clearly our dependence on God in everything we do, in everything that happens around us, and within us. And may we find the wisdom to run to the holy Theotokos, who is “Quick of Hearing,” as children do with their mother, and lay before her all our problems, confident that she will act upon them.
We look forward to these blessed days of the daily Paraklesis or Consolation services, and of our turning to the blessed Virgin and Mother of God for her powerful protection, to find comfort and solace in her bosom. As the old Latin hymn goes:
“Tu solatium et refugium
Virgo Mater Maria!
Ora pro nobis.”
You are our solace and refuge,
Virgin Mother Mary!
Pray for us.
- He composed the “Great” Supplicatory Canon.
- Chanted in place of the Exaposteilaria, on days of the year other than the first 14 days of August)