On Behalf of All and For All

picture-184There is a great mystery in the life of the Christian faith. An example can be found in words of St. Nikolai of Zicha (Prayers of the Lake XXIX). It is this mystery of communion that is so easily missed by those who dismiss Orthodox Christianity, or reduce Christianity to an argument about miracles. The Orthodox faith teaches us the truth about what it means to exist as a human being. We know these things because we know Christ – Who alone is the perfect man (and perfect God). The rejection of the Christian faith (in the fullness of Orthodoxy) is not the rejection of an argument, much less of peasant superstition, but a rejection finally of humanity itself. St. Nikolai stands in the heart of Orthodox Tradition as he offers these prayerful, poetic words.
For all the sins of men I repent before You, Most Merciful Lord. Indeed, the seed of all sins flows in my blood! With my effort and Your mercy I choke this wicked crop of weeds day and night, so that no tare may sprout in the field of the Lord, but only pure wheat.1

I repent for all those who are worried, who stagger under a burden of worries and do not know that they should put all their worries on You. For feeble man even the most minor worry is unbearable, but for You a mountain of worries is like a snowball thrown into a fiery furnace.

I repent for all the sick, for sickness is the fruit of sin. When the soul is cleansed with repentance, sickness disappears with sin, and You, my Eternal Health, take up Your abode in the soul.

I repent for unbelievers, who through their unbelief amass worries and sicknesses both on themselves and on their friends.

I repent for all those who blaspheme God, who blaspheme against You without knowing that they are blaspheming against the Master, who clothes them and feeds them.

I repent for all the slayers of men, who take the life of another to preserve their own. Forgive them, Most Merciful2 Lord, for they know not what they do. For they do not know that there are not two lives in the universe, but one, and that there are not two men in the universe, but one. Ah, how dead are those who cut the heart in half!

I repent for all those who bear false witness, for in reality they are homicides and suicides.

For all my brothers who are thieves and who are hoarders of unneeded wealth I weep and sigh, for they have buried their soul and have nothing with which to go forth before You.

For all the arrogant and the boastful I weep and sigh, for before You they are like beggars with empty pockets.

For all drunkards and gluttons I weep and sigh, for they have become servants of their servants.

For all adulterers I repent, for they have betrayed the trust. of the Holy Spirit, who chose them to form new life through them. Instead, they turned serving life into destroying life.

For all gossipers I repent, for they have turned Your most precious gift, the gift of speech, into cheap sand.

For all those who destroy their neighbor’s hearth and home and their neighbor’s peace I repent and sigh, for they bring a curse on themselves and their people.

For all lying tongues, for all suspicious eyes, for all raging hearts, for all insatiable stomachs, for all darkened minds, for all ill will, for all unseemly thoughts, for all murderous emotions–I repent, weep and sigh.

For all the history of mankind from Adam to me, a sinner, I repent; for all history is in my blood. For I am in Adam and Adam is in me.

For all the worlds, large and small, that do not tremble before Your awesome presence, I weep and cry out: O Master Most Merciful, have mercy on me and save me!”


1. For the parable of the wheat and the tares, see Matt. 13:24-30.

2. Cf. Luke 23:34.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





15 responses to “On Behalf of All and For All”

  1. Troy Avatar

    This reminds me of a great quote from Dostoevsky’s magnificent The Brothers Karamazov:

    There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For indeed it is so, my friend, and the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all. Whereas by shifting your own laziness and powerlessness onto others, you will end by sharing in Satan’s pride and murmuring against God.

  2. Wonders for Oyarsa Avatar

    Is this then, the answer to Ivan in Rebellion? To the man who looks upon the woman whose son is torn apart by dogs on the order of a wicked lord, and says “she dare not forgive him”. To the man who says “I must respectfully return my ticket – I reject this world” to God? Is Dostoyevski saying, as the prophet Nathan, “thou art the man!”?

  3. Damaris Avatar

    This is profound and I don’t question it but just pray for understanding. Please describe for us, Father Stephen, the difference between this repenting for the sins of the world and the sort of officious neurosis that takes on responsibilities it has no right to. I refer to the sort of people who claim “It’s all my fault” about everything and in doing so turn the focus always on themselves. My first instinct is that in the first (correct) case, the repentent one identifies himself in humility with sinners, while in the second case, the neurotic one identifies himself with God — an imaginary god.

  4. fatherstephen Avatar


    Yes, and more. In the novel, the answer to the quesitons is literally, the Elder Zossima, who both teaches and does these things. OF course, this is Dostoevsky at his most Orthodox. “On behalf of all and for all,” is from the Liturgy. St. Silouan will write about it in his chapter “Adam’s Lament.” It’s all over the place in Orthodox writings – and nowhere else to my knowledge.

  5. katia Avatar

    Fr Stephen Bless,

    Christ is Risen!

    Excerpt from the book
    “Gems from the Sunday and Feasts Gospels”
    By Anthony M. Coniaris

    “A Frenchman was crossing the desert with an Arab guide. Day after day the Arab knelt on the burning sand and called upon his God in prayer.
    One evening when the Arab knelt to pray, the unbelieving Frenchman asked him: “How do you know there is a God?”
    The guide fixed his eyes upon the scoffer for a moment and then replied: “How do I know there is a God? I’ll answer that question, if you permit me to ask you one first. How did we know this morning that it was a camel and not a man that had passed our tent while we slept last night?”
    The Frenchman laughed and said, “Why, we could tell it by the print of the hoof in the sand. That print was not from the foot of a man.”
    The Arab then looked to the West where the setting sun threw shafts of red and gold and purple into the vaulted canopy of heaven, and pointing toward the sun, he said: “Neither is that the footprint of a man.”
    The world about us is filled with the footprints of God! Every sunset, every sunrise, every tree, every flower, every lake, every blade of grass, every twinkling star in the diamond-studded ceiling which envelops this marvelous world of ours — is a footprint of our Maker.
    The Bible tells us: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). He who can see the scarlet sun sink into its pool of purple, splashing the sky with streaks of gold and crimson — and still not see the footprint of his Maker — is like a pair of spectacles without a pair of eyes behind them.
    But God has not left us to follow the path to Him by footprints. He has revealed Himself to us through the pages of His Word. The book of nature may tell us that there is a God, but only the Book of God can tell us who He is — and what He has done for us through Jesus Christ, His Son.
    The footprints of the setting and the rising sun may tell us that God is. But only the nailprints in the hands of our Savior can tell us that God is — LOVE.
    Jesus appeared to the disciples, and to Thomas, showing them the scars in His hands and side — scars that were proof of His love; scars that won for us the final Victory over death; scars that speak a compassionate word of understanding to our wounds; scars which if we have re-opened through our sin, we can hopefully re-close through our sincere and honest repentance.
    Too long have we been hard on Thomas. He is now our spokesman. Surrounded by scars we, too, say: “Until I see in His own hands the mark of the nails, and put my finger into the nailmarks and my hand into His side, I will never believe.” Having seen the scars, we cannot but say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

  6. katia Avatar

    Fr Stephen please forgive me for the long postings, i just could not resist to share this reading that made me cry with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

    Excerpt from the book
    “Gems from the Sunday and Feasts Gospels”
    By Anthony M. Coniaris

    The Scars Speak.

    First, the scars of Christ speak most eloquently of His love for us. St. Paul writes, “While we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one would hardly die for a righteous man — though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8).

    A little girl sat on her mother’s knee, and as she looked into her mother’s face she said: “Mummie, you’ve got the prettiest hair and the sweetest eyes I have ever seen. And Mummie, yours is the kindest face in all the world. But, Mummie, why are your arms so ugly?” The mother then explained to her daughter that when she was a tiny baby the house caught fire. She ran into the house and rescued her out of her crib. In the process her arms and hands were badly burned. When the little girl heard this, tears began streaming down her face. Looking once more into her mother’s face she said, “Mummie, you’ve got the prettiest hair I have ever seen, and yours is the sweetest face, and your eyes are wonderful. But, Mummie, your hands and your arms are the most beautiful of all. I have loved you always, but I love you more than ever now.”

    The scars of Jesus speak eloquently of His love for us. Such eloquence should evoke in every true Christian the response it evoked in Thomas and in the little girl, “My Lord and my God, I loved you before but more than ever now.

    Secondly, the scars of Jesus teach us that life is a struggle. Whoever got the idea that a good Christian never suffers? “God had one son without sin,” said St. Augustine. “He has no sons without suffering.” He has never promised us immunity from suffering — His own Son suffered — but He has promised us victory in our suffering. “In the world you have tribulation but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world,” He said. The worst thing that evil can do is to kill God. Having been defeated in that, in its strongest moment, when evil wore its greatest armor, it can never be victorious again.

    Thirdly, the scars of Jesus speak eloquently of His love, but they also speak to our scars. The hardest part of suffering for Christians is the dark hour when they are tempted to believe that God is not with them in their suffering; when they suppose that Jesus reigns in some far-off splendor, untroubled by their woe. This is simply not true! The first thing Jesus does when He comes to sufferers is to show them His scarred hands. What a password! When you are pouring out your passionate protests to Jesus and asking Him why this should happen to you, look! He is showing you His hands.

    Finally the scars on the body of Jesus were caused by man’s sin. If we were to choose a symbol for sin, perhaps the best one would be a nail. Each sin is a nail that continues to be driven into the body of Jesus. The best definition of sin is that it is not only the breaking of God’s commandments, but even more so the breaking of God’s heart.

    There was a soldier who was with the occupying forces in Germany, far from wife and home and loved ones. One evening he was walking down a German street, where one of the few buildings remaining was a house of ill fame, its doorway decorated with suggestive photographs. He was greatly tempted. He reached into his pocket for his billfold. As he opened it his eyes fell on a picture of the crucified Christ which he always carried with him. He saw the scars on the hands of our Lord. He thought of the nails his sin would drive into those hands. Then, without hesitation, he walked away from temptation saying to himself, “I cannot sin against Him. I had forgotten the scars.”

  7. fatherstephen Avatar


    It can only be done in humility and the sort of identification that Christ made. Second, neurosis is born of the diseased legalistic view of the world and sin that has no place within Orthodoxy.

    I cannot have communion with others – the true communion of the true humanity – without sharing in a mystical way – in their sin as well as their righteousness. It’s about communion, participation, and not neurosis.

  8. fatherstephen Avatar

    I have written elsewhere that “You are not defined by your neuroses.” To this I would add, “You are defined by communion.”

  9. Damaris Avatar

    Thank you, father. That’s clear.

  10. Marsha Avatar

    I LOVE that corollary to my favorite quote of yours! It occurs to me that it is what you say all the time, in many different ways. “We were created to live in Communion with God, and other people..”

  11. Marsha Avatar


    it occurs to me after further thinking, that one of the reasons we want to neurotically take the blame for things is that we want to be able to fix them. If it is my fault that a person is unhappy, then by definition, we can make them happy. It is a hard thing to sit close by and love without trying to fix something…for some of us anyway.

    Which may be the “godlike” syndrome you were speaking of.

  12. Karen Avatar

    Dear Father, bless! I came across this post after seeing one of my friends to the ER and trying to pray for her. Very timely, as you will understand as you read on.

    Marsha, your words are a God sent reminder to me today. That is a very hard, but necessary, balance to hold. Two dear friends, an elderly lady who is becoming increasingly feeble and infirm and her daughter (who in her fifties is also disabled by osteoarthritis and spinal abnormalities) had to be taken to the ER this past weekend and each time I was called upon (my husband took care of the situation the second time, calling the ambulance, etc.). I have been involved in their lives for about three years in a friendship and supportive role. Their needs on all levels are intense. Both are Christians, with Fundamentalist underpinnings hindering their understanding of the fullness of the Gospel. Their lives have been a series of health crises that only get more serious and intense and frequent as time goes on. In fact, I would say they have reached their zenith this past week. Their many afflictions as well as the spiritual and relational needs in their lives have given me much reason to reflect on how God in His wisdom allows us to go through such pain and how it accomplishes His purposes. They have not benefitted very much from people suggesting they need to do the hard thing or face more severe consequences because their Fundamentalist beliefs of the wrathful God tend to make them see themselves as victims of His “punishment” when in fact they are victims of their own and other sinful human beings wrong choices, and have blurred the lines of responsibility for them quite a bit. The manner in which similar minded Christians have tended to speak to them about this (often I think with a certain coldness, emotional abandonment, and overtones of condemnation) has tended to reinforce and exacerbate their sense of victimization. If pain and difficulty are sent as teachers to help us change our ways of thinking and responding, then God is having to scream very loudly to get these two ladies’ attention. Pray for me, because my task is to lovingly reflect reality to these two beloved ladies this week and not succumb to the temptation to try to soften the blow by feeding delusion. It’s a difficult task to stay out of God’s way and let Him do His work when it is this painful. I myself have difficulty discerning when I am loving sacrificially as God has called us to do and when I am enabling perpetuation of delusion to my own hurt and actually getting in God’s way. Often it takes the cold light of difficult circumstances to make that clear to me as well, which is God’s mercy just as much as those things we can easily see as His blessings in our life.

  13. Marsha Avatar

    “I myself have difficulty discerning when I am loving sacrificially as God has called us to do and when I am enabling perpetuation of delusion to my own hurt and actually getting in God’s way. ”

    Karen, ditto!!

  14. fatherstephen Avatar

    We will inevitably get it wrong from time to time. The repentance getting it wrong should engender helps us get it right.

    One of the Sts. Teresa (I can’t remember which one) said:

    “If you can bear serenely the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a place of refuge.”

  15. Karen Avatar

    Beautiful quote–and comforting for us sinners! Such serenity in the face of our own failure is hard to come by and impossible without the grace of God, but we don’t give up. My husband and I prayed the Serenity Prayer together for ourselves and for our friends last night. Thank you, Father.

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