Earthquakes and Liturgy

On Sunday in the Orthodox Church, we will commemorate the Great Earthquake in Constantinople in 740 CE. We will sing the following Kontakion:

Deliver us all from upheavals, and from terrible afflictions caused by our sins, O Lord, and spare thy people whom Thou hast purchased with Thy blood, O Master! Do not deliver Thy city to destruction by terrible earthquakes, for we know no other God but Thee; and to those who cry out Thou dost respond: “I am with you, and no one will be against you.” (text credit: web site of the Orthodox Church in America).

It is quite tempting to question the relevance of singing such a historically-conditioned hymn. It makes sense for those of us who live near fault lines; the threat of a serious earthquake in Southern California is always present. Personally, I think one can glean a theme of petitioning God for mercy when a catastrophe is possible. Natural disasters should remind us that life is fragile, and that all of our petitions should be preceded by sincere thanksgiving, “for God is with us.”

4 comments

  1. Nicholas, as a fellow southern Californian, I do not question the relevance of this hymn. Let me offer my incomplete list of invocations in the time of earthquakes.

    Our Lady of Comfort
    Holy Angel of the Resurrection

    St. Agatha (February 5)
    Saint Felix of Brescia (February 23)
    Saint Caesarius of Nazianzen (February 25, converted by an earthquake)
    Saint Eustochia Calafato (January 20, invoked in Messina, Sicily against earthquakes)
    Blessed Luigi Orione (March 16, helper of earthquake victims, Tortona, Italy)
    Saint Antoninus (May 2)
    Saint Mamertus (May 11)
    Saint Maraiana de Paredes (May 26)
    Blessed Maria Schinina (June 16)
    St. Emydius (August 9)
    St. Rose (August 23)
    St. Toribio (March 23)
    Saint Francis Borgia
    Saint Gregory Thaumaturgos

    By your calming of the storm, Lord, save your people.

    Bless all public servants who are preparing for earthquake emergencies: Lord, hear our prayer.

    Jewish prayer before an earthquake:

    Barúch attá Adonái Elohéinu mélech ha-olám oséh ma-aséh ve-rey-shéet.
    Praised are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who does the work of creation.

    Jewish prayer after an earthquake:

    Barúch attá Adonái Elohéinu mélech ha-olám she-ko-chó u-ge-vú-ra-tó ma-léy olám.
    Praised are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, whose power and might fill the world.

  2. Greetings Paul,

    How could you forget the most famous of all Southern California invocations?

    “Saint Andrew, protect us from all evil…and especially from your fault.”

    Get it? San Andreas fault…

  3. Bill Wallace, a New Zealand poet and mystic, considers how earthquakes are part of the process of God’s creation in a hymn from the about-to-be-published “Singing the Sacred, Volume 2.”
    http://www.wlp.jspaluch.com/13989.htm

    When Earth wakes from out of sleep
    With a terrifying shake,
    Does our life lie torn apart
    Like the dwellings we forsake?
    Cosmic God, each process shows
    Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.

    Once we thought that earthquakes came
    From a god to punish wrong;
    Now we know they place Earth’s plates
    Where for now they should belong.
    Cosmic God, each process shows
    Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.

    If we think that all that comes
    Is made solely for our good,
    We have placed ourselves above
    Cosmic ways and livelihood.
    Cosmic God, each process shows
    Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.

    If Earth’s plates now need to move,
    Its great need exceeds our own,
    And it does not take account
    Where we choose to make our home.
    Cosmic God, each process shows
    Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.

    For the answers we return
    To the Cosmos and its ways,
    Ways that humble all our pride,
    Ways that fill our hearts with praise.
    Cosmic God of everything,
    Your great mystery now we sing.

    William L. Wallace, Copyright © 2014, World Library Publications

    This was written shortly after he was shaken up by the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011. (I’m the editor of the publication. For permission to use the text, click on Reprints button in link above.)

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