Dear Beloved in Christ,God is with us!
In the Presanctified Liturgy, a series of 15 psalms are read, while the priest prepares the Holy Gifts upon the altar. These psalms are called the Psalms of Ascent, because historically they were sung by the Jewish people as the made their pilgrimage up to the high city of Jerusalem for the major Jewish feasts.
In the second psalm of the series, Psalm 120, we read about the Lord of Israel who never “slumbers or sleeps,” but unceasingly protects His people. In Orthodox iconography, Jesus Christ is The Unsleeping One, as pictured in this Icon.
This icon is called “Anapeson” in the Byzantine tradition, which means “reclining” and is a reference to another Biblical passage. In Genesis, Chapter 49, Jacob gathers his sons for a final blessing before he reposes. To Judah he says, “Judah is a lion’s cub. … Reclining he slept as a lion, and as a [lion’s] whelp; who shall rouse him up?”
The image of Jesus as the Unsleeping One becomes even more clear on Holy Saturday, when we sing the hymn: “Come, let us see our Life lying in the tomb, that he may give life to those that lie dead in their tombs. Come, let us look today on the Son of Judah as he sleeps, and with the prophet let us cry aloud to him: You have lain down; you have slept as a lion; who shall awaken you, O King?”
In turbulent times such as these, people sometimes ask, “Where is God?” This thought may creep into our own thinking as well. Through Psalm 120 and through the Anapeson Icon, we are reminded that God is never at rest. In every moment He is drawing us toward salvation, whether through His own blessings or through the sin which mankind brings upon itself. Either way, His resolve is unencumbered: He will continue to pursue us, to draw us into His love, through whatever occurs in our lives, good or evil.
“The Lord shall guard your soul.” (Psalm 120:7)