This is a new page and we would welcome other prayers, old or new, from different Orthodox countries.
Met. Kallistos of Diokleia teaches that the saints use of prayers for animals “shows compassion for animals and their suffering” which supports the argument that compassion and concern for animal suffering is not new. The first example is by St. Modestos, who recognises the goodness of all God’s creatures and specifically asks for compassion and the release from suffering for animals:
St. Modestos’s Prayer for Animals
Lord Jesus Christ my God, Who are merciful and All-good, Who in wisdom created every visible and invisible creature, Who pours out His compassions upon all that He created, Who through Your all-good Providence foresees and troubles over for all Your creatures: bodiless, physical, rational, irrational, soul-bearing, soulless, from the first to the last. For nothing is not foreseen by You, neither is anything abandoned by You, the Creator and Foreseer of all. For You are He Who opens His hand and fills all living things with goodness. You are He Who makes grass to grow for the cattle, and green herb for the service of men. You are He Who once, through the herd of Israel, preserved them from above from the fatal wound of the first-born of the Egyptians. You are He Who, through the compassion of Your Incarnation, deposed he who had the might of death: that is, the devil, and by Your death, You put death to death. You are He Who, through myself, Your unworthy servant, puts to death the serpent, that Your spring of water might not be corrupted. Those that drink from it, both the living and the dead, through Your life-giving power, You resurrect. And if a demon draws near to it, and prepares to make itself apparent, seize it, that it might never dare to approach the place in which, I the sinner, call upon Your name. To You, therefore, I pray, O All-good Master and Creator of all, and I entreat You, the cause of all life, hearken to this my entreaty, and drive away every fatal sickness and danger from the oxen, horses, donkeys, mules, sheep, goats, bees, and any other animals in true need to the life of Your servants who call upon You, the giver of every good, and of my name.
And grant, O Lord, to all those who celebrate my name, and with faith hasten to my relics, permanent peace, multiplication of animals, uncorrupted wheat, wine and oil, and above all, remission of sins, health of bodies, and eternal salvation of souls. Yes, O Lord Jesus Christ, for the descendants from Your very loins, grant compassion on the suffering animals, whose herd is being afflicted by the sickle of death. And not having any word besides bleating and bitter and random noises, in Your mercy, take away their passion and suffering. For if You even call rational beings to this sympathy: “A righteous man has compassion upon his animals,” as is written, how much more do You show compassion on these, Who are their Creator and Foreseer? For You, O compassionate, preserved the animals in the Ark, as Your goodness and compassions won out. That by the wellness and multiplication of the oxen, and the remaining four-legged animals, the earth might be worked, and fruit might be harvested, and Your servants who call upon my name might be preserved without any corruption and partake of their very harvest. And that these, having all things that are necessary, might be increased in every good work, and glorify You, Who grants every good thing. And grant me also, Your servant and most-fervent entreater, the honour of Your all-governing Kingdom, for to You belong all glory, honour and worship, with Your beginning-less Father, and Your All-Holy and good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
It is interesting to note St. Modestos reference to the vegan diet prescribed by God in Genesis and that the animals saved in the Ark were as a result of God’s compassionate goodness. We might also note that the animals mentioned are to assist with the working (tilling) of the land, so that its fruit might be harvested, not the animals themselves. The second prayer is by St. Mamas.
The Prayer of St. Mamas
Behold, I, the sinner and lowest one Mamas, dwelling in the mountains, and through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ milked deer and made cheese, distributing to the poor, and walking through the mountains and caves until my death. There when I was passing through, approached John and Philotheos, who entreated me saying: “The wrath of the devil has fallen upon our flocks and herdsmen and are dying terribly. We pray you, O Saint of God, pray for them, that they might be healed from every evil, in memory of the age to come, and to the glory of God.” I then said to them: “My spiritual brothers, I am a sinner, and God does not listen to sinners.” But they persisted in entreating me. Hearkening, then, to their prayers, I pray to the Lord, saying:
I call upon You, our Lord Jesus Christ, the true God, Who descended from the Father’s bosom, and was incarnate of the Holy Theotokos, and Ever-virgin Mary, willingly enduring the Cross and death, and rose on the third day, granting life to the race of mortals. Hearken to me the sinner, and your unworthy servant Mamas, and all those whose spirits are spent and who are in great trouble, who call upon Your name. O Lord our God, remember the name of Your servant Mamas and do not allow their flocks or the herds of their animals to be afflicted by diabolical influence or any other sickness.
Yes, O Lord our God, Who made the heaven and the earth, and Whose Word grants all things towards salvation to our people, do not neglect this my prayer, from Your humble and lowest servant; but hearken to me, O Lord Who loves mankind, and this my prayer when read, whether at a flock, or oxen, or mules. Do not let sickness or other temptation come close to these animals, that being always guarded by You, we might offer up glory and worship to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
St. Mamas details how animals can provide for humans without losing their lives. There is recognition that the suffering of animals is linked to the sinful fallen world, the power of the devil and attacks from evil spirits; all of which are the antithesis of the all-loving and compassionate God who protects and cares for all things. One can of course, argue that the saints are more focused on the owners than the animals, but as we have noted, this anthropocentric bias was and remains the norm. However, there is still recognition of God’s providential care for all created beings and of the inherent goodness in all that was created. Importantly, neither saint is indifferent to the suffering of the animals. That these prayers continue to be in use attests to their spiritual soundness.
During my research, I found that whilst there are blessings for many inanimate objects, there is none for animal sanctuaries, shelters or their animals. I also found that whilst one priest was prepared to give a blessing for an animal sanctuary in Cyprus, he informed the organisation that he would of course, not be able to bless the animals within it. After consultation with other priests and in order to continue this Eastern Orthodox tradition and to address the contemporary need, the following blessing was created by Fr. Simon who combines Orthodox prayers with part of Prof. Linzey’s prayers – used with permission.
Blessing for Animal Welfare Staff and Sanctuaries
Blessed is our God, always now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and God saw that everything He made was very good.
Almighty God we come together to thank you for the beauty and glory of your creation; to acknowledge our responsibility to animals and for our use of the created world.
Let us pray with the whole Church for all those who struggle against the abuse of animals and for the strengthening of compassion in our hearts. Give those who work in this sanctuary the strength to continue to rescue and care for your creatures abused by others.
We also pray for the animals in this shelter who were abandoned and abused; neglected and ill-treated.
Holy God, your mercies are all over the earth, bless the creatures in this sanctuary and those that care for them and help us delight in the works of your hands.
Blessed before you O God, are those who struggle for peace and harmony in your creation. Strengthen their endeavours by the power of your Holy Spirit and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon them.
O Creator and author of all things, giver of all spiritual graces and bestower of eternal salvation, send down your Holy Spirit with a blessing from upon high for this animal sanctuary that, fortified by the might of your heavenly protection, it may fulfil its promises to the animals of [Cyprus] and all who make use of it.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, we in turn, send You our praises and love, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen
This second prayer/service was created by Fr. Simon in order to address the human need to grieve for the death of a companion animal. Again, portions of Prof. Linzey’s work is incorporated and used with permission:
Prayer at the death of companion animals
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (3)
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Holy God, everything that has breath praises You both in this world and the next. In Your all-encompassing mercy, O God, we now commit the life of this our beloved friend and companion (name) to eternal fellowship with You.
Create within us a spirit of gratitude for the life of (name) Give rest, O God, to (name) who lived among us and gave us freely of (his/her) love.
Holy Father, Your Son Jesus Christ taught us that not one sparrow is forgotten in Your sight; We ask therefore for You to provide a place of green pasture where (his/her) praises will be heard in Your presence and where (he/she) shall be free from suffering and pain.
God our Creator, hear our prayer:
Glory to You, O Christ our God, the origin and destiny of all living things;
Glory to You, O Christ our God, Who bears the wounds of all suffering;
Glory to You, O Christ our God, Who transforms suffering into joy.
You are the God who creates and the God who reconciles and redeems all creation.
Glory to You, O Christ our God and Saviour of the Universe: in Christ shall all be made alive.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (3)
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
This example of prayer by St. Tryphon is of a different nature. It is an exorcism for nuisance animals or disease. It too has great relevance for today. The saint is asked to intercede by performing an exorcism for the human whose crops are being damaged.
Prayer of St. Tryphon
Most-glorious Martyr of Christ, and soldier of the heavenly King, Tryphon most-blessed, namesake of the eternal sustenance, who bravely confessed Christ upon the earth, and for this ever receives unfading blessedness in the Heavens, and with boldness stands before the throne of the three-sun Godhead. Your martyrical greatness we take refuge in after God, all of us sinners and your unworthy servants, and we entreat your sympathetic and Christ-imitating philanthropy, that, having compassion upon us who are in danger and trouble, you may drive far from our fields and gardens and vineyards, all reptiles, and locusts, and caterpillars, and various species of insects and beasts, the diseases of fruit and leaves and roots of trees, and all vegetables and seeds and legumes of ours. For to you was granted this special and unique grace, O great champion, by our Savior Jesus Christ. Not only while still living, through your God-pleasing life, but more so now after your death through martyrdom and through blood, confessed Him and persevered for the faith.
Yes, we confess that through our sins, we have been delivered up to these such sorrows, and we have fallen under God’s anger, but you O brave Champion, only desiring your martyrical boldness is needed; we believe that easily you extinguish the ban against us by God and transform our faintheartedness into good-heartedness. Therefore, because of our sins, we have no boldness to stand before your champion-like glory, and immediately have you make intercession, therefore we place your blood, which you O all-famed one shed for Christ as our intercessor instead, and the martyrical struggles which you endured in your most-suffering body. Look down, therefore, O most-compassionate Martyr, upon these, for you confessed Christ and received the unfading crown of martyrdom, and hearken to the prayer from your humble supplicants, and deliver from the present dangers of reptiles and locusts and beasts and various vermin, of those that ruin the fruits of our fields and vineyards and gardens. For we are in danger by them of starvation and death and being left utterly desolate, if it were not for your compassions speedily granted to all of us, that through your ready protection, driving away the coming danger, we may ceaselessly and necessarily magnify your name, our saviour and benefactor and helper whom we ascribe after God, and through you we glorify the common Master, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is glorified on earth and in Heaven. To Whom belongs all glory, honour and worship, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages.
If we cut through the flowery language, what we see is the reality and conflict of the fallen world. Instead of the peaceful and violence-free harmony between all creatures, where food and space were available to all, we now have conflict between man and God’s other creatures over food and land. Despite knowledge of poisons being available at that time both men ask St. Mamas to pray for God’s help. Met. Anthony of Sourozh recalls a similar scenario in his own use of this prayer and admits his lack of faith whilst doing so:
A Mouse’s Tail!
A moment came when we lived in London many years ago with my mother and grandmother and our house was infested with mice. They ran about on everything. We didn’t know what to do because we did not want to put mousetraps, because we felt sorry for the mice, but we were afraid little pieces of bread with poison because we were afraid for my grandmother, who was in her nineties, and when she saw a piece of bread she would collect it and eat it and I did not know how close her health was to that of the mouse. Then I remembered that in the big Book of Prayers there is an admonition, written by one of the Saints of old, addressed to all the nuisances of the world. It begins with lions and tigers and ends with insects and on route you meet a variety of animals, among them mice. I looked at that and thought I can’t believe that a mouse will listen to an admonition, but who knows? This saint was not a fool, he wasn’t a comedian, he must have known what he was doing, so I thought I’ll try! I put my stole on, sat on my bed, put the big Book of Prayers on my knees and waited. And a mouse came; yes, I had a word with the saint. I said:
“Look, I don’t believe a word of this admonition. I do not believe that mice or tiger or elephant or insect would ever understand what you are saying or do it. I will say the words in the mouse’s hearing and you will bring the prayer into God’s hearing, so I will have nothing to do with it except reading the prayer.”
And I sat and indeed Eddy the mouse came trotty, trotty, out of the fireplace. I made the sign of the Cross on it and said, “Sit still and listen” and the first miracle occurred. He sat up like this, [on hind legs with front paws held close to his chest] whiskers moving and didn’t budge. I read the admonition and said “now go and tell the other ones.” He fell on his paws, disappeared into the fireplace and all the mice disappeared.
Well I am telling you this story because it says nothing complimentary about the mouthpiece but it does say something about the fact that the saint who writes the prayer had the faith – total – and so, if you take any prayer, or your book of prayers, read the name of the saint which is at the beginning of the prayer, say St Basil, St John Chrysostom or whoever it is, say I will read your prayer, commenting on it, to be honest, and you will bring it to God. I have no faith to match your prayer.
This is an amusing anecdote from the Metropolitan and we must be thankful for the lives of the mice who responded to the prayer but it also illustrates the conflict between humans and the animals who encroach upon human space.