Dmitry of Rostov (1651-1709) died while praying. Literally! He was found dead in his monastic room, in a posture of kneeling. What a way to go! Dmitry was one of the outstanding preachers of the Russian Orthodox Church at the turn of the 17th century. I read one of his sermons recently about the deleterious effects of sin. “Sin,” he observed, “turns man into an animal” (with apologies to animals). Dmitry wrote a massive book on the lives of faithful Russian believers from the past. He was also a composer who set to music a six-hour opera on the lives of great Russian saints from history. He served a church in Kiev and some of his music endures as part of the Ukrainian folk tradition. I referenced his death earlier. At age 58, he sensed the end was near three days before he died. He asked forgiveness from fellow clergy and singers who served with him. On the eve of his death, he called the choir together and requested they sing a portion of his composition, “I place my hope in God, Thou my God, Jesus, Thou art my joy.” The next morning, he was found dead on his knees. Dmitry’s prayer cited here was set to music recently in the hymn, “Come, O Light.”
Dmitry of Rostov
Open, O doors and bolts of my heart,
that Christ the King of Glory may enter!
Come, O my light, and enlighten my darkness.
Come, O my Life, and revive me from death.
Come, O my Physician, and heal my wounds.
Come, O Divine Fire, and ignite my heart with the flame of thy love.
Come, O my King, and destroy in me the kingdom of sin.
Sit on the throne of my heart and alone reign in me,
O Thou, my King and Lord!
Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.