One of the things I dislike is “insider talk.” These are words and phrases that people in groups use to communicate with each other. Most of the time, these words and phrases simply become rote to those inside the group and confusing to those outside of the group.
Orthodox Christianity is no different. We have phrases that cause non-Orthodox people to ask, “What does that mean?”
One phrase we use is, “God grant you many years.” We say it or sing to people on their birthday, their saint’s day, and on other special occasions. I used to think it was simply the Orthodox version of, “Live long and prosper.”
My friend and I would joke around and say, “God grant you Minnie ears.” You know… like Minnie Mouse. Anyways.
Yesterday at church, a friend and I were talking and he mentioned something very interesting. A priest told him that the phrase “God grant you many years,” doesn’t mean “May God let you live a long and healthy life.” Rather it means, “May God give you many healthy years so you can continue to repent.”
You see repentance is the inward condition that allows God to perform his work of transformation. (BTW, HERE’S a great quote on repentance.) Repentance is essential for spiritual formation. So by praying, “God grant you many years,” we’re asking God to give people as much time as possible to experience transformation into Christ’s likeness, which is our salvation.
So the Orthodox phrase, “God grant you many years” now makes more sense to me.
And it’s probably a nicer expression to say than, “May God give you lots of time to repent because, Buddy, you need it.”