Friday, March 24, 2006

The Spiritual Psalter

St. Ephraim the Syrian is a favorite of mine among the Church Fathers. His writings continue to affect me in wonderful ways. I recently purchased a small book entitled A Spiritual Psalter, or Reflections on God, excerpted by Bishop Theophan the Recluse from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian. I highly recommend it. I don't know how readily available the book is, but I do know you can purchase it from the St. Isaac the Syrian Skete here. I have copied a couple of examples from the book, below:


Woe is me, to what judgement will I be subject, and of what disgrace am I worthy! My inner self is not like my outward appearance: I talk about how to fee oneself from the passions, but day and night I myself think about disgraceful passions. I conduct discussions about purity, but myself, I indulge in indecent behavior.

Alas! What trials await me? the truth is that I bear the image of righteousness, but lack its capacity. What face shall I who am guilty of such indecency wear when I approach the Lord God Who knows the secrets of my heart? When I stand in prayer, I am afraid gha fire will descend from heaven and burn me up, as it happened in the desert that there came out a fire from the lord that consumed the men who offered strange incense.

What can I expect, I who am weighted down with sucha heavy burden of sins? My heart is consumed with fire, my mind is clouded, righteous thougths have failed in me: like a dog do I ever return to my own vomit.

I have no boldness before Him Who will try my heart and inner workings. I have no clean thoughts, no tears while praying. Although I sigh and fall prostrate on my shame-filled face and beat my chest--this is a dwelling place of passions, a sweatshop of evil thoughts.

Thou knowest, O Lord, my passions hidden in darkness; the sores of my soul are known to Thee. Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed. If Thou wilt not build the hourse of my soul, I labor in vain trying to build it myself.

It is true that sometimes I prepare myself to do battle with the passions when htey war against me; but the evil wiles of the serpent paralyze the efforts of my sould with sensuality and yield to them. Though no one visibly ties my hands, the invisible passions drag me away like a captive.

O Lord, enlighten the eyes of my heart, that I might rightly recognize the deceit and the malice of the passions. May Thy grace shield me, that I might be able to stand firm and resist, having girded my loins with courage.

Once Thou, O Lord, didst provide safe passage through the impassable sea for Thy people. Thou gavest Thy people who thirsted water out of a hard rock. Thou alone, according to Thy grace, didst save the one who fell in with theives. Have mercy upon me as well, for I have also fallen into the hands of thieves and, like a captive, I am bound by wicked thoughts.

No one is trong enough to heal the passionate temperament of my soul except Thou, O Lord, Who knowest the depths of my soul. Condescend and save me by Thy kindness!



Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy, and according to the multitude of Thy compassions, blot out my trangression. For if Thou wilt have mercy on me and free me from the pitiful affliction of the passions--if only Thou wilt have mercy on me, then will I willingly obey Thy grace.

If Thou wilt do this according to the greatness of Thy goodness, then wilt Thou deliver me. If Thou wilt pour out upon me Thy goodness, I will be saved.

I am certain that this is possible for Thee. I know that Thou hast forgiver and dost forgive all who turn to Thee with all their strength.

I confess that I have enjoyed the benefits of Thy grace many times already; but each time I have rejected Thy grace and sinned as no other has sinned.

But Thou, Who has resurrected the dead, raise also me who am deadened by sin. Thou Who hast healed the blind, enlighten the clouded eyes of my heart. Thou Who hast delivered Adam from the mouth of the serpent, pull me out of the mire of mine iniquities; for I too belong among Thy sheep, though I have by my own free choice become food for lions.

Sins have made of me a god; but, healed by Thy grace, I will become Thy son. I was thrown out like a corpse, but if Thou so desirest I will be brought to life.

I know that I have sinned consciously, but I have Thy saints to pray for me. I know that I exceed every measure with my sins, but Thy goodness is unsurpassable.

Thou Who hast preferred the publican, prefer also me, who recognize that I have done many more vile deeds than he. Thou, O Lord, hadst mercy on Zacchaeus who was unworthy. Likewise have mercy on me who am also unworthy.

Paul was once a wolf, and chased the sheep of Thy flock; but according to Thy grace he became a pastor who diligently cared for the sheep.

I know that he sinnes in ognorance, and that he was vouchsafed forgiveness of his sins and much grace because of his ignorance. But Thou, O Lord, condemn my sin committed in knowledge, and have mercy on me according to Thine exceedingly abundant grace.


Hilarius said...

I obtained a copy of the Spiritual Psalter last summer and have used it as a daily devotional/prayer within my morning prayer rule (or tried to do so, there are days when I blow my prayer rule, or might only get a brief morning prayer in). I like to use it right after reading the morning Psalm. Seems to fit there for me.

I think this little compilation is superb in teaching one how to pray. I have come to see that the prayers are a [what's the word . . .] dimension [not quite it] of the Lord's Prayer.

Now if only I had the compunction exhibited in those prayers.


Pax -

s-p said...

Next to the Psalms, this is the best spiritual poetry ever written. Oh to be so in touch with God....