Friday, March 28, 2008

A Spiritual Psalter from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian


Behold, again I fall at the feet of my Master, begging, beseeching, worshipping and calling out to Him with fear.

O Master, attend to my lamentation, and accept the words of my supplication that I a shameful sinner bring to Thee.

According to Thy mercy, pour out upon me, who am miserable, at least one small drop of grace to make me understand and be converted, that I might make at least some small effort to correct myself. For if Thy grace does not illumine my soul, I will not be able to see the carelessness and negligence that the passions have produced in me through my apathy and recklessness.

Alas, sin has taken possession of me and found in my a pasture. With each passing day it debases me and plunges me further into its depths. And I, who am wretched, cease not to anger God, neither fearing the inextinguishable fire nor trembling at the eternal torments.

Sin has become a habit and has led me into utter ruin. Although I myself recognize my error and cease not to offer confessions, still I remain in sin. I look and do not see, because I sin even in repentance, for I do not endeavor to scrutinize my deeds.

As a slave of sin, even when I do not want to I perform vile acts. As a warrior under its authority, I obey it: and though I have an opportunity to flee, I pay tribute to this habit which reigns in me. I oblige the passions and bring payments of flesh. I know that corruption is gaining strength in me, and I myself cooperate with it, attracted by some secret force. I would like to flee, but like a dog on a chain, I always return again to the same spot.

Sometimes I come to hate sin and nurture disgust for iniquity, but still I remain enslaved to passion. It possesses unfortunate me, and with sinful pleasure does it lead me into sin. Passion has bought my free will for itself, and spews out sin upon me. The passions boil within me contrary to my reason; they have coalesced with my flesh and will not suffer to be separated from it.

I strain to redirect my will, but my previous state will not allow me any success in this endeavor. I who am miserable try to free my soul from its debts, but immediately does the evil usurer lead me into greater debt. Generously does he grant me loans, never even mentioning repayment. He does not even want to take anything back, for he desires only my slavery. he lends and then does not seek after my debts, that I might be made rich in passions. I want to pay off my old debt, but he adds a new one.

If I force myself somewhat to struggle against the passions, in order to overcome me he adds new passions, and, seeing that my constant indebtedness forces me to sin, he introduces me to new desires; and to keep me from confessing them, he plunges me into the oblivion of my passions.

I encounter new passions and, occupied with them, I forget about former ones. I befriend the passions which reappear and become again a debtor. I run to them as to friends and again my usurers behave toward me like masters. And I, who not so long ago tried to gain freedom, make myself their loyal slave. Again I hasten to tear apart their bonds, and again I put on new ones. I hasten to free myself from the obligation to fight in their ranks, but because I have taken many gifts from them I find myself involuntarily bound to them.

O how great is the authority of the sinful passions over me! O, how great is the sovereignty of the wicked and cunning serpent! Acting according to nature, he too goes to market and offers a deposit in order to sell a mind to sin. He convinces me to please the flesh under the pretense of using it to serve the soul. I am utterly conquered by sensuality, and I straightaway indulge in unrestrained sleep; and thus am I altogether deprived of the function of my soul. When I pray, he inspires me with the thought of some worthless pleasure, and with it he constrains my mind as with a brass chain. My mind cannot loose the bond, try as it may to flee.

Thus does sin keep my mind under guard and lock the doors of knowledge on me. The enemy ceaselessly supervises the mind, that it might not come to accord with God and not obstruct him in selling the flesh. To this end does he employ a multitude of confused thoughts, assuring me that I will not be asked about such trifles at the judgement, that it is impossible even for anyone to know of these thoughts and that all such things will be forgotten. But I imagine in my mind's eye how my error will be revealed, and I know that I am threatened with punishment.

Thus does sin keep me in check; thus does it bind me; thus does it buy and sell me; thus does it lead me into error; thus does it flatter me and subject me to itself for, as the Apostle says, man is carnal, sold under sin. For the sin that is in my flesh reigns over my mind, and through my own fault, it uses my flesh to burden my soul.

If someone undertakes to fast or stand vigil or endure wounds, sin uses the flesh as if it were its own property to burden the soul with chains and, as a sheep for slaughter, it binds her, and uses the flesh also to cut off her hands and feet. I cannot flee, nor can I help myself.

Alas, alive I am a corpse. I look and do not see, I have changed from man to dog and though I have reason I am treated like a beast.

Have mercy, O soul, on thyself, and hasten at last to engage in battle with sin before thou art parted from the body, that we might not remain outside the doors like the foolish virgins; for one dead cannot see life or contemplate righteousness there where there is no battle for life or death, where there is no flesh for the enemy to curse when he is utterly vanquishing by it.


A fountain full of waters constantly flowing and abundantly giving drink to all who come portrays the abundance of Thine inexhaustible compassion, O Lord.

Plentifully dost Thou nourish the heavenly powers and provide food for all that breathes on earth. Thy love, which desires our salvation, condescends to us in order to bring us to herself and to save those who come to her.

Thou, O Master, art omniscient and seest the resolve with which a man turns from sin. And before he comes to the door, Thou dost open it for him. Before he falls at Thy feet, Thou dost stretch out Thine hand to him. Before he sheds tears, Thou bestowest upon him Thy compassion. Before he confesses his debts, Thou grantest him forgiveness.

Thou dost not accuse him or say: how did you squander your belongings? Thou rememberest not how he angered Thee with his depravity; Thou reproachest him not for scorning Thy good works. But, foreseeing his humility, lamentation and sincere disposition, Thou proclaimest: take out the best garment and clothe him; kill the fatted calf that we may be consoled and make merry. May the angels gather and rejoice at the son who was lost and has been found, at the return of the prodigal heir.

As people go out to meet a merchant when he comes home with great riches, thus may Thy grace receive a sinner who returns to Thee with all his soul. For Thy grace loves to see tears, longs to see repentance, rejoices at the ardor of those who strive to repent.

Glory to Thee Who art longsuffering and kindhearted, O master and Lover of men.


Frightening and terrible is the day of Thy judgement, O our Savior, when secret sins will be revealed. Therefore I tremble, O Lord, and am embraced by terror, for my sins have exceeded all bounds. Be merciful to me according to Thy compassion, O good and kindhearted One!

I look, O Lord, at my sins and become agitated, seeing their multitude. Alas, how did it happen that such misery has befallen me? My tongue utters marvelous things, but my behavior is shameful and contemptible. Woe is me in that day when secrets will be revealed!

Others find my words immensely beautiful, but my deeds are repulsive. I teach others in the world how to order their lives; but I, who am an unfortunate one, myself indulge in the passions.

All my days have passed and vanished in sin. I have not served truth for even one day. As soon as I began to repent with the intent to sin no more, the evil one always came and trapped me through his hatred. Woe is me, for voluntarily do I land in his snare.

If I go out for a walk, I step out like a righteous man, like a sage. If I see another sinning, I mock and deride him. Alas, my transgressions will likewise be exposed and I will be ashamed!

O, better it were for me not to have been born into this world! Then this transient life would not have corrupted me. If I had not seen it, I would have no guilt, I would not have defiled myself with sins and would not have to fear interrogation, the judgement and torment.

As soon as I vow to repent, i return again and fall into the very same sins. The time I spend in sin gladdens me; I even think that I am doing something praiseworthy. Woe is me! Until now I never considered that gehenna awaits me.

An evil will leads me into sin, and when I sin I lay the blame on Satan. But woe is me, for I bring about my sins myself. The Evil One does not use force to make me sin; I sin according to mine own will.

Be kind to me, O Thou Who art kindhearted to the penitent! Forgive me my transgressions according to the magnitude of Thy goodness. Accept, O Lord, the tears I bring to Thee, and cleanse me from sin, as Thou didst cleanse the harlot. I realize, O Lord, that I have sinned. Spare me according to Thy compassion.


Come, let us find compassion while we may yet seek it. The place for repentance is in this transient life; in the intransient life neither prayer nor tears will be accepted.

With the tears that she shed the harlot destroyed the record of her sins. Likewise, O sinner, bring tears and sighs as an offering and call out to the Lord, and immediately will He forgive you your debts.

As an offering for the Lord Jesus bring tears, O penitent one, and beat your breast like the publican who sighed and prayed, saying: be merciful, O Lord, to me a sinner who have angered Thee.

Behold, the door is open and awaits your return, O sinner. Return to your Lord, leave your indecent ways behind. Get up and step on the path that leads to the kingdom.

You have an open wound, a sore of sin. If you loiter on the way, it will utterly destroy you. Your Physician is experienced. Show Him your sore, lament with tears at His door, arouse His compassion that He might heal you.

O Good One, who gavest Thyself up to crucifixion and death in order to redeem us, deliver the soul of Thy servant from the multitude of his sins, that he might life up his voice to thank Thee and Thy Father and Thy Holy Spirit.

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