Saturday, April 19, 2008

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


Come let us make an effort; come let us fall down before God, let us steadfastly lament and shed tears before Him, that He might grant us spiritual enlightenment.

Discern the wiles of our enemy, the adversary who hates all good, who places in our path pitfalls and seductions, ruinous acquisitiveness, commendation of this age, carnal pleasure, as well as the expectation that this life will last for long, fear of ascetic struggles, a slothful attitude toward prayer, drowsiness when psalms are sung, and bodily rest.

We are as apathetic and careless as he is assiduous. We are as inattentive as he is crafty, even though we know that our days have been shortened, that the time has come and the Lord of glory will come in the majesty of His beauty with the terrible powers of His kingdom to reward everyone according to his deeds.

I fear that the Lord's promise might be fulfilled with respect to us: that many shall come form the east and the west, from the north and from the sea, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but we shall be driven out.

I beseech Thee, O Christ, light of truth, born of the blessed Father, being His image and the radiance of His hypostasis, Who sittest at the right hand of His majesty, Who art my life and the praise and joy of those who love Thee: save me, a sinner, in thy kingdom and reward me not according to my deeds, but save me according to Thy grace and have compassion on me according to Thy kindness, for Thou art blessed and glorified unto the ages.


Why does the image I have taken on mislead me? Why am I a stranger to virtue, committing repulsive deeds before God who sees all?

Justly did the pharisees suffer to have their errors exposed by Christ the Savior, Who labeled their appearances hypocrisy. And I deserve such reproach most of all. But when my conscience exposes my errors I become indignant, for the truth is bitter for those who desire just to make an appearance rather than being.

Indeed, if one were to peel away my appearance, he would find worms inside. If the whitewashed cover is removed, everyone will see what lies in the grave. However, let this not be brought out into the open here; surely the fire will try all and discover what I am at the judgement.

Woe is me! How will I endure the exposure of my lawless deeds and thoughts!....Have mercy on me, O god, according to Thy great mercy and according to the multitude of Thy compassions absolve my iniquities. Hearken unto me according to Thy goodness, O Master, and reject not my supplication; for Thou dost not cast away those who truly repent.

It is true that even my repentance is impure, for I spend one day repenting and two offending Thee. But send my heart fear of Thee and confirm my soul on the rock of true repentance. May the light of Thy grace overcome the darkness that is in me.

Condescend to my prayer, O good Lord, not because I am correct, for in me is no good, but according to Thy compassion and Thy great and unutterable goodness. Raise up my members shattered by sin; enlighten my heart clouded by evil desire; save me from my sinful habits, that the adversary may not overthrow me in the end.


Thy grace has made it possible for me to call upon Thy name, O Lord. O only good One, Who hast created us all, forgive the transgressions and sins of Thy sinful and ungrateful servant.

I know, O Lord, that my sins exceed those of all other men, but I have as my refuge the abyss of Thy compassions which exceeds all things. I am confident that Thou wilt accept and have mercy on all who approach Thy goodness, for it pleases Thee to behold repentance, and Thou rejoicest at the ascetic struggles of Thy servants.

Grant me, Thine unworthy servant, tears, that with an enlightened mind, with love and faith, I may entreat Thine incomparable goodness and be cured of my hidden sores. Show miserable me Thy charity. Deliver me from the torment I deserve. May Thy grace be preached all about, to the benefit both of the countless multitudes who are careless, and me as well.

As Thou didst fill the water pots with Thy blessings, so likewise fill my heart with Thy grace and Thy goodness. When a caring mother is rejected by her child, she does not scorn him, for her motherly care triumphs over all; may my sins likewise not surpass Thy grace.

I know that I will be punished even for idle words, for evil thoughts, for mere desire. Yet as soon as an opportunity to satisfy my pleasures presents itself, I immediately forget everything, and like a fool indulge in all manner of sin. I am a vainglorious, wrathful cripple, a lazy, dissolute glutton, a sensualist covered with impurities who hourly strays into error--and I do not realize it.

Only hope in the manifestation of Thy grace, O man-befriending master, consoles me and keeps me from despair. Whether Thou so desirest or not, save me, O all-good Lord, according to Thy great kindness.


As if I were standing before Thy terrible throne, O Lord, i who am condemned see both my deeds exposed and the judgement Thou wilt pass on miserable me, to remove me from Thy holy face and cast me into unbearable torment. and just as I will call upon Thee at that time, so now do I cry out, trembling and with tears: just art Thou, O most just Judge, and just is thy judgement, that commits no error in judging me.

As if I were standing in that place, I address the angels: O kind and most radiant angels, shed tears for me, for I did not even have mercy on myself. I scorned God's mercy, and it is truly fair that I be punished. The Lord offered me mercy, but I lacked discernment and never paid it proper attention; and now with good reason does He turn from me.

Then, of course, the angels will tell me in anger: this is not the time for repentance, but for reckoning. Prayer no longer has any power, and tears of repentance are of no consequence. Here there is an abundance only of tears shed in torment. Here are heard not sighs of contrition, but ceaseless groans and cries of pain. Go and receive the bitter and harsh reward for your deeds. Burn in flames like impure matter, fueling the inextinquishable fire of gehenna. Enjoy, for you are a son of obscurity and love everlasting darkness. Gaze upon the black apparitions for the sake of which you have disdained the eternal light--and be glad.

There, in that place will be endless weeping and fervent gnashing of teeth. Alas, my poor soul stripped of all deeds, how shalt thou gazed upon the impartial Judge, the angels and archangels, and those born on earth there present in infinite numbers?

Alas, how thou shalt suffer then, my soul, but thou wilt not be heard. Everything will change, everything will be different. The righteous will rejoice forever and sinners will endure eternal torment. They brought no joy to the God of all, and shall themselves be alien to all joy unto the ages.

So let us cry unto God, O soul, while we are here: save us, before we perish unto the end!

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