Monday, April 21, 2008

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


The days pass and fly away. The hours run without stopping. In the headlong rush of time the world nears its end.

Not one day will allow another to accompany it; not one hour will wait for another that they might fly by together. Just as it is impossible to stop and hold back running water with one's fingers, so the life of one born of woman cannot remain stationary.

The life of each person who enters the world is already weighted and measure--he has neither the means nor the ability to step beyond the appointed limit.

God has determined the measure of man's life, and the days divide this appointed measure into parts. Each day imperceptibly takes its part away from your life and each hour unrestrainably runs along its course with its little share. The days destroy your life, the hours subvert its edifice, and you rush to your end, for you are but vapor.

the days and hours, like thieves and robbers, rob and steal from you. the thread of your life is gradually torn and shortened. The days deliver your life up to burial, the hours lay it in the grave, and together with the days and the hours does your life on earth disappear.

The life that you live today will depart and fly away at the end of this day, for every day takes away its part of your life and leaves with it. Every day delivers its part up to burial; every hour lays its portion in the grave, and in the swift flight of time they depart, disappear and are transformed into nothingness.

So swiftly do the days pass, so quickly too does life fly by--it has no opportunity to stop and stand in one place. If the sun were to stand still int he heights and the moon were to be restrained from its movements, then the time appointed for your life could also stop, could cease rushing to its end.


The kindhearted God gives us what we ask for not because of our prayers; rather does He nourish us according to His compassion, for it is He Who created us.

Without our asking, the Supreme majesty granted us His own Son Who for our sake appeared on earth and, although we did not ask Him to do so, He offered Himself as a sacrifice for our salvation.

For who asked the Father to give His own Son up to death on the cross? Or who entreated the Son to die for sinners?

To which righteous man did the thought occur to ask the Father to give up His Son for transgressors?

It is truly an unprecedented event, and the thought occurred to no one.

The Father gave us His Son to death on the cross, and through His death sinners obtained life. And if He gave away His greatest treasure, can there be any obstacle to prevent a man who asks such a Lover of mankind from receiving all that he needs?

so let us ask Him, for he does give. Let us announce to Him our wishes, for He will not refuse us. Let us entreat Him, for He wants to satisfy our needs in every way possible.

But in accordance with His justice, He expects our prayer to come to His door, and this prayer has reconciled justice and sinners.

If kindness were to forgive transgressions without prayer, it would be a violation of justice, and no one would contemplate justice any more.

Mankind would gradually be given up to lawlessness, for the Judge would fail to apply the staff of correction. Each man would joyfully continue to sin, for there would be no one to correct him.

Such kindness, however beneficial it might be for us, would soon turn to harm, for it would give sinners cause to ever multiply their sins.

And it is a good thing that in the world, also, justice prompts the use of punishment. For punishment causes the sinner to shudder and put an end to his sinful ways. It brings the sinner to contrition of heart, for it is he who has brought punishment upon himself. And thus the sinner puts aside his iniquities, if only for a short while, and seeks forgiveness for his sins.

Who will not thank Thee, O our Lord? For Thy justice is good and Thy punishment is a gift of grace. Thou art truly good in all Thy doings.

With the staff of justice dost Thou humble the heads of sinners who sin with shameless arrogance and cannot be converted without extraordinary inducement.

May Thy punishment, O Lord, united with Thy loving-kindness, be our mentor. May Thy right hand help us to take advantage of Thy punishment.


Lo, I try to gather my thoughts from every corner, but I am unsuccessful, for the things responsible for the passions of my thoughts remain in me. I have not yet been freed from the influence of the evil spirits that will detain me on my upward path toward heaven. I have not yet acknowledged the weight of the multitude of my sins. Those who have plunged me into sin now bear fruit in the flesh of my body.

How long shall I who am wretched continue to become intoxicated in the absence of wine, and neglect my self as if it were alien to me? Like a wicked servant who concocts plots to harm his master, so do I scheme to undermine my own salvation, as if someone else were to suffer the injury my actions produce. I do not want to be vigilant; daily do I offend Thy great patience. My wickedness stands before mine eyes. Yet Thou wilt be patient wit me according to Thy kindness.

Grant me, O Lord, the remedy of conversion, that I might be healed of all the evil that is in me. Grant that I might enter the realm of restraint. Grant that I might spend all the days of my life in contrition of heart. Enlighten the clouded eyes of my mind, that I might rush zealously to embark on the path that leads to thy vineyard.

The time of my life has run low, spent in vain cares and shameful thoughts. My life has come upon the eleventh hour. O Lord, steer my ship with its cargo and grant understanding to this powerless merchant, that I might complete my purchase while I still have time. For the hour of departure has arrived--it already looms before my eyes--and I took fright exceedingly when I saw my poverty.


I sin and hide so that no man will see me; but the Lord sees me when I do evil. If a man sees me I am ashamed; but I feel no shame before God. Have compassion and mercy on us, O Judge and Master of judges! If a man be converted, whether sooner or later, Thou wilt accept him.

What shall I do with my sins? I do not know. My mind cannot imagine what I might use to wash and cleanse myself. If I took it into my head to wash with water, then the seas and the rivers would not be sufficient to cleanse me. Yet if I wash myself with the blood and water that flowed from the rib of the Son of God, then will I be cleansed, and compassion will be showered upon me.

Tremble, O sinner, at the coming judgement; with tears and sorrow run to repent. While prayer is still accepted, pray here, that you might be accepted there. Pray, while death has not yet come and carried away your soul, for then all prayer and supplication will be in vain, then even tears will be of no avail.

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