Thursday, April 03, 2008

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


O how insensitive I am! How coarse, how earth-like has my soul become! O dissolute heart, O lips filled with bitterness, O throat which is an open grave!

Why dost thou not remember, O soul, that thy departure approaches inescapably? Why dost thou not prepare for this journey? Why dost thou, with no pity for thyself, pursue ruin? Why dost thou bring upon thyself eternal torment? What art thou doing, O soul, that thou livest like a beast lacking reason and understanding?

Alas, how I choose darkness instead of light! How I prefer that pleasure which I have today and which tomorrow will be gone, above eternal and unutterable bliss!

Alas, how I agree to be dressed in a dark and gloomy garment rather than in a robe radiant like the sun! How I prefer the miserable dwelling places of hell over the heavenly kingdom!

Woe is me, a sinner! I on my own, voluntarily, knowingly cast myself into utter ruin.

Come at last to thy senses, O my soul; fear God and bravely take up the journey along the path of His commandments.

Understand, O soul, that this age is like unto a battlefield, and the cunning serpent endeavors to secure victory by any means. He is overthrown and reviled by some, but others does he himself overthrow and subject to reviling.

Some, who are deceived by him, are overcome; and others enter into battle with him and are crowned. Some, having tasted his bitterness, attain the delights of eternal life; and others, who have tasted his sensual sweets, obtain the bitterness of eternal torment.

Some, through their extreme abstinence, readily take the upper hand against him; and other,s because of their attachment to earthly things, are easily overcome by him. For those who love God with all their heart, warfare with him means nothing at all; but for those who love the world it is difficult and insuperable.

Comprehend, O pitiful sou, that the joy, splendor, and leisure of this age are filled with sadness and grief; but sorrows, deprivation and self-disparagement gain unutterable joy and eternal life.

Resolve to step upon the path that is strait and sorrowful and labor in silence, that when the hour of death and departure comes thou wilt not be found unprepared.


On my bed I meditated on Thee, Lover of me; and at midnight I arose to glorify Thy goodness. I recalled my debts and my sins and shed streams of tears. They reassured me--the thief, the publican, Mary the harlot, the Canaanite woman, and even the woman with an issue of blood and the Samaritan woman by the well. They said to me: Get up, beg for mercy--your Lord is plenteous in mercy.

David, the son of Jesse, called out to me in his psalms; he awoke me from the sleep that burdened my limbs and said to me: Get up, O man. Why do you sleep? the Judge accepts offerings at midnight. Get up, pray, and ask for forgiveness. The kindhearted Lord will rejoice in you. His door is open to the penitent day and night.

At night, as I rested on my bed, I recalled my debts and sins. Then terror embraced me and I cried out: alas, the terrible night and the darkness void of all light are approaching. Whosoever leads an illicit life shall not rejoice on the day of resurrection, but will ever remain in darkness.

David too lay awake on his bed at night, contemplated his iniquities and confessed his sins. At night he watered his bed with the tears of his eyes, and with sighs he prayed: I know, O Lord, mine iniquity, and my sin is before me continually. Against Thee only, O Lord, have I sinned--have mercy on me.

I call upon Thee, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Thee do I beseech day and night--spare us. According to the multitude of Thy compassions, cleanse our sins and iniquities. Grant us, O Lord, health of soul and body; deliver us from the evil one and from his power and from his way and from all his snares, and refuse us no Thy compassion, neither by day nor by night.


Let us awake from sleep and with sighs call out to the Lord. Day and night let us labor, attending to our correction while our life still lasts, until the time comes when there will be no more place for repentance. Let us stand vigilant at the Bridegroom's door, that we might enter with the Bridegroom into Hiss bridal chamber and inherit eternal life.

come, let us all sing praises to God at night and imitate the hosts of angels who ceaselessly praise Him. And our Savior, when He arises and comes, accompanied by the angels, and sees our wakefulness and our vigilance, will call us his good servants and will seat us at His banquet.

With the righteous, who have pleased God day and night, let us labor in good things, beg our Lord for mercy; and, singing with David, let us say: at midnight I arose to give thanks unto Thee because of Thy righteous judgements. Spare me and have mercy on me and vouchsafe me the inheritance of Thy kingdom.

I will not cease to praise Thee, O our Lord. Ceaselessly will I sing of Thy glory, that Thy truth might not condemn me. I know the extent of my guilt. I know that if Thou dost punish me according to my sins, then my inheritance will be gehenna. Then all hope will be lost. My prayer will be silenced. Have mercy on me therefore, and forgive me my debts.

I slipped and fell into sin. Extend to me Thy right hand and I will arise, like the harlot in Simon's house, like the thief on the cross. Have mercy on me, Thou Who art kindhearted to sinners.


Woe is me, who am careless! Woe is me, who disregard my salvation! Woe is me, who sin knowingly! I know that I do evil, yet I do not withdraw from evil. Woe is me, for I have no justification! According to my words I am numbered at Thy right hand, but according to my deeds I stand at Thy left.

To Thee, O only Lord Who bearest no grudges, do I confess my sins. Even were I to keep silent, Thou, O Lord, knowest all, and nothing is hidden before Thine eyes. For Thou, O Lord, hast said by Thy Prophet: declare your sins beforehand and you will be justified. And so I will say: I have sinned, O Lord, and I am not worthy to look up and behold the heights of heaven because of the multitude of mine iniquities.

What am I to do, I who am the most miserable of all men? I shall weep over myself day and night, while there is yet time to offer tears....Grant me tears of contrition, O only good and merciful Lord, that with them I might gain from Thee purification from the defilement of my heart.

alas, thou hast sinned, O my soul! Repent, for our days pass like a shadow. In a short while thou wilt depart from here. Thou shalt pass through terrible places, O my soul. Do not postpone turning to the Lord day after day.

Woe is me, O my soul! thou hast driven God's mercy away from thyself with thy foul deeds. Give thyself no rest; day and night fall down before Him Who is Good and loves mankind, that thou mightest be given grace and mercy from on high.

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