Monday, April 14, 2008

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


How shall I mourn the blindness of my soul? How shall I mourn my calamitous ignorance of my own self? How shall I mourn my passionate and unrepentant arbitrary exercise of my free will? The ascetics are comforted, consoled by the Holy Spirit; but I agonize and complain of the wretchedness that is caused by my own apathy. I have sunk to the level of the senseless beasts and become like unto them. Wretched as I am, I have been stripped by my own laziness, because I alienate myself from those who stand vigil and pray.

Regard me with mercy, O Master, from Thy holy heights. Look upon the impenitence of my poor soul, and by the judgements that Thou knowest, have mercy on me and correct me. As if standing before Thy throne and touching Thine immaculate feet, i beseech and beg Thee with contrite heart: have mercy on me; show Thy loving-kindness to Thy creature; freely convert me by Thy grace.

I know that Thou canst do all things and that nothing is impossible for Thee. Wait not for my corrupt will to exercise itself, for I lack the ambition to correct myself.

May every visible and invisible being weep for me, who have grown old in sins and passions. Weep for me who appear to those who see me to be chase, yet inwardly am ever adulterous.


Take an interest, at lats, in your salvation, O sinner. Seclude yourself, collect your thoughts and say to yourself: how much time have you spent feeding the lusts of your flesh and imagination, and what benefit has it brought you; what have you attained by doing this? Alas, my soul, what a state we have reached, what disorder!

Look--everyone around me is adorned with virtues and truly fears God; but I alone walk in darkness. Early in the morning do I repent of my deeds, yet a short while later I commit even worse errors. The Lord has given me strength and health and lo! I take this for granted and incur the wrath of my Creator.

Why art thou so apathetic, O my soul? Why art thou so careless? After all, thou canst not stay here forever. When the end comes, the Lord will send His angel to get thee and thou wilt have to leave this place whether thou so want or not. What then?

Acknowledge at last your extreme wretchedness, O man, and stop contradicting Him Who created you and opposing His commands. Boldly say to the enemy who seduces you:

You, O devil, made me an object of shame for angels and men when I took your irreverent advice. You inspired me to think: for once I will satisfy my craving and lo! this small act became for me a great abyss and I gave myself up to your shameful desires. The water found a small crack and made of it a big crevice.

You have clouded my mind with impure thoughts and hurls me from sin to sin. You have annihilated my restraint on the pretext of bodily infirmity. You have alienated me from prayer and vigilance. You have implanted in me love for money, excusing this with the approaching long years of old age. You have dried up my tears. You have hardened my heart. You have made me stray from obedience to Christ. You have multiplied my distractions. You have made me insubordinate. I have reached the point where I fail to labor over needful things and occupy myself with vain endeavors instead. You have taught me envy and slander. You have made me haughty, irritable and wrathful. You have taught me gluttony, drunkenness and sensuality. You have trained my thoughts to scatter while I read and sing psalms; thus I pray and do no know for what; I read psalms and meanwhile I surrender my thoughts to unrestrained wanderings.

Having thus exposed the wiles of the enemy, tell him with conviction: I have had enough of you, O devil. And leave the evil one and join yourself to the man-befriending God. Are you wounded? Despair not. Have you fallen? Get up and say bravely: now i have begun. Fall down before your merciful master and confess your sins.

But before you say anything he will already know what you intended to say. Before you open you lips, He will see what is in your heart. You will not be able to say, "I have sinned," before you see Him stretch forth His hands to receive and embrace you.

Approach with faith and He will cleanse you straightway as He cleansed the leper, lift you from your bed as He lifted the paralytic, and raise you from the dead as He raised Lazarus.


I who am all covered with sores run to Thy loving-kindness. Accept my sighs as Thou didst accept the tear of the harlot.

Thou knowest, O Master, the failings of human nature. Remember that from his youth evil thoughts press diligently upon a man and be not wroth with me to the end, but open to me Thy hand and the door of Thy loving-kindness. May my recklessness not surpass Thy solicitude.

Accept, O Master, and hearken unto mine impure and unworthy supplication, Thou Who savest those who hope in Thee, Who rejectest not the prayer of sinners, Who stretchest forth Thy hand to those who have been cast to the ground. Guide me in fear of thee and give me tears of contrition.

I have lifted up the mental eyes of my soul to Thee, O Lord. Cast me not away from Thy face, for blessed is Thy name unto the ages.


I have incurred Thy wrath with my sins, O Lord; but it is against Thy will that Thou art wroth, for Thou overflowest with abundant mercy and Thy majesty is beyond provocation.

Thou art a sea of compassion and our errors are but a drop of tainted water. Surely one drop cannot disturb and unencompassalbe sea.

Thou dost not become anxious when Thou art displeased, and Thou art not wroth when Thou punishest. If Thou wert to become wroth when Thou punishest, the world could not withstand Thy wrath.

Thy blows are filled with love. Thy punishment burns with compassion. I accordance with Thy love, even when Thou punishest Thou strivest only for good.

The staves with which Thou punishest are carved from the wood of thy loving-kindness. No matter what Thy staff touches, the blow brings great benefit.

When a master punishes his pupil, he bats him not out of hatred, but because he wishes to bring him profit; and out of love does he meter out punishment. Thy blow also strikes from love, for Thou dost not punish out of malice. Thou, O Lord, desirest our own good, and Thou showest Thy lovinng-kindness in many ways.

It is not difficult for Thee to endure our errors, for Thou hast created our nature. Thou art not burdened by Thy creation,f or Thou knewest us before we were created.

Who will endure the hardships of caring for a baby if not the mother who bore him? Who will endure the errors of the world, if not the Lord of all?

It is easy for the Creator to endure all the difficulties wroth by His creatures, for if He had not wanted to endure these difficulties He would not have created them.

Will a woman forget her child or fail to love those who issue from her womb? But even if a woman were to forget her child, God will not forget the world He has created.

His natural compassion was moved, and He conceived and bore creation. Like a babe from his mother's womb, so did the world come forth from His will.

And lo, He gather up and carries the world, like a mother carries the fruit of her womb, feeding it with her milk.

The kindhearted father bore us and nourishes us with the blood of His Son. Thus does a mother give her child her papas to suck, in order to feed him.

A babe sucks at the breast and receives fro his mother the food that he requires. He draws out all the food he needs from his mother's paps.

A babe does not know how to turn away and search for food anywhere else than at his mother's side. Thus the world also takes life-sustaining nourishment only from Thee, O Creator; and no one but thee alone can feed it.

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