Common-place Book: n. a book in which common-places, or notable or striking passages are noted; a book in which things especially to be remembered or referred to are recorded.
Monday, March 31, 2008
A Spiritual Psalter from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian
Joseph, who bedewed his soul with remembrance of the Almighty, was not enkindled by the fire of iniquity; and, having conquered temptation, he became the king of Egypt.
Let us walk the strait path of sorrow, that we might become worthy and have God as our protector.
Pearls are always kept in the innermost vaults, but worthless stones are thrown out in the street as rubbish.
Cleanse yourself from shameful deeds with repentance, and the reproach of the slanderer will not frighten you.
With the help of the Divine fire, we must oppose the fire of passions. Until a brick is fired it is soft and brittle, but when submitted to fire it becomes a barrier against fire and watter.
Strive not to be a slave to your own will, but obey those who fear the Lord and, by God's mercy, you will crush the serpent's head.
Endure sorrow in the Lord, that joy might embrace you. Labor, that you might receive abundant reward.
Neither ridicule nor condemn those who fall into temptation; rather pray more frequently that you might not fall into temptation yourself.
A man who heart is clouded by a storm of thoughts and conquered by passions does not know shame before men, nor does he fear God.
Pray rather with an humble heart, and do not make yourself a den of thieves by indulging in indecent thoughts and desires, that you might not be ashamed in the day of judgement when men's secret will be revealed.
he who is negligent at harvests time will have no abundance for his household. And he who is careless now will find himself without the solace of the righteous in the day of reckoning.
O Lord! Show me Thy great lovingkindness and give me relief from the persecutions of the destroyer, for he has covered me with sores and he stands and mocks me.
As Thou didst tame the sea with one word from Thy lips when the disciples awakened Thee, so also hearken unto my groans and cries and tame the waves of the passions that move within me, aroused in my soul by the enemy of my salvation.
As the woman with an issue of blood was healed by merely touching the hem of Thy garment and straightway her blood ceased to flow, so also may my soul from which the enemy ceaselessly draws streams of sinful thoughts be healed by touching Thee just once through faith, O Physician of souls and bodies.
Demonstrate the healing power of faith in Thee, O Healer of all sicknesses, in the healing of my members which the enemy has covered with sores. Make my sores sores no long,er and instead cover them with virtues, that the enemy who has rejoiced at my ruin might then be ashamed.
O sinless Lamb, slaughtered for the salvation of the world and Creator of heaven and earth. Thy slave whom thou hast saved and given cause to rejoice shall ever praise Thy grace.
When Thou didst see, our Lord, that I had lost Thy glory, Thy love did not suffer it to be so. thou Who descendedst in Thy birth hast delivered me from Satan by Thy suffering and Thy death on the Cross.
But behold, I have sinned again and angered Thee and offended Thy name with the sins, transgressions and crimes I have committed. Woe is me, for I was ungrateful and have defiled myself with a multitude of wicked deeds!
I have wept and shed bitter tears while meditating on this fact. My meditation has transported me to fire, led me to a land of terror, carried me into a frightening and terrible abyss, cast me into flames and thrust me into darkness. My heart has felt all this, and I have sighed from fear and terror while contemplating this journey.
Carried away by these thoughts I have inspected the dwelling places of darkness. Then, sobbing and weeping, pained and sorrowing, have I condemned myself and bitterly exclaimed: woe is me, exceeding woe. What has justice prepared for me!
In terror I awoke as from a dream, but neither in waking was I delivered from torment of heart. I rent my garment, wept and sobbed: what have I done to my miserable self? I shall uncover my head like the harlot and confess my sins; with sighs shall I pray; I will turn my eyes into fountains of tears, that I might mourn for my unfortunate self.
I shall go to the publicans who are like me, I shall go to the sinners who repented. I will awaken my sleeping heart which has grown old in a multitude of evils. I will unite myself to the publicans and sinners and make myself like unto them. Like them shall I sob over the sins I have committed, that God's judgement might not be upon me and that I might not be tormented in the abyss of gehenna....
Vouchsafe me, O Lord, to love Thy love that comforts the saints and the righteous ones, who love non e other than Thee, O God, Who art magnanimous to the penitent, Who lovest the sinner who bedews his face with tears and bitterly mourns his transgression. Vouchsafe me, O Lord, the blessed repose that Thou hast prepared for all the saints.
be merciful, O Good One, to us who have freely chosen evil, the cause of all misery. The thoughts of our choosing are secret afflictions, and the deeds thereof are public afflictions. Such a choice brought on the first transgression of the law,, and all sin is a consequence thereof. Do Thou, O Pure One, purify our freedom, for now it is a fountain of turbid waters.
I wonder at our free will: it is strong, and yet it has been overthrown. It is a master, yet it has become a slave. It has the opportunity to conquer, yet it would rather yield and be conquered itself. Although it is free, it gives itself into slavery, like a bondswoman who signs with her own hand the agreement that binds her.
Blessed be the memory of the righteous ones who stood firm. They did not wax and wane like the moon, but were like unto the sun, whose light is always the same. Their spirit was not like rain-fed streams which are at times full, but then suddenly dry up.
Waves of temptations of every sort were aimed at the righteous ones, but they did not grow faint. Glory did not make them haughty, nor did abusive treatment cause them to be despondent. There were always the same; never did the fragrance of their virtues falter.
Blessed is the Good One, Who has poured forth from His vaults the fragrance of their deeds. Blessed is the Just Judge, Who has glorified their feats with crowns.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
A Spiritual Psalter from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian
Unto Thee do I cry, O Lord; despise not my pitiful supplication. Unto Thee do I stretch forth my defiled hands. Cast not away me who repent, but regard me with thy love for men and accept me with thine ardent kindness.
I have defiled myself with the sensuality of sin, disgraced the beauty of my soul, enslaved myself to carnal desires, destroyed the former dominion by heeding the libelous enemy, darkened the radiance of my nature: and, though I was honored to be counted as a son of God, I have made myself like unto the unreasoning beasts.
Terror, fear and trembling embrace me when I imagine the harvest of death that imperceptibly approaches us all; yet I remain incorrigible.
Be merciful to me, O Lover of me! In Thee alone do I lay all my hope. Grant that I might repent and be corrected and bring forth the fruits of repentance, that when the end comes I may not be cut down like a fruitless tree, or thrown into the fire like weeds; but like wheat may I be gathered into Thy storehouse.
I bow my knee and heart, and dare not look upon heaven. Accept the supplication of unclean lips, O my only Sinless Creator! Thou, O King of all, Who hast overthrown mutinous Belial, deliver me from all manner of iniquity. when they behold my conversion, angels and mortals will celebrate Thy glory.
I have scorned Thy life-giving commandments and been seduced by shameful deeds; but, Good Master, disdain not to deliver me from the Evil One's slavery.
I have made myself wholly a slave of the sins of sensuality; I have defiled body and soul. Daily do I cry: I have sinned, yet I cease not to engage in vile acts. And now I stand before Thee as one condemned.
Grant me, O Good One, forgiveness of my wicked deeds, for Thou art a kindhearted and man- befriending God.
Who will cure my soul if not Thou, O Christ, the only Physician of souls! Where will I find a remedy for the diseases of my soul, if not with Thee, O fountain of healing! Thou Who didst cure the ailing woman, cure also my soul from the ruin of sin.
May thy compassion descend on me and help me to overthrow my enemy. Fortify me who am infirm by the strength of thine arm, and the Evil One will be ashamed when he sees that I am prepared for battle. Animate me and the Evil One will be humiliated. In shame will he be turned back, and I will glorify thy name.
Accept the tears of my wretchedness and blot out the record of my debts, and again will the enemy be ashamed, seeing that Thy loving-kindness has destroyed the fruit of his wicked deeds and that I will not be punished.
May Thy compassion come to mine aid, that I might pass safely through the realm of temptations, and that I might thereafter be close to Thee, with Thee always.
My sinful soul will glorify Thee and Thy Father and the Holy Spirit, for she has wept and been heard, and, washed with tears of repentance, she has been made a temple inhabited by the Divinity Which has created the world.
No advantages do you offer those who love you, O world, you dwelling-place of sorrows. All who draw near to you do you seduce with our treasures and with all your delights, but in the day of death both the fair countenance of the beautiful and the might of the strong will be cast down into the grave. Woe to him who loves you and is loved by you, for his joy will be transformed into cries.
In the world--that sea of sin--all my days have passed in vain. My life has gone by without bringing me any profit. I have even forgotten about the day of death. I have whirled about and gathered a burden of sins, whole sheaves of tares destined to be consumed by fire. And behold--lamentation and sighs await me in that land full of horrors.
Because I have loved you, O cunning world, from my youth through my old age, the time of my life has passed without my notice; and lo, in sin will death steal me away. O, if only I had never set foot in you, O world that deceives all who enter! those who love you enjoy no pleasures, and those who hate you weep not. Blessed is he who has torn your snares asunder--he shall inherit the habitation of joy.
this world deceives even the wise with its appearance, for at times it appears desirable. It even offers benefits and treasures for loan, but in the day of death it will take them back and give in return torment incomparably greater than our sins. for a short while will it let us sin, but as a reward it will give us eternal darkness.
righteous art Thou, O Lord, and righteous is thy judgement that condemns the world and those who love it! therefore do I pray Thee that thy right hand which pulled Simon out of the sea might also pull me out of the waves and the tumult of this world that rise up against me. I have become mired in filth; the waters of the world are drowning me, they do not let me break loose to catch my breath. May Thy Cross, O Lord, be my staff and my support on the path along which I walk.
How beautiful the world is, but it is full of death! It is like unto a flower which opens in the spring. It blooms while dew and rain support its life; when the hot weather comes, the flower wilts. Likewise does death cause the cheeks to fade, and in the grave does it destroy the members of the body so beautifully arranged..... Grant us, O Lord, a refuge and defense in the land where the righteous dwell.
The world has made fools of its offspring. They sin, become distressed, and are convulsed by their own anxieties. How many of them whirl about, giving themselves no peace; yet they only gather thorns for the fire! Deceit arrogantly opens its mouth, but fidelity remains silent and does not speak. Iniquity gives eloquent speeches, but truth hides itself. Only death will silence all who have set foot on earth. Blessed is he who has completed his path in the world untainted.
the world is much stormier than the surging waves, and sin agitates it more than wind does the sea. There are times when the waters of the sea are calm, when the winds are concealed in their hiding places; but in the world waves of desire are ceaselessly whipped up, and the wind of deceit blows against the doors of the world's vessels. Yet the day when it will abate is at hand....Blessed is he who has complete his path in the world without falling into its snares.
Iniquity committed in the world upsets and distresses; burning lust takes on ferocity of a magnitude much greater than that of waves. The snares and traps of the world entangle those who serve it--their evil cargoes are sins and iniquities. But for the virtuous the time will come when their boat shall rest at harbor.
Your times and years are pleasant, O World, but they are like smoke. You are like unto a fleeting dream, and your days are just like shadows. Your evening passes quickly and your morning does not linger. Your hours fly, racing toward the end....Hasten, O sinner, to receive forgiveness while the light of day still shines on you.
Righteous is the judge, and righteous is the judgement of truth--then shall every man's deeds be weighted and rewarded according to his merits. In that day, those who worked iniquity will be tormented by regret, and those who labored virtuously will partake of joy in that land....O Lord, grant that I who am inspired by Thy mercy may be freed from the snares of the world so that I might safely enter the harbor of life.
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.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
A Spiritual Psalter from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian
Fire threatens my members, O Lord; but concealed within me, O my Deliverer, is Thy reconciling blood. Gehenna awaits to torture me, but Thy life-creating body is intimately united with mine. I am clothed in the garment of the Holy Spirit, and I shall not even be singed. When the river of fire begins to rumble, threatening vengeance, then will the fire be extinguished in me, smitten by the scent of Thy flesh and blood.
Thou, our Lord, art the hope of the penitent. Thou art the friend of all sinners. I beseech Thee, O Lord, by thy holy name: do not punish me with Thy righteous judgement. By the love of Thy Parent, by Thy Mother's bosom, where Thou wast carried, by the spear that pierced Thy ribs on Golgotha, do I beseech Thee: sprinkle me with the dew of Thy loving-kindness, that I might not then languish with thirst.
May thy Cross, O Lord, in which I seek refuge, be for me a bridge across the great river of fire. May I pass along it to the habitation of life.
Jonah called out to Thee in the depths of the sea and so did Daniel in the lion's den. The three Hebrew children called thee in the furnace fired up by the Chaldaeans. Thou didst lead Jonah out of the abyss, Thou didst save Daniel, and Thy loving-kindness bedewed and extinguished the flame in the furnace. Have mercy on me also, O Lord, and save me because I have confessed Thee, and, according to Thy grace, forgive me my debts.
Have mercy on me, O our kindhearted Lord, and according to the multitude of Thy compassions, blot out my sins. Wash me from the iniquities of my hands, that I might be purified and cleansed of my stains. I know that I have sinned; my sins are ever before me and I see them. Before Thee alone am I guilty, and against Thee alone have I sinned. Be merciful to me, Lord Jesus, our God.
Three times did Simon deny Thee, O Lord; but he brought Thee tears and Thou didst receive him. Behold: I, too, bring Thee a pure confession. Many are my sins; they are countless. According to Thy compassions, O our Lord, forgive mine iniquities; by Thy grace blot out the record of my stains and remember not my sins.
Praise be to the Lord God Who does not desire the death of a sinner! Praise to Thee, Who hast mercy on sinners! Praise to Thee Who receivest the penitent! Praise to Thee, O Jesus, Who openest Thy door to all who knock at it and beg the forgiveness of their sins! Praise to Thee, O Lord, and may Thy compassion be upon us! Be merciful to us, O Jesus, our Lord.
According to Thy grace that calls us, O God, to approach Thee without perishing, O Good One, Who hast made a covenant with us, proclaiming: Call upon Me and I will hearken unto you--thus do I knock at the door of Thy goodness, O my Deliverer! Hearken unto me according to Thy compassion and regard not mine iniquities. Have mercy on me, O Lord, have mercy on me according to Thy goodness, for I am guilty of much before Thy truth.
Thou didst create me, O Lord, name me in Thine image, and, according to Thy goodness, make me in Thy likeness. Thou didst teach me to recognize the path to the habitation of life and show me the path to gehenna. On account of his envy, the Evil One placed secret ambushes in my way, lured me from Thy path, and sullied me with abominations. Woe is me, O our Lord, for I am guilty of many things! Have mercy on me, O Lord, and save me according to Thy grace.
The thief, the wicked stealer of souls, craftily took my freedom from me, seduced me, and reviled me. By the gave of my eyes did he delude and imprison me and put sinful thoughts in me. I glanced and was filled with desire; I looked on curiously and I sinned. Because I stretched forth my hands to perform iniquity, so have i utterly perished. Alas, now the fire threatens me! Save me, O kindhearted One, that I might not die.
I am the most unfortunate of all who have been born of woman, for by my very own deeds have I made myself an unfortunate and cast myself into ruin. Daily have I sinned and comforted myself by ignoring the fact that death lies in wait for me. Alas, the angel of death sent to take me to the judgement is already at hand. Alas, all that is concealed will be exposed, and I will be covered with shame1
Behold: my deeds are justly recorded; not a single word has been forgotten. In the Judge's great book are all my deeds and transgressions entered. Woe is me, when justice reads there all the sins which I have committed from my youth through my old age! What shall I do in that hour and where shall I run from Thee, O Lord?
Woe is me, O Lord! I am guilty of so many things! Woe is me; I have sinned and not offered Thee repentance! O God who hadst mercy on the harlot, have mercy also on me who am miserable, O our Lord, that I might not perish! In the place of the myrrh that the harlot brought Thee, I have Thy flesh and blood which are united with my members. No, O our Lord, regard not my deeds; may thy grace blot out mine offenses.
Enter not into judgement with me, O our Lord, for no living creature can be justified before Thee. Thou alone, O Lord art pure. Spare me and cleanse me of sins by Thy grace. Vouchsafe me, O kindhearted One, Thy great compassions, that they might make me rich and I might receive forgiveness, and Thine angels might rejoice according to Thy word, O Thou who art kindhearted towards sinners.
I beseech Thee, O true Light, begotten of the blessed Father, image of His hypostasis, Who sittest at the right of His magnificence, O Christ, the praise and joy of those who love Thee: Thou art my life, my light and my gladness!
Despise not me, who am worthless; cast me who am vile not away, for the enemy will be exceedingly pleased if I am plunged into despair because of the fog of error which surrounds me. He will rejoice only when he sees that despair is beginning to make me his captive.
Rather do Thou, according to Thine ardent love, shame his hopes, snatch me from his teeth, deliver me from his crafty schemes, from all that he contrives against me; for greatly does he arm himself to do battle with me.
Grant me, O Lord, enlightenment to recognize the wiles of my adversary, the hater of all good; for he places in my path countless multitudes of seductions and pitfalls--both profits and losses, the comforts of this age and carnal pleasure, the length of the present life, timidity in ascetic labors, slothfulness in prayer, sleep and rest for the body during the singing of psalms.
Inasmuch as the enemy strives for my ruin, so do I, who am miserable, surrender myself to recklessness and apathy. The more snares he sets out for me, the more careless I become.
Be wary, O my soul, watch over thy conscience; pay no attention to the falls of others, but be instead more attentive to thine own falls. Hasten, forestall thy ruin, and be reconciled to Christ, crucified in the flesh for thy sake. If we have condemned ourselves, we will not be condemned then, at the great and eternal judgement.
Be kind to me, O Lord, according to Thy compassion; and save me according to Thy singular goodness, through the prayers of our All-Pure Lady the Mother of God and of all the saints.
A soul choked by sorrow approaches Thee, O holy Master, and stands before Thee with tears, leveling accusations against the annihilator, the enemy, and with all humility she falls down before Thee, begging for defense from the adversary that oppresses her.
Inasmuch as this soul approaches thee without shame, be quick to hear her, and visit thine attention upon her, who runs to Thee with live.
If thou wilt despise her, choked as she is by sorrow, she will perish. If Thou hesitatest to hear her, who is deadened, her strength will fail.
But if, according to Thy compassions, Thou wilt visit her, she will be made whole. If Thou wilt regard her, she will be saved. If thou wilt hearken unto her, she will be saved. If Thou wilt hearken unto her, she will wax in strength.
Be jealous over her, for she is betrothed unto Thee, and Paul who betrothed her unto Thee said that Thou art an immortal and jealous God.
Despise not her, that the enemy might not think that Thou hast divorced Thyself from her and sent her away from Thyself. Punish me, O Lord, according to Thy compassion; but deliver me not into the hands of the annihilator.
Lo, I have gathered up all of my thoughts and cannot recall anything good before Thee except the fact that I know no other God than Thee.
A Spiritual Psalter from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian
O God Who art above all, Who alone hast authority over life and death: show me, a sinner, Thy great mercy in the hour of Thy terrible coming, that as I stand before Thy throne I might not be a great disgrace and reproach to all who will behold me: the angels, archangels, prophets, apostles, patriarchs, martyrs, ascetics, and all the righteous.
Bring me to my senses here, my Savior, here where I have enjoyed the delusion of sin, as a goodhearted Father Who loves His children, and forgive me there, as our merciful and only sinless God.
I who am wretched have committed every kind of sin. I have surpassed all with my dissipation. I deserve punishment, and if I begin to beg for repentance, I have no tears.
Alas, with what eyes shall I, a negligent sinner, behold the terrible throne upon which Thou, O Lord, wilt sit as Thou exposest what I have done? the whole of my life have I squandered like a prodigal, wallowing continually in the mire of sensuality.
Thou alone, O my Creator, knowest all my secret falls and the full extent of my sins. No one has ever been such a dwelling-place of sin as I. No one ever embittered Thy grace, O Master, as fully as I, who followed the aims of sin.
But do Thou, Who art a sea of goodness, dry up the ruinous sea of my sins. Do Thou, Who art an abyss of loving-kindness, drown the abyss of my sins.
Repay me not according to the merit of my deeds, and condemn me not to the flames of gehenna. For Thy wrath, O Lord, is inbearable, and who can withstand Thy threats?
Fear, O soul, the judgement and gehenna, and drive away the heavy sleep of apathy and the terrible slumber of recklessness. The end is near, the judgement is at the door. What will we encounter after we take leave of this life?
Come to my aid, O saints and righteous ones, who have performed good deeds unto salvation and lament for me as for one deceased, or take pity on me as one who is among the living but half-dead. For I am full of shame and lack boldness because of the sins I have knowingly committed.
Pour out on me your kindness as you wold for a prisoner or for one covered with festering sores. Be kind to me, O initiates of the merciful God, our Savior, and pray that He might freely convert me, and that in the hour of His coming I might not be found unworthy and not hear the terrible condemnation: get away from Me, O worker of deceit. I tell you that I know you not.
Grant me, O Son of the Good One, that for which my mind yearns, and join to it that which is pleasing to Thy will.
Grant that I may choose to do good and in no way deviate from Thy will.
Do not permit me to be a wicked and hypocritical disciple who violates Thy commandments.
Protect me from thinking that I can walk along Thy path merely for the sake of appearance and thus by my hypocrisy deceive those who see me, inciting them to proclaim me blessed.
Grant that my heart might please Thy greatness in secret, and that my just life might glorify Thee publicly.
May truth be a mistress to guide Thy worshipper; may it preserve me in chastity both near and far.
Deliver me from the misfortune of knowing Thy law, yet lacking the desire to please Thee.
Vouchsafe me the company of people who are simple, but experienced and wise in the performance of virtues.
My flesh is weak. Fortify it with Thy strength. Help me, break the arrows of the cunning enemy, and number me among the hosts of Thine heirs.
Grant me, O Lord, ever to be among Thy dominion and to do what is pleasing to Thee. And whenever I begin something good, do Thou, O Lord, give me strength to complete it.
I know, O Lord, that I have sinned against Thy will. Clearly do I see that I have transgressed Thy commands. But do Thou, who makest Thy sun to shine on the bad and the good, deign also to shine Thy light in my clouded mind. And sins--those murderers and robbers who have taken up residence inside of me--will be driven out by this Thy light.
The Evil One sees in me no wickedness that did not come from him, for it is because of him that I have become wicked. I am, however, conquered by him through my own free will. The Evil One has entangled me because I myself instructed him to do so.
The slothful and the timid run from Thy yoke; Thy love shames the negligent.
Praise be to Thy goodness, to that mother of all teachers. The blows that they deliver to bring the stubborn to their senses are perhaps quite painful, yet sympathetically do they offer healing to the penitent.
Worthy of veneration are Thy Father and Thy Holy Spirit, Who rejoices at our return!
Blessed is he who has become magnanimous and kindhearted and not enslaved himself to untamed vehemence or wicked wrath; he will be magnified by the Lord.
Blessed is he who has been exalted in love and stands like a city built on a mountaintop, for whom the enemy withdraws with terror when he sees him; for he fears a man who is firm in the Lord.
Blessed is he who has shone forth with faith in the Lord like a bright candle on a tall candlestick, and has illumined the souls of those in darkness who followed the teachings of the faithless and the irreverent.
Blessed is he who ever loves truth and does not let his lips arm dishonor with lies, for he fears the commandment that forbids even idle talk.
Blessed is he who does not foolishly judge his neighbor, but rather, as befits a reasonable, spiritual man, tries first to cast out the beam from his own eye.
Blessed is he who has consciously exercised restraint, and who has never been seduced, neither in thought nor in his senses, by skin and flesh which soon pass and putrefy.
Blessed is he who keeps the day of his departure ever before his eyes, and has learned to hate arrogance before our inherent worthlessness is to be revealed by putrefaction in the grave.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
A Spiritual Psalter from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian
If you have not yet become mightily inflamed with the Holy Spirit, avoid listening to the thoughts of others, that what you hear might not arouse passions not yet dead and pervert your soul.
If you are an ardent reader, seek not brilliant and erudite texts; otherwise the demon of haughtiness will strike your heart. But like a wise bee that gathers honey from flowers, through your reading obtain also healing for your soul.
Blessed is he who preaches virtue by means of his deeds. But if you say something that pertains to virtue, but do the opposite, this will not save you.
When you see people dissipated in acts of unclean love, look not at them in amazement, that you might not be seduced by rosy skin which will soon turn to dust. Rather sigh to yourself and cry out: Remember, O Lord, that we are dust--and God's grace will prevent you from becoming a prisoner of the Evil One.
Pray diligently to the Lord, that He might grant you the spirit of perfect chastity, that even as you dream at night you might evade the wiles of the Evil One as a person runs when he sees a wild beast chasing after him; or as a man whose pursuer carries a burning torch runs from room to room, that the fire might not burn him.
Just as one cannot buy education or artistic skills for any price without working at it, so one cannot attain the habit of exercising the virtues without zeal and diligence.
Just as your head takes priority over all other members of your body, and if a stone, stick or sword is aimed at you, you raise other members of your body to deflect the blow from your head, knowing that you cannot live in this life without your head--so may you give priority over all things to faith in the Holy Trinity Which is One in essence, for without this faith no one can live the true life.
With all your heart hope on the Lord, and you will easily evade the wiles of the wicked one, for the Lord does not forsake those who work for Him.
With the eyes of my heart have I seen the Lord sitting in great glory and I seemed to hear Him say to my soul: how can it be, O soul, that thou hast found thy heavenly bridal chamber, filled with the light of glory, abhorrent? How can it be that thou wast repelled by the good things that I have prepared for thee in the land of life? How can it be that thou hast become alienated from Me through indecent deeds and thoughts? How can it be that thou carest not to prepare thyself to stand worthily before Me in MY coming? How can it be that thou dost not keep thy lamp ready in expectation of the call: Behold, the bridegroom cometh--so that thou mightest go out to meet Me with joy? How can it be that thou takest no pains to prepare a proper wedding garment? How can it be that thou dost not prepare thyself to enter with joy into the holy, heavenly bridal chamber? How can it be that thou dost not join thyself to Me, Who have redeemed thee from death?
I have partaken of death in order to prepare thee as My bride. I have prepared the eternal kingdom for thee as an inheritance. All My good things have I, as the King, bestowed upon thee. For thy sake I even became a man, for I desired to redeem thy life from corruption. For thee have i prepared a bridal chamber in the heavens and arranged for the angels to lead thee into that bridal chamber, that though mightest enter therein with joy.
Yet hast thou turned away from me, from thy Groom, and from the ineffable good things that I have prepared fro thee.
But who is more desirable than I, Who save all creation through My compassion? What father gives life as I do? Yet thou hast left Me, O soul, and loved another, a despicable stranger.
Who would not begin to tremble in terror upon hearing these words?
Who would not fall down ashamed, shed tears and cry out: for what purpose did I come forth from my mother's womb--to anger the Good, Holy and kindhearted God?
But, O Lord, grant that we may be sobered and detach ourselves es from vain cares, that we may come to our senses and return to Thee, in Whom alone lies all true good for our sake.
Hearken, O Master, unto my lamentation, and receive the words of my prayer, which I, a sinner, bring to Thee, Who art longsuffering and all-merciful.
Do not with me according to my deeds; remember not my great transgressions, by which I have embittered Thy grace exceedingly, O all-good Master.
Thy grace endured the sins of my youth, which were great in number. May it endure also my indiscretion, heedlessness, and carelessness.
By Thy compassion hast Thou vowed, O Master and Lover of men, that Thou desirest not the death of a sinner, but that he should return to Thee and live. By Thy compassion mayest Thou be moved to have mercy and compassion also on me who am a sinner.
Behold, O Christ our Savior, the fountains of my tears, the contrition and sighs of my unworthy soul! May thy mercy come and shelter me before the terrible verdict of death finds me unprepared and ashamed.
May Thy grace grant me some time for true repentance. For thy grace is wont to have mercy on every sinner who sheds tears, and to forgive him all the sins he has committed. Do this, that I too might bring Thee the fruit of repentance.
Draw me toward life and save me. Grant that with a pure heart I might serve Thee all the days of my life and that, having pleased Thee well with good deeds, I might be vouchsafed both to pass through this life and to enter into the eternal bliss which Thou hast prepared for all Thy saints who have pleased Thee in every generation.
O Virgin Lady and Mother of God, thou who didst bear Christ our Savior and God in thy womb, I place all my hope on thee; in thee do I trust, for thou art higher than all the powers of heaven. Thou, who art All-Pure, protect me by thine all-powerful prayers.
Direct my life and lead me on the path indicated by the holy will of thy Son and our God.
Grant me remission of sins, be to me a refuge, a protection, a defense, and a directress, guiding me along the path to eternal life.
Do not leave me in the terrible hour of death, O my Lady, but rush to my aid, rescue me from the bitter torments of the demons. For if thou so choosest, thou hast the power to do this, for thou art truly the Mother of God who reignest over all.
Cease not to pray for all of us, thine unworthy servants, that we might be delivered from all the wiles of the Evil One and from all extremity, and that we might remain unwounded by all his venomous attacks.
Preserve us uncondemned to the end by thy prayers that, saved by thy help and intercession, we might forever send up glory, praise, thanks and honor to the One God in Trinity, to the Creator of all.
Monday, March 24, 2008
A Spiritual Psalter from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian
My heart is pained, my soul agonizes and my inner parts are torn! Where am I to find the tears, where am I to find the contrition and the signs to rightly mourn our orphaned state and the paucity of sanctity among us?
I see, O master, that Thou takest Thy saints, like choice gold, from the vain world to the resting-place of life.
Life a farmer who sees his fruits well ripened and prudently hastens to gather them that they might not be the least bit spoiled, so dost Thou also, O Savior, gather Thy chosen ones who have labored righteously.
Yet we, who are slothful and weak-willed, remain hardened, and our fruits never ripen; for we have not the resolve to labor without sparing ourselves, in order to ripen in good works and rightly be gathered into the storehouse of life.
Say: woe is me, alas, O soul, and weep; for thou hast been left and orphan so young by the blameless fathers and righteous ascetics. Where are our fathers? Where are the saints? Where are the vigilant? Where are the sober? Where are the humble? Where are the meek? Where are those who vow silence? Where are the abstinent? Where are those who with a contrite heart stood before the Lord in perfect prayer, like angels of God? They have left here to join our holy God with their lamps brightly burning.
Woe is us! What times are these in which we live? Into what sea of evil have we sailed? Our fathers have entered the harbor of life, that they might not see the sorrows and seductions that overcome us because of our sins. They are crowned, yet we slumber; we sleep and indulge in selfish pleasures.
O Lord, have pity on us! Make sober our thoughts which whirl about in vain. Grant us contrition and tears, that they might shed some light on the blindness of our hears, and we might see that way in which our fathers walked when they followed Thee. Grant us the desire and strength to follow in this same way, so that we too with them might receive the lot of those who are saved, to the glory of Thy name.
Love prompts me to speak to God, but my unworthiness forces me to be silent. Tortuous spiritual afflictions compel me to talk, but sins force me to keep quiet. My soul languishes and my eyes long for tears.
You have sinned, O soul; repent. For our days pass by like a shadow. We will travel through terrible and frightening places. Do not put off turning to the Lord day after day. Become at last contrite, O my soul.
Become contrite at the thought of all the good things that you have received from the Lord, but not kept. Become contrite at the thought of what you have done, and how patient God has been with you. Become contrite, that at Christ's terrible judgement you might not be sent to outer darkness.
Woe is me, a sinner! For because of my weakness I have become defiled, and ever do I defile the purity of my heart. Apathy and slothfulness have shamed the boldness of my heart. Evil desire commands me, like a master commands his slave, and I, like a child, immediately obey with fear. It leads me into sin and this gladdens me.
Woe is me, O Lord! Thy grace draws me toward life, but I instead prefer death. Thou takest pains that I might become as honorable as the angels; but I, in my depravity, debase myself. My sins have multiplied, O Lord, and ceaselessly do they multiply and there is no limit to their multitude.
And who will mourn for me or pray for me? Do Thou, O my Savior, Thyself condescend to have mercy on me through Thy grace and regard me who despair with compassion! For how will I pray to Thee, O master, when my mouth is filled with vile words? Or how will I sing praises to Thee, when my conscience is defiled? Or how will I love Thee, when I am filled with passions? Or how will truth dwell in me, when I have cursed myself with lies? Or how will I call upon Thee, when I have not kept Thy commandments?
After having gained knowledge of the truth, I have become a brawler and an offender. I argue over trifles; I have become envious of and callous toward my neighbor, merciless toward beggars, wrathful, argumentative, obstinate, slothful, irritable. I harbor vile thoughts, I love fancy clothing. And to this day I have many corrupt thoughts and fits of selfishness, gluttony, sensuality, vainglory, arrogance, lust, gossiping, breaking of fasts, despondency, rivalry, and indignation.
I am worthless, but think much of myself. I lie constantly, but get angry with liars. I defile the temple of my body with wanton thoughts, but sternly judge the wanton. I condemn those who fall, but myself fall constantly. I condemn slanderers and thieves, but am myself bot a thief and a slanderer. I walk with a bright countenance, although I am altogether impure.
In churches and at banquets I always want to take the place of honor. I see hermits and act dignified; I see monks and I become pompous. I strive to appear pleasing to women, dignified to strangers, intelligent and reasonable to my neighbors, superior to intellectuals. With the righteous I act as if I possess vast wisdom; the unintelligent I disdain as illiterates.
If I am offended, I take revenge. If I am honored, I shun those who honor me. If someone demands of me what is rightfully his, I start a suit. And those who tell me the truth I consider enemies. When my error is exposed, i get angry, but I am not so dissatisfied when people flatter me.
I do not want to honor those who are worthy but I myself, who am unworthy, demand honor. I do not want to tire myself with work, but if someone fails to serve me i get angry with him. I do not want to walk among laborers, but if someone fails to help me in my work I slander him.
I arrogantly deny my brother when he is in need, but when I have need of something I turn to him. I hate those who are ill, but when I myself am ill I wish that everyone would love me. I do not want to know those who are their than I, and I scorn those who are lower.
If I abstain from indulging my foolish desires, I praise myself vaingloriously. If I succeed in vigilance, I fall into the snares of conceit and contradiction. If I refrain from eating, I drown in pride and arrogance. If i am wakeful in prayer, I am vanquished by irritability and wrath. If I see virtue in someone, I studiously ignore him.
I have scorned worldly pleasures, but do not abandon my vain desire for them. If I see a woman, I go into raptures. To all appearances I am wise in humility, but in my soul I am haughty. I seem not to be acquisitive, but in reality I suffer from a mania for possessions. And what good is it to dwell on such things? I appear to have forsaken the world, but in fact I still think about worldly things all the time.
During services I always occupy myself with conversations, wandering thoughts, and vain recollections. During meals I indulge in idle chatter. I yearn for gifts. I participate in the sinful falls of others and engage in ruinous rivalry.
Such is my life! With what vileness do I obstruct my own salvation! And my arrogance, my vainglory does not permit me to think about my sores that I might cure myself. Behold my feats! See how vast are the regiments of sins which the enemy sends to campaign against me! Yet in the face of all this, I who am wretched endeavor to boat of sanctity. I live in sin, but want others to honor me as a righteous man.
In all this I have but one thing to say in my defense: the devil has ensnared me. But this did not suffice to absolve Adam of his sin. Cain was of course also prompted by the devil, but he did not escape condemnation either. what shall I do if the Lord comes to me? I have no means to justify my negligence.
I fear that I shall be numbered among those whom Paul called vessels of wrath, who will share the devil's fate and whom God, because of their contempt for Him, has committed to the passions of degradation. Thus there is the danger that I will be sentenced to the same fate.
If Thou wouldst save me, who am unworthy, O Merciful Lord, vouchsafe me, a sinner, repentance; enliven my soul deadened by sins, O Giver of Life. Drive out the stony hardness that is in my miserable heart and grant me a fountain of contrition, O Thou Who didst pour forth life unto us from Thy life-creating rib.
The evil devil, after he was decisively vanquished by the holy saints and ascetics restrained by God's grace, sat down and railed against himself, weeping and saying: woe is me who am miserable! To what have I been subjected? How did it happen that I lost the struggle and ceded victory over myself? But is is I who have become the author of my own shame, for I started this lengthy battle with them.
After being defeated at the first two battles I should have retreated immediately, seeing that Christ is with them. But since I pursued victory over them, I only increased their reward, to my own disgrace.
I should have realized my error before, when I suffered at Christ's hands, when He overthrew all my power. For I did all I could to ensure His crucifixion, but it was His very death that conquered me.
I have suffered the very same at the hands of the martyrs. I have raised up kings and prepared torments that the martyrs might see these things and become terrified and renounce Christ. Not only have they not been terrified by various forms of torture, but they have confessed Christ right up until their death.
And now again, when I wanted to defeat these struggles in warfare, I had to retreat defeated and with great shame. I boasted of my clever schemes, but they are all torn to shreds like a spider's web. I wanted to overpower them with various passions, but they have made me turn back and flee by the power of the Cross. And now at last I do not know what to do.
I will leave these courageous strugglers and go to my friends who have chosen a carefree life. Among them I will not have to labor, nor will I need to use any deception.
I can take up bonds and tie them up. And after I tie them with the bonds of which they are so fond, I will have them under m y control like slaves who always do my bidding voluntarily.
Thus shall they fling themselves into the abyss, and I will rejoice at their ruin and keep them there, that I might have company in the inextinguishable fire.
In a like manner do we, who are foolish, give authority over ourselves to the enemy by cutting ourselves off God through our rejection of His commandments. Having found us thus stripped of grace, he freely takes possession of us, and unopposed he leads us along his path--the path of ruin.
O Lord! Grant that we might escape from the evil one, having torn to shreds the bonds with which he has tied us up according to our own choosing. Lay upon us Thy good and easy yoke and send us the strength to carry it, that, traveling along the good path of Thy commandments, we might reach the city which Thou prepared for them that love Thee.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
A Spiritual Psalter from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian
Blessed is he whom Thou givest understanding according to Thy love, O Lord, for Thou dost not turn away from those whom Thou lovest. Turn not away from me, either, O Lord, that the evil one might not destroy me.
According to Thy goodness have compassion on me who am infirm, and vouchsafe me forgiveness of my many sins; that, with all who have been pleasing to Thee, I might also glorify Thy goodness.
Have compassion, O Lord, according to Thy goodness; and have mercy on all of us who have been rejected by Thy Truth because we failed to observe Thy word; though, if we had observed it, we would have received salvation.
I too have been spurned with all such men, even more so than they. Yet make me worthy according to Thy grace to receive forgiveness of sins and, on the strength of this forgiveness, hope for salvation.
With love have I daily contemplated Thy word. Make me worthy to exclaim together with the righteous ones this song of benediction: Praise to Him Who had mercy on me! Glory to Him Who has forgiven me!
The heights bless Thee, the depths magnify Thee; all things venerate Thee, for all was created by Thee. Everything sings praises to Thee, O kindhearted Lord!
Have mercy on me, O god, according to Thy great mercy, and according to the multitude of thy compassions, blot out my transgression. For if Thou wilt have mercy on me and free me from the pitiful affliction of the passions--if only Thou wilt have mercy on me, then will I willingly obey Thy grace.
If Thou wilt do this according to the greatness of Thy goodness, then wilt Thou deliver me. If Thou wilt pour out upon me Thy goodness, I will be saved.
I am certain that this is possible for Thee. I know that Thou hast forgiven and dost forgive all who turn to Thee with all their strength.
I confess that I have enjoyed the benefits of Thy grace many times already; but each time I have rejected Thy grace and sinned as no other has sinned.
But Thou, Who hast resurrected the dead, raise also me who am deadened by sin. Thou Who hast healed the blind, enlighten the clouded eyes of my heart. Thou Who hast delivered Adam from the mouth of the serpent, pull me out of the mire of mine iniquities; for I too belong among Thy sheep, though I have by my own free choice become food for lions.
Sins have made of me a dog; but, healed by Thy grace, I will become Thy son. I was thrown out like a corpse, but if Thou so desirest I will be brought to life.
I know that I have sinned consciously, but I have Thy saints to pray for me. I know that I exceed every measure with my sins, but Thy goodness is unsurpassable.
Thou Who hast preferred the publican, prefer also me, who recognize that I have done many more vile deeds than he. Thou, O Lord, hadst mercy on Zacchaeus who was unworthy. Likewise have mercy on me who am also unworthy.
Paul was once a wolf, and chased the sheep of Thy flock; but according to Thy grace he became a pastor who diligently cared for the sheep.
I know that he sinned in ignorance, and that he was vouchsafed forgiveness of his sins and much grace because of his ignorance. But thou, O Lord, condemn my sin committed in knowledge, and have mercy on me according to Thine exceedingly abundant grace.
Blessed is he who has illumined the eyes of his heart, and always sees the Lord in himself as in a mirror. Such a man will be relieved of passions and evil thoughts.
Blessed is he who loves good and beautiful speech but hates words that are shameful and corrupting, for he will not be taken captive by the evil one.
Blessed is he who instructs his neighbor in the fear of God and does not seduce his soul, for he is ever wary of the great Pastor's iron staff.
Blessed is he who is obedient to his neighbor in accordance with God's will and gratefully suffers offence, for such a man will be crowned as a confessor of the Lord.
Blessed is he who loves abstinence in accordance with God's will and is not subject to condemnation as a corrupt sensualist on account of his belly, for such a man will be magnified in the Lord.
Blessed is he who does not intoxicate himself with wine, but is ever glad in remembrance of the Lord, in Whom all the saints rejoice unceasingly.
Blessed is he who manages his possessions in accordance with God's will, and does not lay himself open to condemnation from the Savior as a miser lacking compassion for his neighbor.
Blessed is he who is vigilant in prayer, reading and good works; he will be enlightened and will not fall asleep unto death.
Blessed is he who has become a marvelous spiritual net and caught many for the good Master; greatly will he be praised in the Lord.
Blessed is he who has become a marvelous example for his neighbor and has not injured the conscience of his fellow servants with indecent acts; he will be blessed in the Lord.
O Judge, Whose judgement is righteous, and to Whom is known all that is concealed: condemn me not at Thy righteous judgement, when all secrets will be exposed!
With the tears that she brought to Thee, the harlot destroyed the record of her transgressions. Behold, I too bring Thee a gift of tears. Accept them from me, O Lord, as Thou didst accept them from her.
The evil one has deceived me with his caresses and has taken my mind captive with his seductions. Drive him away from me, who am miserable, O our Lord; snatch me from his hands, that he might not tear me to shreds.
Judge me, O Lord, and settle my dispute with the merciless enemy. He has made me a target for his arrows. According to Thy compassion, may those arrows gore him instead.
Be my helper, O Lord, for I am miserable and have no other helper. And do not let the enemy see me vanquished and mock me, as he mocked our foremother.
Woe is me if all my secrets are revealed and subjected to scrutiny then, when no justification will be considered. My spirit shudders, O Lord, for I hear that fire will consume the Lawless, and I am straw and haw. And if Thou O Lord wilt regard my sins, I shall perish
May Thy goodness, O Lord, that once lifted Thee onto the cross for the redemption of our race, forestall me who am miserable, that I might be vouchsafed forgiveness of my sins.
Thou, O Jesus, hast redeemed all with Thy blood; and by Thy death hast Thou bound the powerful adversary. Release me from the fetters of the evil one; break his shackles and bonds.
Rebuke him so that he will withdraw from me, who am miserable, that his will might not be realized in me. Bring my will into accord with Thine, O Lord, Who blottest out my sins by Thy loving-kindness.
Do not leave me in the hands of the malefactor, and give him no authority over me; for Thou hast prepared Thy flesh and blood as food for me, and Thy cross is imprinted on my brow.
Strengthen me, O Lord, for I am infirm. Blot out my transgressions, for greatly have I sinned. Make chaste my senses, that they might submissively and unwaveringly follow the royal path.
May Thy light shine in my thoughts; may they be illumined by Thy rays, and may Thy magnificent radiance gladden them, for Thou art the sun that irradiates all.
Cleanse our stains with Thy hyssop, wash our sores with Thy blood, sanctify the secret workings of our thoughts with Thy body.
Praise be to Thee, Who hast redeemed the human race which had perished, lifted it upon Thy shoulders and carried it into the house of Thy Father.
A Spiritual Psalter from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian
Woe is me! What comforts and delights are prepared for us; but there is no one who has labored for salvation, no one who desires such things. Instead we prefer that which is present, temporary and impermanent. We never even bring these eternal delights to mind. What blindness! What diabolical deceit!
Woe is me! What torments are prepared for the punishment of sinners like me who live carelessly. There is no one among us who fears and trembles. With empty words we honor that which we are taught. We take pleasure in the passions of the flesh, for we are bound by them as with iron chains, and there is no one who fights against them; but rather, we who are bound rejoice.
O the all-ruinous wiles of the unclean serpent! How he has darkened the minds of all men, so that our thoughts are perverted and we love ruin more than the good things to come.
Come, let us bend our hearts to contrition, and we will weep before the Lord day and night. Come, let us remember that hour and how inevitable it is, and contritely will we shed tears. Come, let us recall those inexpressible, indescribable delights, and make our hearts contrite. Come, let us recall the terrible and awesome throne and the shame which awaits us when we stand before it--and we will lament for ourselves.
Come, let us remember how the righteous will shine like the sun and the sinners will be like the soot on burnt pots; and, having made our hearts contrite, let us be zealous in good works.
Come, let us confirm ourselves in the fear of God, that we might be made worthy of eternal bliss.
Come, let us fall down before God in contrition and simplicity of heart, for He is good and kindhearted and saves those who repent.
Let us beg Him to bring us into His kingdom of ineffable bliss that has no end.
O Virgin Lady and Mother of God, most blessed and graced by God, incline thine ear and hear my words, pronounced by my defiled and impure lips. Do not despise me, who am miserable; do not let me, thine unworthy servant, utterly perish; but use thy motherly prayers to heal my wretched soul, mercilessly shattered by my evil passions. The wicked enemy has shattered it with the sins of sensuality and trampled it into dust. Therefore, filled with all manner of shame, I dare not; I have not the courage to ask the Lover of mankind, my God, forgiveness for the multitude of my sins, and healing for my incurable sores. For I have defiled the temple of my body; through my indecent desires I have impregnated it with a multitude of impurities; and I have impaired all my senses with illicit acts. Thus I dare not reach up to heaven with my hands, defiled as they are with vile pursuits. Accordingly do I, who am miserable and a prodigal, submit myself to thine ineffable compassion, O immaculate Lady. For I have no other refuge but thee, who art mine only comfort and swift defender. I put my hope in thee, do not abandon me. thy supplications are welcomed by thine only-begotten Son; He rejoices at thine intercession and is quick to grant thy prayers for us. Despise me not who am so miserable; may the indecency of my acts not curtail thy boundless mercy, O Mother of God. Accept this my worthless supplication and by thy motherly prayers make it acceptable to thy Son and God, that He might vouchsafe me the heavenly kingdom as I praise and bless the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Who will not lament for me, who have renounced the eternal kingdom for the sake of meagre pleasures, ignoring the eternal fire? Having surrendered myself to the passions, I have destroyed the integrity of my soul and become like the unreasoning beasts.
At one time I found myself rich with gifts, but now I have come to love the poverty of the passions. I have become a stranger to the virtues and departed for the distant land of corruption. I am half dead; I have only a tiny remnant of life in me.
Because I am this way by mine own free choice, I cannot even raise mine eyes to the kindhearted Lord.
Lament, O blessed and righteous ones, for me who am caught in the embrace of passions and sin.
Lament, O ascetics, for me who am a glutton and voluptuary.
Lament, O merciful and condescending ones, for me who am hardhearted and cause much grief.
Lament, O God-pleasers, for me who strive to please men.
Lament, O ye who have attained meekness, for me who am irritable and wrathful.
Lament, O humble ones, for me who am pompous and arrogant.
Lament, O ye who have attained the nonacquisitiveness of the apostles, for me who, burdened by my love for possessions, cling to material things.
Lament, O ye who have loved lamentation and hated laughter, for me who have loved laughter and hated lamentation.
Lament, ye who contemplate the judgement that will come after death, for me who affirm that I remember the judgement but act to the contrary.
Pray, O saints of God, for my soul which is convulsed by all manner of passions. Inasmuch as you are able, help me, O saints of God.
For I know that if you beseech God, the Lover of mankind, all will be granted you from the sea of His kindness. And, like our man-befriending God, so also when I, a sinner, beseech you, do not despise my supplication; for I have not the boldness to pray to Him myself because of the multitude of my sins.
Your role it is, O saints, to intercede for sinners, God's role it is to have mercy on those who despair.
O saints of God, pray to the King on behalf of the prisoner. Pray to the Pastor on behalf of the sheep. Pray to Life on behalf of the corpse, that He might lend His hand to aid me and strengthen my humble soul in its feebleness.
I fall down before the compassion of Thy kindness, O Master of all! Accept the prayer of a sinner; sweeten my soul which languishes in the bitterness of sin. Give drink to me who am thirsty from the fountain of life and guide me along its path.
As my Master, rescue Thy slave from captivity, that I might be freed from slavery to the dishonorable passions that have entangled my heart.
May Thy compassion forestall me before I am dragged down to hell together with those who work iniquities.
At that time all that I do now in darkness will be made manifest. Woe is me; what shame will embrace me when those who now think that I am irreproachable see me condemned, when they see then how I, who am miserable, have neglected spiritual deeds and labored for the passions.
Woe is me! O my soul, why is the sun of your mind clouded by the haze of passions? And why does this haze not disappear when rays of light shine forth? Why do you allow the passions to drag you down to earth, and why have you preferred bonds over freedom?
The garment God wove for you have you made unfit for use and unworthy for the royal wedding. Willingly have you given yourself up to sin and enslaved yourself to the enemy of life.
What will you say to the Judge in that day of fear and trembling? Come to your senses, while there is still time. While you are still the mistress of your thoughts, while our mind is still functioning, while there is yet movement in your body, while it is still possible for grace to touch your heart, and while you can still shed cleansing tears--take a brave stand against the passions and, with God's help, valiantly smite Goliath.
Hurry, do not let a thief outrun you, do not let a harlot reach the entrance before you, do not let one of the violent who take the kingdom of God by force block the door.
Hurry, for when the contest is over it is no longer possible to enter competitions. When the market is closed it is not possible to seek goods; and when a transaction is completed, it is not possible to take part in it.
While there is time, hurry to engage in battle, that you might overcome your enemies and show yourself worthy to receive a crown.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
A Spiritual Psalter from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian
Woe is me, to what judgement will I be subject, and of what disgrace am I worthy! My inner self is not like my outward appearance: I talk about how to free oneself from the passions, but day and night I myself think about disgraceful passions. I conduct discussions about purity, but myself, I indulge in indecent behavior.
Alas! What trials await me? The truth is that I bear the image of righteousness, but lack its capacity. What face shall I who am guilty of such indecency wear when I approach the Lord god Who knows the secrets of my heart? When I stand in prayer, I am afraid that fire will descend from heaven and burn me up, as it happened in the desert that there came out a fire from the Lord that consumed the men who offered strange incense.
What can I expect, I who am weighed down with such a heavy burden of sin? My heart is consumed with fire, my mind is clouded, righteous thoughts have failed in me: like a dog do I ever return to my own vomit.
I have no boldness before Him Who will try my heart and inner workings. I have no clean thoughts, no tears while praying. Although I sigh and fall prostrate on my shame-filled face and beat my chest--this is a dwelling place of passions, a sweatshop of evil thoughts.
Thou knowest, O Lord, my passions hidden in darkness; the sores of my soul are known to Thee. Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed. If Thou wilt not build the house of my soul, I labor in vain trying to build it myself.
It is true that sometimes I prepare myself to do battle with the passions when they war against me; but the evil wiles of the serpent paralyze the efforts of my soul with sensuality and I yield to them. Though no one visibly ties my hands, the invisible passions drag me away like a captive.
O Lord, enlighten the eyes of my heart, that I might rightly recognize the deceit and the malice of the passions. May thy grace shield me, that I might be able to stand firm and resist, having girded my loins with courage.
Once Thou, O Lord, didst provide save passage through the impassable sea for Thy people. Thou8 gavest Thy people who thirsted water out of a hard rock. Thou alone, according to Thy grace, didst save the one who fell in with thieves. Have mercy upon me as well, for I have also fallen into the hands of thieves and, like a captive, I am bound by wicked thoughts.
No one is strong enough to heal the passionate temperament of my soul except Thou, O Lord, Who knowest the depths of my soul. Condescend and save me by Thy kindness.
Purify me with Thy grace, O kindhearted Father. Wipe away my stains with Thine all-cleansing hyssop and heal my sores, that I might give thanks to Thy grace!
I have fallen: raise me up and strengthen me, O Lord; for Thou raisest up all who have fallen. Stretch forth Thine hand to me and enliven me once again by Thy compassion!
The adversary has deceived me; he has stripped me of my garment and stolen it away. Because of him I remain fruitless and must go to the judgment entirely naked. May Thy mercy be for me a robe in the day of judgement!
What great fear there will be in the day of judgement when every man gives an account of his deeds, thoughts, and even of every time he beckoned with his eyes. Vindicate me on that day, O my Judge, for though I am guilty I wish to repent.
Our hearts will be tormented and suffer exceedingly when all that aroused our desire is reviewed, when every man stands naked and will be called to answer for himself.
On that day, woe to the man who, like me, has committed many transgressions, who has sinned and concealed his sins, that he might escape shame in this world! fingers will be pointed at him in the day of judgement.
My transgressions have multiplied, my days have passed by and vanished; the end is approaching, but there is not repentance to be found in me. If compassion finds no place for me, woe is me in the day of judgement!
Blessed is the man who has labored some in this world, for he will inherit the kingdom in the intransient world to come. In return for small labors, he will acquire a great inheritance.
At Thy judgement, O our Lord, there will be no partiality. Every man will receive what he deserves. He who has done good deeds will receive the kingdom, and he who has done wicked deeds will receive torment.
Open to me the door of Thy compassion, O Hope of the penitent, and stretch forth to me Thine healing hand to bandage my scabs and mend my sores.
My will refuses to follow Thy will. Do Thou Thyself subdue me to Thy will, that I might thereby receive salvation and glorify Thy will, for it is kind to the penitent.
Mercifully receive my prayer to make peace between me and Thee; and, according to Thy kindness, grant me life in Thy coming. Then the evil one will be ashamed when he sees that Thy truth has pardoned me.
When you see life's pleasures, beware that they might not distract you, for they conceal death's snares. Likewise a fisherman casts not his hook to no purpose.
As bait for his hook, the enemy uses the delusion of sensuality to arouse desire, that he might thereby catch men's souls and subject them to himself.
A soul which has been caught to serve the enemy's will then serves as a snare for other souls, for it conceals the grief of sin with its apparent delight.
while exercising the virtues, be not dejected by the labors involved, for there can be no virtue without labor.
While laboring, lift up the eye of your soul and, as you contemplate that joy which is on high, you will not shrink from any task.
The labors of the righteous cultivate the fruit of life, but the labors of sinners are filled with ruin. Join yourself to the former and withdraw from the latter; avoid empty labors that do not produce good fruit.
Suffer for God the sorrows of the present life and your hope in the saints will not be in vain.
Those who labor for the vain things in life strive to make those who labor for God's sake stumble, that they might not be confronted with examples that accuse their conscience; but in so doing the only embellish the crowns of conscientious laborers.
Maintain an humble attitude, that you might not lose the fruits of good works. If you cast them away, you will be numbered with those who labor in vain.
Do you want to become a guardian of your soul? Withdraw from every place to a save harbor, that sensual thoughts might not steal aboard and load your ships.
If you want your harbor to be save, fence it off with ramparts that cannot be shaken by the storm of passions; otherwise, your harbor will become the site of your downfall.
If passionate words find a place in a soul, they drag it as if by hooks into evil, into the pit of ruin.
Avoid soul-corrupting gatherings and your soul will every enjoy peace.
Thanks are due to the good One who has saved our race from enslavement to the devil and from death, and has made peace between us and Thy lofty Truth, which we offended by our deceit.
Blessed is the kindhearted One who has sought us out, though we did not seek Him, who has rejoiced at our salvation and has given us an image of how we have gone astray and been returned, in the parable of the lost sheep.
the Heir and Son cried out and returned our nature which had gone astray; He died and rose again and gladdened the hosts of spirits by returning us and bringing us to repentance.
Inexpressibly great is the love shown by the Lover of mankind; for from our race He chose an Intercessor and through Him made peace between the world and His greatness.
God performed a new miracle in man, great for us and for all creation. For He made our body a temple, and filled it with that which is venerated by all.
Come, O earthly and heavenly beings, wonder and be amazed at this great bestowal of dignity, for our race has been lifted to the immeasurable height of the Divinity.
May heaven and earth and all that is within them sing praises with us to the One Who has magnified our race, for He has renewed His image in us, blotted out our sins, given us His name, and subjected all things to us.
He Who raised us up above all things is deserving of all manner of praise from those who honor Him. Let us all with one voice sing praise to Him and to the Father Who sent Him and to the Holy Spirit.
Holy, Holy, Holy! Blessed is He Who through His good will chose to humiliate Himself and betrothed the holy Church to Himself!
Thy light, O Jesus our Lord, has shone out over creation and scattered the darkness of error. May Thy light shine now in our souls also, O Jesus our King Who art the true light.
Deliver us from all the ruinous thoughts that trouble our souls. Then will we praise Thee with a pure mind, O Son of the unseen Father, for Thou art the true light.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
A Spiritual Psalter from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian
One person is the Father, and one person is the Son, and one person is the Holy Spirit--one Divinity, one power, one kingdom in three persons or hypostates.
So let us glorify the holy unity in the Trinity and the Holy Trinity in unity. This is the confession of the holy ecumenical Church of God!
In the Holy Trinity does the Church baptize unto eternal life; the Church sanctifies It with equal honor, confesses It indivisibly and eternally, bows to It sinlessly, glorifies It unceasingly.
To this Tri-hypostatic unity--to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit--are due glory, gratitude, honor, power and greatness unto the ages.
Lift your eyes to heaven when it, like a clean mirror, gloriously illumines the earth with it stars, and say in awe: if the stars shine with such glory, then how much more so will the righteous and the saints who have done the holy will of God shine with the inexpressible light of saving glory when the Lord comes.
Having called to remembrance that awesome coming, shudder in body and soul and with heartfelt agony say to yourself: what sort of person will I, a sinner, show myself to be in that terrible hour? How will I stand before the throne of the awesome Judge? How could I who am dissolute have a place among those who are perfect/ Or how could I, who am a goat, stand among the sheep at Chris's right hand? Or how could I, who am fruitless, be numbered among the saints, who have here brought forth the fruits of truth?
The martyrs will show their torments, the ascetics their good works; but what will I have to show but my apathy and my incessant indulgence?
O sinful soul, shameless soul, O soul which has always hated the God-pleasing way of life! How long will you delight in your wretched addiction to evil thoughts? What do you wait for in your apathy?
Do you think that the Judge will be late in coming? He will not tarry; rather, His coming will be like terrible lightning from the heavens.
Try to be prepared for that terrible hour, that you might not then weep unto the ages.
O kindhearted Lord, spare Thy servant, that I might not be found in fear and great shame at Thy judgement, that I might not be a disgrace to angels and men.
Punish me here, O my Savior, as a tender-hearted Father who loves His children; and forgive me there, as the only sinless and most merciful God.
For if Thou givest not understanding to an unfortunate one and illuminest not his heart, that he might daily offer blameless repentance for his sins--what can he do there if he has no means to justify himself?
Before I was on earth it pleased Thee, O Master, according to Thy great compassion, to form me in the womb of my sinful mother. When I was born, according to Thy mercy Thou madest me worthy to become a vessel of grace. But, after I received this gift, I who am weak and sinful was in my slothfulness disinclined to offer recompense for it.
Thus, falling down before Thy kindness, I pray Thee, O Only-Begotten Son, our Savior: sober me and raise me up, and shine Thy grace upon me again, that it might illumine my clouded mind as behooves Thy grace. May it always remain with me, and through its invisible guidance may it make me worthy of the heavenly kingdom. For as Thy grace has been for me, who am unworthy, at all times illumination, protection, a shield, a refuge and joy--so may I then find shelter, O my Savior, from the terrible judgement under its protection; and with its compassion, saved by Thy mercy, may I stand on Thy right hand in Thy kingdom, praising and glorifying Thy long-suffering kindness, O My immaculate Creator: for thou didst not overlook the tears of Thine unprofitable and sinful servant.
Stretch forth, O Lord, Thy hand to me who lie in the dust and help me. For I want to get up, but cannot. The burden of sin has crushed me; evil habits hold me chained to the earth, and I am altogether like the paralytic. I vow to change my ways and I fast, but everything remains the same. I am zealous to glorify Thee with my lips, but I have no zeal to please Thee with deeds.
How dare I ask forgiveness of my former sins when I have made no attempt to abandon my former love of sin? Or how shall I shed the old man, when I have not cut off my desire for sinful seductions?
O Lord, raise up me, a paralytic; souse me who sleep; resurrect me, deadened by sin! Save my miserable soul from death, O Lord who hast authority over life and death!
Before the end comes, exterminate all sin in me; and grant, O Lover of mankind, that I might shed heartfelt tears fro the cleansing of the stains of my soul all through my short life, that then I might be saved under the shelter of Thine omnipotent hand, when every soul shudders before Thine awesome glory.
O Master, hearken unto me and accept the supplication of Thy sinful and unworthy servant. Save me freely, according to Thy grace, for thou are a kindhearted and man-befriending God, and to Thee do we send up glory, thanks and adoration, to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.