The Lenten Prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian

 

O Lord and Master of my Life,
Do not abandon me to a spirit of idleness
discouragement, ambition,
and idle talking!


But rather bestow your grace upon me your servant,
the spirit of chastity, humility,
patience and love.

Yes, O Lord and King,
Grant me to see my failings
And not to condemn my brother,
O You who are blessed from ages to ages.
Amen

 

This prayer is attributed to one of the great masters of the Oriental spiritual tradition: Saint Ephrem the Syrian.
It could be presented as the prayer ‘par excellence” for the Lenten Season.
It is prayed with a prostration (a deep bow or a falling to one's knees) at the end of each of its three parts.
In its simplicity, it underlines very well the aspects of repentance that make up the essential points of our conversion during the Lenten Season.
It starts by presenting four negative points that are obstacles to eliminate:

the spirit of idleness

 

the spirit of discouragement

 

the spirit of ambition

 

idle talking

 

The spirit of idleness is the most dangerous for spiritual life. The evil spirit impedes our desire for good to develop and bloom. It persuades us, seeing the repetition of our faults, that change is impossible. This idleness is at the root of all sin since it poisons spiritual energy at its source.

The result of idleness is discouragement expressed in acedia. Father Provincial of France in his blog gives a fine explanation of acedia: "I dont know if you comprehend this sentiment that eats away at religion and is called acedia by the Greek Fathers? It is a very devious evil that invades the heart of a monk to the point of his losing interest in the things of God. Psychoanalysts who explore illnesses of the soul might call it depression. But acedia is a kind of distaste, a boredom with the things of God. The monk, the religious, is no longer attracted to prayer, to a relationship with God in prayer. Ignatius of Loyola called this "distress"."

When our life is not centered on God, it invariably becomes egotistical and centered on oneself. Then, the road is wide open for the spirit of ambition that brings us to look at reality only according to our own ideas, desires and needs.

By excluding God from the center of our life, we achieve a truly spiritual murder that ends up in spiritual suicide.
Spiritual suicide consists in this: blocking the word of God that makes us live. We are left with only our words, empty and useless, which become nothing more than sterile talking.

These four negative aspects are the obstacles to eliminate; but it is only by the grace of God that we can accomplish this.

"bestow on me your servant the grace"

After realizing our human helplessness, prayer points out the positive goals of the road to conversion, also four in number:
 

chastity

 

humility

 

patience

 

love

 

Chastity is opposed to the desire for possession in my heart. It helps me understand my life in its totality. Chastity lets me recognize that left to myself alone I cannot realize the real desires of my heart and that everything in my life comes from the gratuitous goodness of God.

The total vision of life, a fruit of the spirit of chastity, brings about the virtue of humility that lets me see and welcome truth, that is to say, to remain with open hands before God with the realization that we have nothing and that all is given to us.

Chastity and humility are followed by patience.
The spirit of ownership pushes us to want everything right away without ever being satisfied. We constantly live with the anxiety of wanting to realize our desires without ever finding them fully satisfied. Patience is the fruit of experiencing that God never deceives us and that true happiness is found only when we take the time to live our life with a deep and integral vision.

The road to conversion is fulfilled by the virtue of love that is a gift of God and the goal of every spiritual effort.

The Lenten road finds its summary in the final request inviting us to pray to the Lord as follows:

"Grant me to see my failings and not to condemn my brother."

Pride is the source of evil and all evil stems from pride.
The Lenten road leads to the foot of the cross of Christ, where we recognize our limits, our need to be healed through His mercy and become in our turn merciful to our brothers.

 

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