Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

Some thoughts from Irenikon:
Oh Lord and Master of my life, give to me not the spirit of sloth...” In this striking and powerful opening to the prayer above, St. Ephrem does two things:

He surrenders all of himself to Christ by calling on him as Lord and as Master, but not just as Lord and Master at a distance, but as Lord and Master of
my life!! A Lord and Master intimately and personally engaged with each of us, from the very beginning of our life.
And then he implores of Him, this divine ruler and teacher, author of life, to protect him from all temptations of the spirit of sloth. He begs to be relieved from this one great debilitating weakness, from even the least temptation toward doubt, or lameness of spirit. He begs freedom from spiritual lassitude and apathy that deadens the heart and the intellect equally leaving one open to all the rest of what comes when we convince ourselves we cannot ever become truly holy, when we kill in ourselves all hope and thus all faith, and thereby all our capacity to truly love selflessly.
The Greek text here translates as acedia, or sloth prompted by spiritual despondency, which is the self-delusion of the impossibility of ever achieving sanctity. Acedia is the great scourge of the monastic, and of all lay men and women who choose to follow the royal way of contemplative prayer and ascetic living, and even of those who watch from a distance but still try to lead a life influenced by the gospels and by liturgy and liturgical prayer.
To pray this prayer aloud and with open heart, it cannot help but plunge us into the depths of humility. St. Ephrem declares emphatically, from the very first moment, that none but Christ is Master of Life, Master of each individual life, whether we offer ourselves to Him or not.
None of the rest of the prayer can be prayed without this initial surrender and the humble petition for the spiritual freedom, the graced freedom necessary to fulfill the rest of the prayer.

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