First homily HERE
O Lord and Master of my life, the spirit of idleness, of meddling, of love of power, and of idle words, grant me not.
But the spirit of continence, of humility, of patience, and of love, do thou grant unto me thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to perceive mine own offenses, and not to judge my brother; for blessed art thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

Today we’ll be looking at the 2nd sentenceof St. Ephraim’s prayer—here we ask God to grant us the qualities of a desireable and penitential spirit, of a spirit that is repenting and returning to Christ. So what do we pray to be granted?

1-spirit of continence/chastity: sophrosyne in Greek. This word can be translated to mean discretion, moderation, sanity, self-control, temperance, chastity. The dictionary definition of continence is “control over physical, especially sexual, impulses leading to self-restraint, moderation, or abstinence.” There are two aspects to the spirit of continence—singleness and wholeness. You want a singleness of sight (focused on Christ), and a wholeness and a completeness of vision and person. We’re praying for the ability to control ourselves, to exercise mastery over the passions. This certainly includes physical (sexual) passions [and this aspect the Fathers, including St. Ephraim the author of this prayer, write and comment on a great deal—especially in writing to married people in the world to observe moderation and self-control with their spouses], but it stretches into all aspects of our lives. We walk the middle road, the Golden Path as St. Basil the Great calls it, not falling into extremes on one side nor on the other—the path of moderation and self-control, of continence.

2-humility: tapeinophrosyne in Greek. Tapeinos is humility, and phrosyne is the mind as it deliberately chooses something. So the spirit of humility is a petition that our minds voluntary choose the way of humility. And again the inner connection in the prayer—as we voluntarily choose humility, the spirit of continence, of moderation and self-control, can be real in our lives.

3-patience: hypomene in Greek. Patience arises from humility. St.Isaac the Syrian wrote “In proportion to your humility you are given patience in your woes.” When you see things as they truly are, and you do it deliberately, then there are never any reasons for stress or impatience. We know that God is in control, that His will is best, and in submitting ourselves to this we naturally become patient.

4-love: agape in Greek. The last characteristic, really the defining characteristic of a desirable Christian soul, is love. And specifically here we ask for agape—the love of God. In Greek there are different words for different types of love, and agape is specific, in the Biblical/Patristic literature, to God. We strive to have agape—love that is un-offend-able. That we love everyone no matter what. That our love is never shaken by how others act or anything that’s going on. Christ says that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend—we hear agape in the words of St. Paul when he prays that if all could be saved, he would be willing to die and go to hell.

These are the qualities of a spirit that is well pleasing to God – moderation, humility, patience, and God-like love for our brothers. We’ll look at the final sentence of the prayer next Wednesday.

Advertisements