Tuesday, February 9, 2016

As Lent Begins...

"Always be faithful in keeping your promises to God, and don't worry about the mockery of fools. You may be sure that the saints have always scorned the world and everything mundane, and have risen above the world and its maxims." --St. Padre Pio

I pray, as this Lenten season begins, that you experience a holy and fruitful season of Lent.  May we strive to be faithful to God, as St. Pio states, throughout this penitential season and beyond.  May we work to make this season one that leads us to a greater love for Our Lord and his Most Sorrowful Mother through acts of prayer, penance, and mercy.  (My other Lenten related posts can be found under my Lent page.)

St. Ephrem, a Doctor of the Church, has been named the "Harp of the Spirit", having penned numerous beautiful poems and hymns about the mysteries of Christ and the Blessed Mother.  He also is well-known for fighting the heresies of his time and writing many works about scripture, and he is considered one of the great teachers of the spiritual life.  St. Ephrem was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1920, and traditionally his feast is celebrated on June 18.
The following prayer, "The Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian," is widely used during Lent in the Eastern Church; in fact, this prayer is recited multiple times throughout each day of Lent.  This prayer of St. Ephrem is considered to be a most fitting prayer to recite during the season of Lent because of the words contained within.  The prayer begins with a desire for repentance and the removal of vices which can stifle the spiritual life.  As we strive during the season of Lent to grow in our love of the Lord, as we strive to do penance to strengthen our spiritual life, just so this prayer provides us the words of petition to God to help us remove these dangerous vices from our life.
The second part of the prayer guides us to seek the virtues needed to grow spiritually:  chastity, humility, patience, and love of neighbor.  Thus it acts as a guide to remove our focus from ourselves and recognize the need of service to others and thus to God.  These words mirror the acts of alms giving within our Lenten season.
Finally this brief, but beautiful prayer ends with a request to God--a request to see our own faults and not the faults of others.  This is truly our goal during Lent, to examine our own interior life, to honestly seek and discover our faults, and to perform acts of prayer, penance, and charity to drive these vices from us and replace them with virtue instead.  May our Lent be a season of gain:  gain in humility, charity, and true love and devotion to God, our Creator and Redeemer.
A fitting practice is to add the recitation of this prayer to your morning prayers as you begin your day with God and again to your evening prayers as you close your day with Him.  After each verse of the prayer, one is to prostrate (bow while kneeling, allowing your head to touch the floor) before beginning the next verse.

+               +               +
The Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian
+ O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. (prostrate)
+ But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. (prostrate)
+ Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother; For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen  (prostrate)

"So we, too, brethren--if we wish to have a share in the ... virtues of St. John, and the merits of all the saints, let us be fervent in prayer, let us have time for fasting, let us be attentive to mercy.  The Christian armor-bearer and warrior of the Lord who has spent his life in these and has been fortified through them--he will not fear the javelins of sin, the weapons of the devil, the strategems of the world, the wedge-like formations of vices, the evils of the flesh, and the snares of pleasure, or the arms of death... ."  --St. Peter Chrysologus

God bless!

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