Category Archives: #CCLent17

#CCLent17 / Day 6 / March 7 / Useless Chatter

Moses_&_Bush_Icon_Sinai_c12th_century
Holy Ground, St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19)
Today, in the prayer of Ephrem the Syrian, we focus on fasting from the “fast-food” of  empty talk, also translated as useless chatter!


O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of
apathy, faintheartedness, love of power, and empty talk.
+++
But give rather the spirit of
purity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.
+++
Yes, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother or sister;
For You are blessed forever, to ages of ages.  Amen!
+++


Alexander Schmemann comments on putting away EMPTY TALK:

Of all created beings, man alone has been endowed with the gift of speech. All Fathers see in it the very “seal” of the Divine Image in man because God Himself is revealed as Word (John 1:1). But being the supreme gift, it is by the same token the supreme danger. Being the very expression of man, the means of his self-fulfillment, it is for this very reason the means of his fall and self-destruction, of betrayal and sin. The word saves and the word kills; the word inspires and the word poisons. The word is the means of Truth and it is the means of demonic lie. Having an ultimate positive power, it has therefore a tremendous negative power. It truly creates positively or negatively. When deviated from its divine origin and purpose, the word becomes empty or idle. 

Apathy, faintheartedness, unhealthy ambition, and empty talk are the negative “objects” of repentance. They are the obstacles to be removed. But God alone can remove them. Hence, the first part of the lenten prayer; this cry from human helplessness. Next, the prayer moves to the positive four aims of repentance.

#CCLent17 / Day 5 / March 6 / “He is Lord, and I am not!”

Christ, Ruler of All, icon from St. Catherine's monastery, Sinai Egypt
Christ, Pantcrator (Ruler of All,) St. Catherine’s monastery, Sinai Egypt, 6th cent.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  (Philippians 2:3-4)


O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of
apathy, faintheartedness, love of power, and empty talk.
+++
But give rather the spirit of
purity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.
+++
Yes, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother or sister;
For You are blessed forever, to ages of ages.  Amen!
+++


The first part of Ephrem’s prayer includes a petition against the danger of the wrong kind of ambition (or ‘Love of power.’) Here is another commentary in the series.

Ambition! Strange as it may seem, it is precisely apathy and faintheartedness that fill our life with ambition. By spoiling the entire attitude toward life and making it meaningless and empty, we seek compensation in a radically wrong attitude toward other persons. If my life is not oriented toward God, not aimed at eternal values, it will inevitably become selfish and self-centered, and this means that all other beings will become means of my own self-satisfaction. If God is not the Lord and Master of my life, then I become my own lord and master—the absolute center of my own world, and I begin to evaluate everything in terms of my needs, my ideas, my desires, and my judgments. The lust for power is thus a fundamental depravity in my relationship to other people, a search for (control.) It is not necessarily expressed in the actual urge to command and to dominate “others.” It may result as well in indifference, contempt, lack of interest, consideration, and respect. 

HE is Lord!

#CCLent17 / Day 4 / March 4 / Praying against Despair

The Temptation in the Wilderness' _B. Riviere
The Temptation in the Wilderness’ _B. Riviere

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  (Psalm 42:5)

The Prayer of Ephrem the Syrian starts with 2 petitions: praying against an undesirable spirit with 4 qualities and then praying for a desirable spirit with 4 qualities. The second  negative is  “Faintheartedness” or as it is often translated, despondency, despair or distraction. Here is the commentary from Schmemman:

The result of  spiritual apathy is despondency (or faint-heartedness.) The Church Fathers considered it the greatest danger for the soul. Despondency is the impossibility for one to see anything good or positive; it is the reduction of everything to negativism and pessimism. It is truly a demonic power because the Devil is fundamentally a liar. He lies to man about God and about the world; he fills life with darkness and negation. Despondency is the ‘suicide of the soul’ because when man is possessed by it he is absolutely unable to see the light and to desire it. 

Our faith is a joyous faith! (“Do not despair for Christ conquered all.”)


O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of
apathy, faintheartedness, love of power, and empty talk.
+++
But give rather the spirit of
purity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.
+++
Yes, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother or sister;
For You are blessed forever, to ages of ages.  Amen!
+++


#CCLent17 / Day 3 / March 3 / Praying against Apathy

lent picThe prayer of Ephrem the Syrian is one that I urge us to learn and pray daily in this season of Lent. Today we begin looking at each part with a brief commentary adapted from Alexander Schmemann. The first petition: “Take from me the spirit of APATHY:”

Why does this short and simple prayer occupy such an important position in the Eastern Church Lenten worship? Because it enumerates in a unique way all the “negative” and “positive” elements of repentance and becomes for us a kind of  “check list…” This effort is aimed first at our liberation from some fundamental spiritual diseases which shape our life and make it virtually impossible for us even to start turning ourselves to God.

The basic disease is apathy (or spiritual apathy, Grk: acedia) It is that strange laziness (or idleness) and passivity of our entire being which always pushes us “down” rather than “up” — which constantly convinces us that no change is possible and therefore desirable. It is in fact a deeply rooted cynicism which to every spiritual challenge responds “what for?” and makes our life one tremendous spiritual waste. It is a root of all sin because it poisons the spiritual energy at its very source. 


O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of
apathy, faint-heartedness, love of power, and empty talk.
+++
But give rather the spirit of
purity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.
+++
Yes, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother or sister;
For You are blessed forever, to ages of ages.  Amen!
+++

Note: In the Eastern church, prostrations (kneeling with the head to the floor) are made after each section of the prayer. The body participates as a sign of repentance and humility, of adoration and obedience.

#CCLent17 / Day 2 / March 2 / Praying in Syria

CCLent - lenten-prayer-of-saint-ephrem-the-syrian-stephen-stookeyYou were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV)

For many years I have used what is known in the Orthodox church as the Lenten Prayer of Ephrem the Syrian. I would encourage you to pray it each day during this season. Even memorize it.

Ephrem (306-373) was the greatest hymn writer of the early Christian world.  We have 100’s of hymns saturated with biblical themes and phrases that he wrote to teach and defend the faith. It is a prayer for transformation! It parallels the Apostle Paul’s admonition above in Ephesians 4 to “Put off the old and put on the new.”  Starting today and through next week, I’ll share some of the wonderful commentary on each petition. Here is one translation:

O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of
apathy, faint-heartedness, love of power, & empty talk.
+++
But give rather the spirit of
purity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.
+++
Yes, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother or sister;
For You are blessed forever, to ages of ages.  Amen!
+++

#CCLent17 / Day 1 / March 1 / “Ash Wednesday”

'Return ofthe Prodigal Son' Rembrandt
‘Return of the Prodigal Son’
Rembrandt

Welcome to Day 1 of our 40 day journey called the season of Lent.

The Anglican church begins their Ash Wednesday service with these words:
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent: by self- examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and alms-giving; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”


Each day, we’ll focus on a portion of the Biblical text, a Response, and a Prayer to take with you that can be ‘breathed’ through the day.

A SCRIPTURE ~ from Matthew 6
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others…
When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give…don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you…Don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this: “Our Father…”

And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting….”  (from Matthew 6:1-18, NLT)


A RESPONSE
The Christian Season of Lent is an invitation to 40 days of renewal (Lent means “spring”) – 40 days to prepare ourselves to take in the Good News of the cross and resurrection through deeper disciplines of Scripture and prayer; fasting, and acts of compassion.  Ashes are the traditional sign of sorrow and repentance and are also a sign of our mortality. (“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”)


A PRAYER TO ‘BREATHE’ THROUGH THE DAY

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

[This prayer is known as the Jesus Prayer or the Prayer of the Heart.
More on the Jesus Prayer here.]