|Volume 17, No. 2||Spring 2014|
This is the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian, which we offer during liturgical services and private prayers prominently throughout the Great Lenten season.
O Lord and Master of my life: take away from me the spirit
of laziness, lust for power, idle talk and despair.
Rather, grant unto me, O Lord: the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.
Yes, O Lord and King: Grant that I may see my own sins and to judge not my brother,
for Blessed are You, always, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
It is a powerful prayer that defines the essence of the Lenten journey for any Orthodox Christian, placing before our mind, heart and soul the most basic elements of Christ's teachings and enables us to focus our entire being upon the straight and narrow path leading to the salvation won for us through our Lord's ultimate sacrifice on the Holy Cross.
In today's secularized and Christian-threatening society, we should be aware that our focus upon the teachings of our Lord and following that straight and narrow path is not the business of the Great Lenten season alone. Our lives need to be focused on a daily basis from the moment we open our eyes after a night's restful slumber – for which in our evening prayers we have beseeched our Lord – to the moment we close them to enter again into that slumber after a long and hard day's "work" of living our Faith.
I very often – and I don't believe I am alone in this regard – so often find myself behind schedule from the moment I awaken in the morning until I am exhausted at the end of the day – from just trying to keep up. During my spiritual pilgrimage, I have discovered that if the first words that descend from my heart, mind and soul to my tongue and lips each day – regardless of how "late" I am – are to our Lord in the beautiful petitions of St. Ephraim's prayer, I am able, by God's Grace, to establish a foundation for every thought, word and deed that issues forth from me during that day.
I urge those who read these words to consider the practice of the Prayer of St. Ephraim in their prayer life beyond the confines of Great Lent. If these words are offered with desire, sincerity, hope and love, it seems, at least from the personal experience of this unworthy soul, highly likely that the daily spiritual pilgrimage will be enriched and enhanced for one's own benefit and that of all with whom we interact and beyond. What we receive in faith from our Lord and Master will certainly fill and encompass us so completely that even if we wanted it to, we could not prevent it from spilling over into the lives of those around us.
May this Great Lenten season of 2014 be a "turning-point" – a moment of true repentance – in each of our lives – enabling us to realize that following the straight and narrow path is a life-long journey requiring constant vigilance, because the closer we come to our Lord, the greater will be the temptations of the Evil One to lead us astray.
+ Antony, Metropolitan
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America –
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople