Monday, February 27, 2012

The Prayer of St. Ephrem The Syrian

Icon of Saint Ephrem the Syrian(Meryem Ana KilesesiDiyarbakır,Turkey)
File from Wikimedia Commons (public domain, copyright expired)

There is much that different Christian denominations can learn from one another. Prayers and practices vary from denomination to denomination, and it can be helpful to take notice of these differences from time to time in order to deepen our own understanding and practice of Christianity. Even if a prayer or practice is very similar to our own, the small differences can sometimes breathe new life and understanding into a familiar prayer or practice.

The Prayer of St. Ephrem The Syrian is a prayer attributed to St. Ephrem, a Syriac language hymn writer and theologian from the 4th century. This prayer is particularly used during the Great Lent by Orthodox Christians. There are two different versions of this prayer historically - both a Greek and a Slavonic version. Various English translations are based on either version (or a combination of both).This prayer is prayed during all Lenten weekday services, as well as by individuals  in the home. I've included two different English versions of this prayer and encourage you to consider adding this prayer to your Lenten prayers this season.

Version 1 (originally found here)

O Lord, Master of my life, grant that I may not be infected with the spirit of slothfulness and acquisitiveness, with the spirit of ambition and vain talking. 

Grant instead to me your servant the spirit of purity and humility, the spirit of patience and neighborly love. 

O Lord and King, bestow upon me the grace of being aware of my own sins and of not thinking evil of those of my brothers and sisters. For You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Version 2 (originally found here)

O Lord and Master of my life: take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power and idle talk.

But grant rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Saints & Lent Madness

St. Mary Magdeline, by Titian [1565] (Public Domain Image)

Have you ever wondered who the Saints of the Church are? I'm sure you know the names of at least a few Saints; James, John, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Joan of Arc, Valentine, Patrick. If you are curious about the Saints, there are several ways to learn more about them. There are books that list and describe some of them. One such book lists the Saints that are remembered in the Episcopal Church calendar. This book used to be titled Lesser Feasts and Fasts, but has been revised and expanded into Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. This book contains a brief biography of the Saint, a collect or prayer, and suggested scripture readings. Another resource about the Saints is the classic Lives of the Saints by Alban Butler (this is the 1894 Benziger Brothers edition).

An unusual but fun way to learn about the Saints is to visit the site Lent Madness. Lent Madness is inspired by the March Madness basketball brackets, and is pairing off 32 Saints in head-to-head competitions. People vote for the Saint that they wish to proceed to the next round. The next round is the Round of Saintly Sixteen, then the Elate Eight, then the Final Four, and then the final two compete for the Golden Halo.

I've printed out the 2012 Brackets and am looking forward to learning more about these 32 Saints during this Lenten season.