Friday, March 11, 2022

The Lenten Prayer of St Ephraim

This post is in part a brief follow-up on my recent articles about the longer form of Compline in the Byzantine Rite known as Great Compline, which is mostly said in Lent. (part 1; part 2; part 3)
The minor Hours of the Byzantine Rite all have as a fixed feature the following group of elements: Kyrie, eleison is said 40 times, followed by a prayer known as the Prayer of the Hours.
Thou who at every season and in every hour art worshipped and glorified in heaven and upon earth, o Christ God, long-suffering, of great mercy and compassion, Who lovest the just and hast mercy upon sinners, Who callest all to salvation through the promise of the good things to come, o Lord, receive in this hour even our supplications, and direct our lives to Thy commandments. Sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, correct our minds, cleanse our thoughts, and deliver us from every affliction, evil, and distress. Fortify us with Thy holy angels, that, being guarded and guided by their company, we may attain to the unity of the faith, and unto the knowledge of Thine unapproachable glory. For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
Then are said Kyrie, eleison 3 times, Glory be, and a brief prayer to the Virgin Mary: “More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, the true Mother of God, we magnify thee.” After this, the reader says, “In the name of the Lord, give the blessing, Father”, and the priest answers, “May God be compassionate to us, and bless us, and shine His face upon us, and have mercy on us”, the reader answers “Amen.”
On the weekdays of Lent, there is then added the following prayer in three parts, which is attributed to the 4th century Church Father St Ephraim the Syrian.
O Lord and Master of my life, give me not (in Church Slavonic “take away from me”) a spirit of idleness, curiosity (here in the spiritual sense of needlessly inquiring into other’s affairs), ambition, and idle talk.
But grant to me Thy servant a spirit of prudence, patience, and love.
Yea, o Lord and King, grant me to see mine own failings, and not to condemn my brother, for Thou art blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
At each part, a full prostration is made. One then makes twelve half-prostrations (a bow from the waste), saying “O God, be merciful to me a sinner, and have mercy on me.” The last part is of the prayer is repeated, followed by another full prostration.
At Vespers and Orthros, the prayers given above (starting with the forty Kyrie, eleisons) are not said, so the prayer of St Ephraim is said at the end of these services before the final dismissal. As with all things Byzantine, there are variants of custom, in this case, particularly in regard to the twelve bows and the final repetition.
An 11th-century mosaic of St Ephraim in Nea Moni (the new monastery) on the Greek island of Chios. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)

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