#37 An Ancient Prayer for Modern Times
This prayer of the Byzantine rite (and Eastern Orthodox) is recited at all the daily liturgies in Lent.
The Prayer of St. Ephrem
Lord and Master of my life,
Spare me from the spirit of indifference, despair,
Lust for power and idle chatter. (prostration)
Instead, bestow on me, your servant,
The spirit of integrity, humility, patience and love. (prostration)
Yes, O Lord and King,
Let me see my own sins,
And not judge my brothers and sisters,
For you are blessed, forever and ever. Amen.
It amazes me how a prayer written around 400 AD can seem custom-made for the Facebook generation. Just like people throughout time, our generation struggles with pride, greed, envy, lust, and the like. But it seems to me that the many distractions of modern life make us even more vulnerable to some of the sins St. Ephrem mentions. At the very least, I know I am.
Indifference (or sloth) is the vice that makes it so much easier for me to click on “one more page” of a blog (*ahem*Catholicandenjoyingit*ahem*) than to send out job applications, do something considerate for my roommates, or stop by the chapel for daily Mass. There’s a constant stream of games, shows, and sites that we can turn to to hide from God and the world, and that self-isolation can lead a formerly faith-filled person to despair. There’s a loneliness in mass media and frivolous entertainment, an emptiness that crawls into my heart when I’m not paying attention and slowly starves the soul. Idle chatter is one of those things that doesn’t of its own accord, seem sinful, but whenever I prattle on long enough, I end up in gossip, half-truths, or uncharitable comments. So while I may consider idle chatter as more of a temptation to sin than a sin itself, I definitely think that considering the potential for sins of speech before a careless facebook post would be good for our souls and for the world.
After listing these oh-so-familiar sins, the next step in reciting the prayer is the first prostration. A prostration in the Byzantine rite involves kneeling down, lowering my head and kissing the floor. Touching my lips to the rug of our campus Byzantine chapel is a truly unusual and humbling experience. I love how physical a sign it is, how it quite literally embodies the virtues of humility and integrity.
On Good Friday, it’s traditional in my house to turn off entertainment like the radio and TV; we even avoid singing to ourselves (which is very, very difficult for me). Tuning out all those sources of noise really helped me tune in to the sacred events of today. While the season of St. Ephrem’s prayer at liturgy is coming to a close, I think I will carry on that prayer in my heart by making more “unplugged” time to think, pray, and relate to others meaningfully in a spirit of integrity, humility, patience, and love.
God bless you all this Good Friday and always!
“We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”