Saturday, February 10, 2024

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): St Ephrem the Syrian

 Arabic original here.

Saint Ephrem the Syrian

Repentance with tears inflames the hearts of the faithful in the spiritual writings of Saint Ephrem.

What first attracts attention is his call to contrition and repentance.

For him, repentance is connected to the judgment and tears, to remembrance of the judgment and  shedding of tears.

This is not in order to torture oneself, but to attain the kingdom, according to the commandment of the Gospel, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17 and 3:2).

He warns sinners about falling into despair and encourages us to repentance without losing hope in God's mercy. He tells them:

"I hope that all those whose consciences torment them on account of their sins will not despair...

but rather will approach God without fear and weep before Him. May they not lose hope, for the Lord is greatly delighted with those who repent and approach with the joy of their return to Him because He says by the Prophet Hosea, 'After all this, return to Me' and through the Evangelist Matthew:

'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest' (Matthew 11:28). So never despair, even if you have sinned."

But how do we repent?

Repentance is returning to God. Does this path, the path of return require hating sin to the point of hating sinful life? Self-renunciation: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate ... even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).

Accordingly, repentance requires keeping love for one's brothers, especially the weak ones, because he who has love has God. It also requires humility because one who is humble resembles God to the point that he sorrows and suffers along with the sinner and does not disdain him, thus revealing his own self.

All this is in accordance with what the Lord said: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).

The issue, the issue of repentance naturally requires effort because the kingdom of heaven is taken by force and the violent bear it away. War is declared against the passions and lusts and against Satan's snares. Therefore the saint says:

"We have been tied to our lusts as though with iron chains and no one strives to become free of them, but rather sticks out his chest while he is bound by them. What wicked snares the filthy devil weaves! How was he able to darken our minds so that we would be concerned with what is contrary and prefer what harms us rather than the good things to come!"

Ephrem followed in the footsteps of his bishop, Jacob of Nisibis (302-338), and like him knew both culture and asceticism. When the passions are transformed, the heart is emptied of selfishness and wicked individualism and is oriented toward the unselfish love that does not ask anything for itself.

This struggle of repentance will make us worthy to see Christ risen in glory, either partially, as though in a mirror, through the prayer of the heart, the Jesus Prayer, or directly, after illumination.

This also causes us to have a foretaste of the kingdom while we are on earth. This is the glory of Christ and it is heaven for those who have attained sincere love. It is seen in the form of uncreated light, while those who remain in extreme selfishness see God's glory as an immaterial, burning fire. This is hell.

Indeed, sin is destructive and it is true what is said in the hymn, "Wicked is complacency, great is repentance."

He who digs his own grave in his heart shatters the man of sin and opens the door of the resurrection.

Saint Ephrem washes away his sins with his tears and makes his soul rejoice in God's grace.


Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies  

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): The Mystery of Repentance

 Arabic original here.

The Mystery of Repentance

At the beginning of Jesus' preaching, He says, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17).

We must receive every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord in a spirit of repentance, by confessing that we are sinners. This is what constitutes the foundation of our spiritual life.

The key to understanding the Gospel, the word of the Lord, is obedience.

Obedience to God's word is the key to our salvation and obedience requires denying our own will.

All this-- I mean, obedience to God's word and also self-denial-- constitutes the key to repentance, the key to the kingdom of God.

We cannot understand and live the mystery of repentance unless it is connected to God's word and self-denial.

Obedience to the words of the Lord is tied to denying one's own will. "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself" (Mark 8:34).

Every day of our life, the Lord commands that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, saying, "Repent! Obey My words! Deny yourselves!"

Obedience and self-denial is the key to the Gospel, the key to the kingdom. At that point, we possess power and light. This is the mystery of repentance.

The Prophet Isaiah says, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined" (Isaiah 9:2).

This darkness, the shadow of death, all this is the result of the sin that oppresses us and kills us in its shadow.

Confessing our sin is the door of repentance. The holy forty-day fast is the season of repentance.

Saint Isaac the Syrian says, "One who confesses his sins is greater than one who raises the dead."

The mystery of repentance and confession is a renewal of our baptism. Every day, the Lord brings good tidings of the kingdom of God. He speaks of "that baptism that I am baptized with" (Mark 10:38), by which he means baptism and death.

The word repentance, metanoia, means a change of mind, a change in thinking. At the beginning of the Beatitudes, the Lord says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).

They are pure from every evil, sinful thought after confessing their sins and repenting of them.


Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies