The Divine Plan for the World: A Mirror for the Spiritual World*
Optional Memorial of Saint Ephrem
Doctor of the Church
Lord, shed upon our darkened souls the brilliant light of your wisdom so that we may be enlightened and serve you with renewed purity. Sunrise marks the hour for men to begin their toil, but in our souls, Lord, prepare a dwelling for the day that will never end. Grant that we may come to know the risen life and that nothing may distract us from the delights you offer. Through our unremitting zeal for you, Lord, set upon us the sign of your day that is not measured by the sun.
In your sacrament we daily embrace you and receive you into our bodies; make us worthy to experience the resurrection for which we hope. We have had your treasure hidden within us ever since we received baptismal grace; it grows ever richer at your sacramental table. Teach us to find our joy in your favor! Lord, we have within us your memorial, received at your spiritual table; let us possess it in its full reality when all things shall be made new.
We glimpse the beauty that is laid up for us when we gaze upon the spiritual beauty your immortal will now creates within our mortal selves.
Savior, your crucifixion marked the end of your mortal life; teach us to crucify ourselves and make way for our life in the Spirit. May your resurrection, Jesus, bring true greatness to our spiritual self and may your sacraments be the mirror wherein we may know that self.
Savior, your divine plan for the world is a mirror for the spiritual world; teach us to walk in that world as spiritual men.
Lord, do not deprive our souls of the spiritual vision of you nor our bodies of your warmth and sweetness. The mortality lurking in our bodies spreads corruption through us; may the spiritual waters of your love cleanse the effects of mortality from our hearts. Grant, Lord, that we may hasten to our true city and, like Moses on the mountaintop, possess it now in vision.
*From a sermon (as found in the Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours) by Saint Ephrem the Syrian, called “The Harp of the Holy Spirit”, who was a deacon, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1920. He was born around the year 306 of a Christian family at Nisibis (on the border of Syria and Turkey) and died in 373, established a theological school and is renowned for his mystical poetry, which prayer below is said as part of the Divine Office during Lent and at various times throughout the day in the Eastern Church (with prostrations and bows according to the tradition of the particular Church). Here is one version of this beautiful prayer:
The Prayer of Saint Ephrem
(Making a prostration) O Lord, Master of my life, grant that I may not be infected with the spirit of slothfulness and inquisitiveness, with the spirit of ambition and vain talking.
(Making another prostration) Grant instead to me, your servant, the spirit of purity and of humility, the spirit of patience and neighborly love.
(Making yet another prostration) O Lord and King, grant me the grace of being aware of my sins and of not thinking evil of those of my brethren. For you are blessed, now and ever, and forever. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings, You have power over life and death.
You know what is secret and hidden, and neither our thoughts nor our feelings are concealed from You.
Cure me of duplicity; I have done evil before You.
Now my life declines from day to day and my sins increase.
O Lord, God of souls and bodies, You know the extreme frailty of my soul and my flesh.
Grant me strength in my weakness, O Lord, and sustain me in my misery.
Give me a grateful soul that I may never cease to recall Your benefits, O Lord most bountiful.
Be not mindful of my many sins, but forgive me all my misdeeds.
O Lord, disdain not my prayer – the prayer of a wretched sinner; sustain me with Your grace until the end, that it may protect me as in the past.
It is Your grace which has taught me wisdom; blessed are they who follow her ways, for they shall receive the crown of glory.
In spite of my unworthiness, I praise You and I glorify You, O Lord, for Your mercy to me, is without limit.
You have been my help and my protection. May the name of Your majesty be praised forever.
To you, our God, be glory. Amen.
Art: St. Ephrem the Syrian, unknown author, unknown date, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less; Detail of Photo d’une icône roumaine de St Ephrem le Syrien (diacre et docteur de l’Eglise dit “La Harpe de l’Esprit” ou encore “La cithare de Marie”), icône écrite par une sœur orthodoxe près d’Oradea en avril 2005, prise de vue par Geoffroy Blanc (le propriétaire de l’icône) [Photo of a Romanian icon of St Ephrem the Syrian (Deacon and Doctor of the Church said, “The Harp of the [Holy] Spirit” or “The zither of Mary”), written by an Orthodox icon sister near Oradea in April 2005, shot by Geoffrey White (the owner of the icon)]; Troubageoff, 7 June 2006, CCA-SA 1.0 Generic; both Wikimedia Commons.