Prayer of Saint Ephrem

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Priest reciting the Prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian.jpg (Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY, USA).
Icon of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (Meryem Ana Kilesesi, Diyarbakır, Turkey).

The Prayer of Righteous Ephrem (Greek: Εὐχἠ τοῦ Ὁσίου Ἐφραίμ, Euchē tou Hosiou Ephraim), is a prayer attributed to Saint Ephrem the Syrian and used during the Great Lent by the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches that use the Byzantine rite. In the Byzantine tradition, this prayer is considered to be the most succinct summation of the spirit of Great Lent and is hence the Lenten prayer par excellence, prayed during all Lenten weekday services, such as the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, and many more times in private. There are historically two versions of the prayer - the Greek and the Slavonic, with modern English translations taken either from the Greek, the Slavonic, or attempting to combine the two.[1] As Ephrem wrote solely in Syriac, it is almost certain that it was not written by him.[citation needed] However, the Prayer of Saint Ephrem appears to belong to the large body of Greek penitential and ascetic literature that was composed in Ephrem's name during the century after his death in 373.

Greek version[edit]

Κύριε καὶ Δέσποτα τῆς ζωῆς μου, πνεῦμα ἀργίας, περιεργίας, φιλαρχίας, καὶ ἀργολογίας μή μοι δῷς.,

Πνεῦμα δὲ σωφροσύνης,[1][2] ταπεινοφροσύνης, ὑπομονῆς, καὶ ἀγάπης χάρισαί μοι τῷ σῷ δούλῳ.

Ναί, Κύριε Βασιλεῦ, δώρησαι μοι τοῦ ὁρᾶν τὰ ἐμὰ πταίσματα, καὶ μὴ κατακρίνειν τὸν ἀδελφόν μου, ὅτι εὐλογητὸς εἶ, εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν.

In English, this is:

O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust for power and idle talk.

But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity (integrity), humility, patience and love.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

This Greek version is the standard form of the prayer, to be found in the Greek Orthodox Church and all those churches that utilise Greek or Arabic in their services. Minor variations from this text have been found in very early manuscripts.

Church Slavonic versions[edit]

Pre-Nikonian[edit]

In the earliest Church Slavonic translations, this is:

Господи и владико животѹ моемѹ, духъ оунынїѧ, небрежεнїѧ, срεбролюбїѧ и празднословїѧ ѿжεни ѿ мεнε.

Духъ же цѣломѹдрїѧ, смиренїѧ, терпѣнїѧ и любве дарѹй ми рабѹ твоемѹ.

Ей Господи Царю, даждь ми зрѣти моѧ согрѣшенїѧ, и еже не ωсуждати брата моегω, якω благословенъ еси во вѣки. Аминь

In English, this is:

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust for power and idle talk.

But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity (integrity), humility, patience and love.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages. Amen.

There are two intriguing differences between the Greek and Slavonic texts of the first line of the prayer.

First, regarding the spirit of sloth..., the Greek has μή μοι δῷς meaning give me not, but the Slavonic has ωтжεни ωт мεнε meaning take away from me. Next, where the Greek has περιέργια (periergia) meaning 'idle curiosity’ or 'meddling', the Slavonic has небрежεнїѧ (nebrezheniya) meaning ‘faint-heartedness’ or 'despondency', which in Greek is ακηδία (akêdia), the classic monastic sin. Whether these differences are attributable to a different original or a reflection of differing national temperaments is, as yet, unclear.

This version was superseded in Russia in 1656 by the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Nikon, but remains in use among the Old Believers today.

Kievan version of 1639[edit]

Господи и владыко живота моегω, духъ оунынїѧ, небрежεнїѧ, любоначалїѧ и празднословїѧ ѿжεни ѿ мεнε.

Духъ же цѣломѹдрїѧ, смиреномѹдрїѧ, терпѣнїѧ и любве, дарѹй ми рабѹ твоемѹ.

Ей Господи Царю, даждь ми зрѣти моѧ согрѣшенїѧ, и не ωсуждати брата моегω, якω благословенъ еси во вѣки вѣковъ. Аминь

This version is to be found in the Liturgicon (Sluzhebnik) or Priest's Service Book, published in Kiev in 1639 by St. Peter Mohyla. Substantially it is similar to the earlier version, but with some of the case-endings updated, as by that time, use of the dative case (животѹ моемѹ) to mark possession was considered distinctively archaic, and use of the genitive case (живота моегω) felt to be more correct. It retains the distinctive differences that the earlier version has from the Greek, with none of the more drastic changes that may be found in the next version.

This version was once used throughout the Kievan metropolia, as well as the Orthodox Churches of Central Europe (Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and so on), but later dropped out of use, and the next version adopted. It is currently only used (either in the original Slavonic or in vernacular translations by those churches that use the Ruthenian recension - the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Ruthenian Catholic Church, the Belarusian Greek Catholic Church, the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church, and the Slovak Greek Catholic Church.

Nikonian version of 1656[edit]

Господи и владыко живота моегω, духъ праздности, оунынїѧ, любоначалїѧ и празднословїѧ не даждь ми.

Духъ же цѣломѹдрїѧ, смиренномѹдрїѧ, терпѣнїѧ и любве, дарѹй ми рабѹ твоемѹ.

Ей Господи Царю, даруй ми зрѣти моѧ прегрѣшенїѧ, и не ωсуждати брата моегω, якω благословенъ еси во вѣки вѣковъ. Аминь

This is the version found in the editions of the liturgical books published in 1656 by Patriarch Nikon of Moscow, and given his wish that every difference in usage between Muscovite and Greek books be eliminated, it is no surprise that this corresponds word-for-word with the Greek version. This is the version currently in use by the Russian Orthodox Church (both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Belarusian Orthodox Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and all other Slavic Orthodox Churches.

Liturgical usage[edit]

At weekday lenten services the prayer is prescribed for each of canonical hours (usually near the end of the service) and twice during the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.

During the period of the triodion it is first recited on the Wednesday and Friday of Cheesefare week[3] and thereafter from vespers on the evening of the Sunday of Forgiveness, the service which begins great lent, on Monday through Friday through Wednesday of Holy Week. At the end of the Presanctified Liturgy on Great Wednesday there is an additional recitation of the Prayer of St. Ephraim which is its final use during that lenten season; from that moment forward, the emphasis of the services is no longer on repentance, but on the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.

During the Nativity Fast, Dormition Fast and the Apostles' Fast, the lenten order of services may be used when the divine liturgy is not celebrated;[3] in such an instance, the Prayer of St. Ephraim is recited then, too.

Bows & Prostrations[edit]

The prayer is accompanied by bows and prostrations.

Depending upon the rubrics, the prayer is said either once or twice:

  • When it is said once, it is divided into three parts, with a prostration after each part.
  • When it is said twice (though local practices may vary) it is said the first time with a prostration after each part; then follow a number of either bows or prostrations (either in silence or accompanied by short ejaculatory prayers); and then the prayer is said the second time in its entirety (i.e., not broken up by prostrations) followed by a final prostration.

The current Russian Orthodox practice, such as in ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate, is to perform twelve metanias (bows from the waist) between the repeats of the prayer, saying at each bow, 'Боже, ѡчисти мѧ грѣшнаго (грѣшнѹю if one is female) - "O God, cleanse me a sinner". When the prayer is prayed in the course of a church service, the priest alone says "O God, cleanse me a sinner" as everyone makes bows. In the common usage of ROCOR, the last (twelfth time) he adds, "...и помилѹй мѧ" - "...and have mercy on me." Though this last addition is not written in the service books, it does help all of those present to know that it was the last bow.

The tradition of the Old Believers is similar, but instead of twelve bows in silence, they have thirteen prostrations, each time reciting the Jesus Prayer or the following prayers:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner ('Господи Ісусе Христе Сыне Божїй помилѹй мѧ грѣшнаго/грѣшнѹю')

God be merciful to me a sinner. ('Боже милостивъ буди мнѣ грѣшномѹ')

God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me. ('Боже ѡчисти грѣхи моѧ и помилѹй мѧ')

Thou has created me; Lord, have mercy on me. ('Создавый мѧ Господи, помилѹй')

I have sinned immeasurably; Lord, forgive me. ('Безъ числа согрѣшихъ, Господи прости мѧ')

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner

God be merciful to me a sinner.

God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me.

Thou has created me; Lord, have mercy on me.

I have sinned immeasurably; Lord, forgive me.

God be merciful to me a sinner.

Thou has created me; Lord, have mercy on me.

I have sinned immeasurably; Lord, forgive me.

The Ruthenian tradition, again, differs slightly, retaining some aspects closely related to Old Believer usage. The 1639 Liturgikon (Sluzhebnik) of St Peter Mohyla prescribes twelve waist-bows, repeating the following three lines to make twelve:

God be merciful to me a sinner. ('Боже милостивъ буди мнѣ грѣшномѹ')

God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me. ('Боже ѡчисти грѣхи моѧ и помилѹй мѧ')

I have sinned immeasurably; Lord, forgive me. ('Безъ числа согрѣшихъ, Господи прости мѧ')

In Other Languages[edit]

Arabic[edit]

أيها الرب وسيد حياتي اعتقني من روح البطالة والفضول، وحب الرئاسة والكلام البطال

وانعم علي انا عبدك الخاطئ بروح العفة واتضاع الفكر والصبر والمحبة

نعم يا ملكي والهي هب لي ان أعرف ذنوبي وعيوبي والا أدين اخوتي فانك مبارك الى الأبد. آمين

The Arabic version follows the Greek version.

Belarusian[edit]

In the Cyrillic orthography:

Госпадзе і Ўладару жыцьця майго, духа ленасьці, нуды, уладалюбства і марнаслоўя ня дай мне.

Духа чысьціні, пакоры, цярплівасьці і любові дай мне, слузе Твайму.

Так, Госпадзе Ўладару! Дай мне бачыць мае правіны і не асуджаць брата майго, бо Ты блаславёны на вякі вякоў. Амін.

In the Latin orthography:

Hospadzie i Ŭładaru žyćcia majho, ducha lenaści, nudy, uładalubstva i marnasłoŭja nia daj mnie.

Ducha čyścini, pakory, ciaplivaści i lubovi daj mnie, słuzie Tvajmu.

Tak, Hospadzie Ŭładaru! Daj mnie bačyć maje praviny i nie asudžać brata majho, bo Ty błasłaviony na viaki viakoŭ. Amin.

Georgian[edit]

უფალო და მეუფეო ცხოვრებისა ჩემისაო, სულსა უქმობისასა და მიმომწვლილელობისასა, მთავრობის მოყვარებისასა და ცუდად მეტყველებისასა ნუ მიმცემ მე.

ხოლო სული სიწმიდისა, სიმდაბლისა, მოთმინებისა და სიყვარულისა მომმადლე მე, მონასა შენსა.

ჰე, უფალო, მომანიჭე მე განცდაი თვისთა ცოდვათა და არა განკითხვად ძმისა ჩემისა, რამეთუ კურთხეულ ხარ შენ უკუნისამდე. ამინ

Transcription into the Latin alphabet, with apostrophe for glottalization: upalo da meupeo tskhovrebisa chemisao, sulsa ukmobisasa da mimomts'vlilelobisasa, mtavrobis moqvarebisasa da tsudad met'kvelebisasa nu mimtsem me.

kholo suli sits'midisa, simdablisa, motminebisa da siqvarulisa mommadle me, monasa shensa.

he, upalo, momanich'e me gantsdai tvista tsodvata da ara gank'itkhvad dzmisa chemisa, rametu k'urtkheul xar shen uk'unisamde. amin

Japanese[edit]

主吾が生命の主宰よ、怠惰と、愁悶と、矜誇と、空談の情を吾に與うる勿れ。

貞操と、謙遜と、忍耐と、愛の情を我爾の僕(婢)に與え給え。

嗚呼主王よ、我に我が罪を見、我が兄弟を議せざるを賜え、蓋爾は世世に崇め讃めらる。「アミン」

Transcription into the Latin alphabet:

Shu waga inochino shusaiyo, okotarito, modaeto, hokorito, mudagotono kokoro-o, wareni atauru nakare.

Misaoto, herikudarito, koraeto, ainokokoro-o, ware nannjino bokuhini ataetamae.

Ah shu oyo, wareni waga tumio mi, waga keitei o gisezaruo tamae, kedashi nannjiha yoyoni agamehomeraru. Amin.

Romanian[edit]

Doamne şi Stăpânul vieţii mele, duhul trândăviei, al grijii de multe, al iubirii de stăpânire şi al grăirii în deşert nu-mi-l da mie

Iar duhul curăţiei, al gândului smerit, al răbdării şi al dragostei dăruieşte-mi mie slugii tale

Aşa Doamne, Împărate, dăruieşte-mi să-mi văd greşalele mele şi să nu osândesc pe fratele meu, că binecuvântat eşti în vecii vecilor. Amin

The Romanian text follows the Greek version.

Slovak[edit]

Pane a Vládca môjho života, odním odo mňa ducha znechutenosti, nedbalosti, mocibažnosti a prázdnych rečí.

Daruj mne, svojmu služobníkovi, ducha miernosti, poníženosti, trpezlivosti a lásky.

Áno, Pane a Kráľu, daj, aby som videl vlastné prehrešenia a nepodsudzoval svojho brata, lebo ty si požehnaný na veky vekov. Amen.[4]

different translation:

Pane a Vládca môjho života, odožeň odo mňa ducha zúfalstva, nedbanlivosti, mocibažnosti a prázdnych rečí.

Daruj mne, tvojmu služobníkovi, ducha čistoty, pokory, trpezlivosti a lásky.

Áno, Pane a Kráľu, daruj mi vidieť vlastné hriechy a neodsudzovať môjho brata, lebo ty si požehnaný na veky vekov, amen.[5]

Ukrainian[edit]

Господи і Владико життя мого, духа млявости, недбайливости, владолюбства й пустослів’я віджени від мене.

Духа же доброчесности і смиренномудрія, терпіння й любови даруй мені, недостойному рабові Твоєму.

Так, Господи Царю, дай мені зріти мої прогрішення і не осуджувати брата мого, бо Ти благословен єси на віки віків. Амінь.

The Ukrainian version appears to follow the Mohyla version closely.

Finnish[edit]

Herra, elämäni valtias! Estä minusta laiskuuden, velttouden, vallanhimon ja turhanpuhumisen henki.

Anna minulle, sinun palvelijallesi, sielun puhtauden, nöyryyden, kärsivällisyyden ja rakkauden henki.

Oi, Kuningas ja Herra! Anna minun nähdä rikokseni ja anna, etten veljeäni tuomitsisi, sillä siunattu olet sinä iankaikkisesti. Aamen.

The Finnish version follows the Greek version.

Hawaiian[edit]

E ka Haku a me ke Kahu o ko‘u ola! Mai hā‘awi ‘Oe ia‘u i ka ‘uhane o ka na‘au palaka, ka mana‘o pauaho, ke kuko hewa a me ke kakahili.

Akā naʻe, e hā‘awi mai nō na‘e ‘Oe ia‘u, Kāu ‘ōhua, i ka ‘uhane o ke kūkapu, ka ha‘aha‘a, ke ahonui a me ke aloha.

E ka Haku ē, ka Mō‘ī ho‘i! E ‘ae ‘Oe mai ia‘u i ka hiki ke ‘ike i ko‘u mau hewa a me ka hiki ke ho‘ohalahala ‘ole aku i ko‘u hoa kanaka; no ka mea, Nou ka pōmaika‘i mai kēia manawa a mau loa aku no nā kau ā kau. ‘Āmene.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ The Greek word "σωφρόσυνη/sōphrosunē" is usually translated as "chastity," however, the word carries the meaning of "whole mindedness." Therefore the prayer here asks for the restoration of wholeness. (See Alexander Schmemann's article The Lenten Prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian and his book Great Lent)
  2. ^ See also, Three Prayers: The Lord's Prayer, O Heavenly King, Prayer of St. Ephrem, Olivier Clément, translated by Michael Breck, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York, 2000. ISBN 0-88141-197-3.
  3. ^ a b Типико́нъ сiесть уста́въ (Title here transliterated into Russian; actually in Church Slavonic) (The Typicon which is the Order), Москва (Moscow, Russian Empire): Сvнодальная тvпографiя (The Synodal Printing House), 1907 
  4. ^ HORE SRDCIA. Prešov: Vydavateľstvo PETRA, 2002, pp. 22-23. ISBN 80-89007-29-5.
  5. ^ Veľkopôstna modlitba sv. Efréma Sýrskeho