Saturday, March 15, 2014

From the Spritual Psalter of St. Ephraim the Syrian

If He [i.e. Christ] is not God and man then, indeed, our salvation is false, and false are the pronouncements of the prophets.--A Spiritual Psalter, Third Kathisma, Third stasis # 23

These words conclude Ephraim's long set of rhetorical questions about Christ being both God and Man.  They follow the pattern "If he were not flesh...then who [insert phrase reflecting his divinity]."  At this time of year, Orthodox are, unfairly, criticized for their hymnography which overwhelmingly tackles the theme of Christ's incarnation.  Why all the focus on His incarnation and not on his Crucifixion and Death and Resurrection?  Firstly, that's a stupid question because Orthodoxy hymnography, just like Orthodox theology is never just centered on one thing, but it is all-encompassing and holistic.  The Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of Christ all have their place in the Lenten cycle of Divine Liturgy and the other offices, but without keeping the Incarnation on the forefront of our lips and minds and souls, then Christ's work on those three days becomes merely a legal matter.

On another note, if you have not read the Spiritual Psalter of St. Ephraim the Syrian, then I strongly suggest you get one and incorporate it into your Lenten reading/prayer life.  The words of this great Christian poet and psalmist (even when translated into such an unpoetic language as English) will condemn you for what you are, a sinner, and yet remind you fervently about the Hope we have in Christ. 


  1. Can you recommend a good version of the Spiritual Psalter?

    1. The one I have is entitled "A Spiritual Psalter or Reflections on God excerpted by Bishop THeophan the Recluse from the works of our Holy Father, Ephraim the Syrian." I think it may be out of print, but there are some places selling it. I found a link for you.

      It's well worth the money (I paid about $35) as it is hardbound on acid free paper so it will last a lifetime. The formatting and layout make it easy to read and the illustrations are very nice. Also included is the Life of St. Ephraim, a preface from Bishop Theophan the Recluse and the Apoytikion and Kontakion of St. Eprhaim. I hope you can procure a copy.