Prayer of Saint Ephrem

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The Prayer of St. Ephraim (Greek: Εὐχἠ τοῦ Ὁσίου Ἐφραίμ, Euchē tou Hosiou Ephraim), is a prayer attributed to Saint Ephraim the Syrian used with emphasis during the Great Lent, by the Orthodox Church. 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 variant 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]

Contents

Greek version

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

Πνεῦμα δὲ σωφροσύνης[1], 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, idle curiosity/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 brothers and sisters. 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 utilize Greek or Arabic in their services. Minor variations from this text have been found in very early manuscripts.

Church Slavonic versions

Pre-Nikonian

In the earliest Church Slavonic translations, this is:

Господи и владико животѹ моемѹ, духъ оунынїѧ, небре жεнїѧ, 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 brothers and sisters. 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

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 Mogila. 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

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.

Bows & Prostrations

The prayer is accompanied by prostrations. The most common practice has one after each line of the prayer, a number of bows/prostrations either in silence or accompanied by short ejaculatory prayers then follows (the exact number of which varies between ethnic traditions), followed by one at the end of a repeat of the entire prayer, with a final prostration.

The current Russian Orthodox practice, such as in ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate, is to perform twelve bows 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

Romanian

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-l mie, robului Tău.

Aşa Doamne, Împărate, dăruieşte-mi ca 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.

Ukrainian

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

Дух 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.

Source

Wikipedia: Prayer of Saint Ephrem

Notes

  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)
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