Thanksgiving in Christmastide
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Happy New Year

You'll notice that there's no cheery exclamation mark after that title. I bring you this appropriate counsel from St. Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373):

God has determined the measure of man’s life, and the days divide this appointed measure into parts. Each day imperceptibly takes its part away from your life and each hour unrestrainedly runs along its course with its little share. The days destroy your life, the hours subvert its edifice, and you rush to your end, for you are but a vapor.

The days and hours, like thieves and robbers, rob and steal from you. The thread of your life is gradually torn and shortened. The days deliver your life up to burial, the hours lay it in the grave, and together with the days and the hours does your life on earth disappear.

I hope to make good use of some large part of the days and hours that will make up the coming year. That's as far as I'll go toward a New Year's resolution. And I wish you success in the same endeavor.

This and a good deal more from St. Ephrem was quoted in a weekly email from the editor(s) of Touchstone. You can sign up for it here



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Although he was most likely not its actual source, St. Ephrem is probably best known as the traditional author of a prayer which is offered multiple times by Eastern Christians during Lent, both in the services and in personal prayer:

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

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.

He turns up fairly often in the Catholic devotional magazine Magnificat. Not as far as I know in the liturgy.

Is that the actual translation you use? Interesting that it's got "thou" and "yea" and such. I wonder when it was made--surely not when that was current English?

Yes, that's the version we use in my parish, and it seems to be the common one in the OCA. Not sure of the date it was translated.

I'm reminded of the prayer by Thomas Aquinas for daily recital before the crucifix. I was introduced to it a couple of years ago and am trying to mean it when I pray for "a watchful heart, which no capricious thought can lure away from You."
Happy New Year, Maclin and all.

Can you give me a link to that prayer? I could use it. Capricious thoughts r me.

I'm going to guess that the translation was made prior to 1970 or so, when that kind of language was pretty much standard among American Christians. There's a lot to be sad for a sacral language, especially for one that is not a completely foreign one but yet is clearly different from the everyday vernacular.

The OCA became a self-governing body in 1970 and I imagine that that translation was carried over from earlier usage. Many of our liturgical books date from around that time, so I suspect that the older more "sacral" language was brought over into the newer books, partly because many parishes were starting to have more services in English. My guess is that the original Slavonic books featured the "sacral" language and the translations were done straight, so to speak, without unnecessary tweaking to make them more "modern."

The prayer I've been using turns out to be a shortened version. Here's the original:
Here you go:

Thank you. That last section, the "Give to me..." part, is memorizable (for me).

"May all transitory things, O Lord, be worthless to me" I have a really hard time with that. Not necessarily or especially for possessions and such, but just things in the world that I value and don't want to see disappear.

Yes, me too. I get depressed every time I read that detachment is the basis of spiritual progress.

Transitory qua transitory. Inasmuch as they contribute to your ability to glorify God, at least indirectly, they are not worthless. Listening to a good Beatles song can have value because you are appreciating beauty and that enlarges your soul and can, at least, open it to transcendence. Not all Beatles songs do that, by the way. :)

We ain't puritans. You should read more Chesterton.

Yes, but.... I think there's a real tension there between detachment and love of Creation. I guess theologians have fine-tuned the necessary distinctions, but still, from the Average Christian's point of view, there is some tension.

You were no doubt thinking of "I Dig A Pony" as a soul-enlarging Beatles song? :-)

"Why Don't We Do It in the Road."

Pretty, but overly sentimental.

I know there are many sides to this issue, I will just say at times I really lean on the following from Paul, In fact it was a major component of the springboard which propelled me out of a deep depression some 30 years ago:
"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."
1st Timothy 6:17

It was my permission slip from God:
"I give you permission to enjoy life".

A reasonable reading. I think this is one of those things in Christianity that can never be resolved into an either-or, but has to be worked out for oneself "in fear and trembling".

Hmm, two Kierkegaard titles in one sentence. He knew what was important.

I always remember an example given by a spiritual writer along the following lines:

If you're visiting someone and they bring out a plate of biscuits (cookies), you don't take the largest one (selfishness) or the smallest one (pride), but an average sized one, which gives no opportunity for either sin. But, he goes on to say, you must then resist patting yourself on the back for being wise in your choice!

To me it's the latter that's often the challenge.

"Watch out for the trap door"


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