The fourth day of Lent
Saturday is the Sabbath, the last day of the week, the day on which Genesis tells us that God himself rested. The busy lives which so many modern people lead leave little time for rest, let alone silence, contemplation, or prayer. Lent, with its movement towards simplification and the elimination of that which is unnecessary and that which enslaves us, is an opportunity for us to recover space in our lives that "putting away all earthly anxieties...our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to [God's] people in heaven." We urge that these Lenten Sabbaths be days to pause for both rest and contemplation and we suggest a very simple Sabbath exercies: recitation and contemplation of the lenten prayer attributed to Saint Ephrem the "Syrian. This prayer holds a central place in the Orthodox observance of Lent where it is said every weekday at services and is also used privately by the faithful. As our object is simplicity and freedom from burdensome exercises, we will be repeating this prayer on each Sabbath in Lent and include a brief commentary by Fr. Alexander Schmemann on one or two points of the prayer to aid our lenten Sabbath reflection.
O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, 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 errors and not to judge my brother;
For Thou art blessed unto ages
of ages. Amen .
The Lenten Prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian
Of all lenten hymns and prayers, one short prayer can be termed the lenten prayer. Tradition ascribes it to one of the great teachers of spiritual life - St. Ephrem the Syrian.... Why does this short and simple prayer occupy such an important position in the entire lenten worship? Because it enumerates in a unique way all the "negative" and "positive" elements of repentance and constitutes, so to speak, a "check list" for our individual lenten effort. This effort is aimed first at our liberation from some fundamental spiritual diseases which shape our life and make it virtually impossible for us even to start turning ourselves to God.
The basic disease is sloth. It is that strange laziness and passivity of our entire being which always pushes us "down" rather than "up" -- which constantly convinces us that no change is possible and therefore desirable. It is in fact a deeply rooted cynicism which to every spiritual challenge responds "what for?" and makes our life one tremendous spiritual waste. It is the root of all sin because it poisons the spiritual energy at its very source.
The result of sloth is faint-heartedness. It is the state of despondency which all spiritual Fathers considered the greatest danger for the soul. Despondency is the impossibility for man to see anything good or positive; it is the reduction of everything to negativism and pessimism. It is truly a demonic power in us because the Devil is fundamentally a liar. He lies to man about God and about the world; he fills life with darkness and negation. Despondency is the suicide of the soul because when man is possessed by it he is absolutely unable to see the light and to desire it.
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