St Ephrem the Syrian: Hymn 14 of the Epiphany, concerning our Lord and John.

1. My thought bore me to Jordan,
and I saw a marvel when there was revealed
the glorious Bridegroom who to the Bride
shall bring freedom and holiness.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

2. I saw John filled with wonder
and the multitudes standing about him
and the glorious Bridegroom bowed down
to the Son of the barren that he might baptise Him.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

3. At the Word and the Voice my thought marvelled:
for lo! John was the Voice;
our Lord was manifested as the Word,
that what was hidden should become revealed.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

4. The Bride was espoused but knew not
who was the Bridegroom on whom she gazed:
the guests were assembled, the desert was filled
and our Lord was hidden among them.
                                                              

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy

5. Then the Bridegroom revealed Himself
and to John at the voice He drew near:
and the Forerunner was moved and said of Him
This is the Bridegroom Whom I proclaimed.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

6. He came to baptism Who baptises all
and He showed Himself at Jordan.
John saw Him and drew back
deprecating, and thus he spoke:

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

7. How, my Lord, dost Thou will to be baptised
Thou Who in Thy baptism atonest all?
Baptism looks unto Thee
do Thou shed on it holiness and perfection?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

8. Our Lord said I will it so
draw near, baptise Me that My Will may be done.
Resist My Will thou cannot:
I shall be baptised of thee, for thus I will it.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

9. I entreat, my Lord, that I be not compelled
for this is hard that Thou hast said to me
‘I need thee to baptise Me;’
for it is Thou that with Thy hyssop purifiest all.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

10. I have asked it, and it pleases Me that thus it should be
and thou, John, why dost thou gainsay?
Allow righteousness to be fulfilled
and come, baptise Me; why art thou standing there?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

11. How can one openly grasp
in his hands the fire that burns?
O Thou that art fire have mercy on me
and bid me not come near Thee, for it is hard for me!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

12. I have revealed to thee My Will;
what dost thou question?
Draw near, baptise Me, and thou shalt not be burned.
The bridechamber is ready; keep Me not back
from the wedding-feast that has been made ready.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

13. The Watchers fear and dare not
gaze on Thee lest they be blinded
and I, how, O my Lord, shall I baptise Thee?
I am too weak to draw near; blame me not!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

14. Thou fearest; therefore gainsay not
against My Will in what I desire:
and Baptism hath respect unto Me.
Accomplish the work to which thou hast been called!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

15. Lo! I proclaimed Thee at Jordan
in the ears of the people that believed not
and if they shall see Thee baptised of me
they will doubt that Thou art the Lord.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

16. Lo! I am to be baptised in their sight
and the Father Who sent Me bears witness of Me
that I am His Son and in Me He is well pleased
to reconcile Adam who was under His wrath.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

17. It becomest, me, O my Lord, to know my nature
that I am moulded out of the ground
and Thee the moulder Who formest all things:
I, then, why should I baptise Thee in water?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

18. It becomes thee to know why I have come
and for what cause I have desired that thou shouldst baptise Me.
It is the middle of the way wherein I have walked
withhold not Baptism.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

19. Small is the river whereto Thou hast come
that Thou shouldst lodge therein and it should cleanse Thee.
The heavens suffice not for Thy mightiness;
how much less shall Baptism contain Thee!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

20. The womb is smaller than Jordan;
yet was I willing to lodge in the Virgin:
and as I was born from woman
so too am I to be baptised in Jordan.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

21. Lo! The hosts are standing!
the ranks of Watchers, lo! They worship!
And if I draw near, my Lord, to baptise Thee
I tremble for myself with quaking.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

22. The hosts and multitudes call thee happy
all of them, for that thou baptisest Me.
For this I have chosen thee from the womb:
fear not, for I have willed it.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

23. I have prepared the way as I was sent:
I have betrothed the Bride as I was commanded.
May Thine Epiphany be spread over the world
now that Thou hast come, and let me not baptise Thee!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

24. This is My preparation, for so have I willed;
I will go down and be baptised in Jordan,
and make bright the armour for them that are baptised
that they may be white in Me and I not be conquered.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

25. Son of the Father, why should I baptise Thee?
for lo! Thou art in Thy Father and Thy Father in Thee.
Holiness unto the priests Thou givest –
why dost Thou ask for water that is common?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

  1. The children of Adam look unto Me
    that I should work for them the new birth.
    A way in the waters I will search out for them
    and if I be not baptised this cannot be.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

27. High-priests of Thee are consecrated
priests by Thy hyssop are purified –
the anointed and the kings Thou makest.
Baptism, how shall it profit Thee?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

28. The Bride thou didst betroth to Me awaits Me
that I should go down, be baptised, and sanctify her.
Friend of the Bridegroom withhold Me not
from the washing that awaits Me.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

29. I am not able, for I am weak
Thou blazest in my hands to grasp.
Lo! Thy legions are as flame
bid one of the Watchers baptise Thee!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

30. Not from the Watchers was My Body assumed,
that I should summon a Watcher to baptise Me.
The body of Adam, lo! I have put on
and thou, son of Adam, art to baptise Me.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

31. The waters saw Thee, and greatly feared;
the waters saw Thee, and lo! They tremble!
The river foams in its terror
and I that am weak, how shall I baptise Thee?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

32. The waters in My Baptism are sanctified,
and fire and the Spirit from Me shall they receive
and if I be not baptised they are not made perfect
to be fruitful of children that shall not die.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

33. Fire, if to Thy fire it draw near
shall be burnt up of it as stubble.
The mountains of Sinai endured Thee not
and I that am weak, wherein shall I baptise Thee?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

34. I am the flaming fire
yet for man’s sake I became a babe
in the virgin womb of the maiden.
And now I am to be baptised in Jordan.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

35. It is very meet that Thou shouldst baptise me
for Thou hast holiness to purify all.
In Thee it is that the defiled are made holy;
but Thou that art holy, why art Thou to be baptised?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

36. It is very right that thou shouldst baptise Me
as I bid, and should not gainsay.
Lo! I baptised thee within the womb –
baptise me in Jordan!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

37. I am a bondman and I am weak.
Thou that freest all have mercy on me!
Thy latchets to unloose I am not able
Thine exalted head who will make me worthy to touch?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

38. Bondmen in My Baptism are set free
handwritings in My washing are blotted out
manumissions in the water are sealed;
and if I be not baptised all these come to nought.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

39. A mantle of fire the air wears
and waits for Thee, above Jordan;
and if Thou consent to it and will to be baptised
Thou shall baptise Thyself and fulfil all.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

40. This is meet, that thou should baptise Me
that none may err and say concerning Me –
‘Had He not been alien from the Father’s house –
why feared the Levite to baptise Him?’

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

41. The prayer, then, when Thou art baptised-
how shall I complete over Jordan?
When the Father and the Spirit are seen over Thee –
Whom shall I call on, as priest?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

42. The prayer in silence is to be completed:
come, thy hand alone lay on Me,
and the Father shall utter in the priest’s stead –
that which is meet concerning His Son.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

43. They that are bidden, lo! All of them stand –
the Bridegroom’s guests, lo! They bear witness
that day by day I said among them,
‘I am the Voice and not the Word.’

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

44. Voice of him that criest in the wilderness
fulfil the work for which thou didst come –
that the desert whereunto thou didst go out may resound
with the mighty peace thou didst preach therein.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

45. The shout of the Watchers has come to my ears –
lo! I hear from the Father’s house –
the hosts that sound forth the cry,
‘In Thine Epiphany, O Bridegroom, the worlds have life.’

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

46. The time hastes on, and the marriage guests
look to Me to see what is doing.
Come, baptise Me, that they may give praise
to the Voice of the Father when it is heard!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

47. I hearken, my Lord, according to Thy Word:
come to Baptism as Thy love constrainest Thee!
The dust worships that whereunto he has attained
that on Him Who fashioned him he should lay his hand.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

48. The heavenly ranks were silent as they stood
and the Bridegroom went down into Jordan;
the Holy One was baptised and straightway went up
and His Light shone forth on the world.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

49. The doors of the highest were opened above
and the voice of the Father was heard –
This is my Beloved in Whom I am well pleased.
All ye peoples, come and worship Him.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

50. They that saw were amazed as they stood,
at the Spirit Who came down and bore witness to Him.
Praise to Thine Epiphany that gladdens all –
Thou in Whose revelation the worlds are lightened!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

For Untroubled Sleep

Grant me, O Lord, both in wakefulness to stand pure before Thee, my Redeemer, and in slumber to partake of sleep without sin.

If in wakefulness I commit transgressions, may I be cleansed by Thy grace, O Lord. And if I sin while asleep, may Thy loving-kindness be unto me purification.

With the cross of Thy humility, make my sleep untroubled, preserve me from the iniquitous dreams of sleep and from the impure conjurings of the imagination. Grant that I might spend the whole night in peaceful sleep and that evil and deleterious thoughts might not take possession of me.

With Thy life-creating Body, of which I have partaken, preserve me from impure lust, that I might lie down and fall asleep in peace. May Thy Blood protect me. And grant my soul, that is Thine image, the freedom that is proper to Thine image. And my Thy right arm shelter my body that was made by Thy hands.

Encircle me with the wall of Thy compassions like a defensive shield. And when my body rests and sleeps, may Thy goodness be my guard, that the Evil One might not approach my bed. By the protection of the Mother who bore Thee, by the sacrifice that Thou hast offered for all men, I beseech Thee: drive away Satan, that he might no trouble me.

In me, O Lord, fulfill Thy promise and preserve my life by Thy Cross. I shall praise Thee when I awake for showing me who am miserable Thy love. May both those who sleep, resting in peace, and those who abide in wakefulness, girded by Thine armor, give praise to Thee, O Preserver Who livest eternally and Who hast aroused me to sing Thy glory.

‘Psalm’ 82, from “A Spiritual Psalter, or Reflections on God”, excerpted by Bishop Theophan the Recluse from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian

Heal Me O Lord, and Thereby Shame the Enemy

O Lord! Show me Thy great lovingkindness and give me relief from the persecutions of the destroyer, for he has covered me with sores and he stands and mocks me.

As Thou didst tame the sea with one word from Thy lips when the disciples awakened Thee, so also hearken unto my groans and cries and tame the waves of the passions that move within me, aroused in my soul by the enemy of my salvation.

As the woman with an issue of blood was healed by merely touching the hem of Thy garment and straightway her blood ceased to flow, so also may my soul from which the enemy ceaselessly draws streams of sinful thoughts be healed by touching Thee just once through faith, O Physician of souls and bodies.

Demonstrate the healing power of faith in Thee, O Healer of all sicknesses, in the healing of my members which the enemy has covered with sores. Make my sores sores no longer and instead cover them with virtues, that the enemy who has rejoiced at my ruin might then be ashamed.

O sinless Lamb, slaughtered for the salvation of the world and Creator of heaven and earth. Thy slave whom thou hast saved and given cause to rejoice shall ever praise Thy grace.

‘Psalm’ 78, from “A Spiritual Psalter, or Reflections on God”, excerpted by Bishop Theophan the Recluse from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian

10 August: the feast of St Laurence of Rome

As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Martyr and Archdeacon, St Laurence of Rome, let us pray for the deacons of our diocese.

As a parish we continue to experience the great blessing of having a deacon dedicated to the well-being and life of the faithful of our community, assisting the priest, and aiding all who need help.

Let us read the words of St Ambrose, who wrote of Laurence as an ideal example of the diaconal ministry, and pray the canon to the saint.Continue reading

Humility: the door opening up the heart…

At the moment, I’m reading “Women of the Catacombs”, an account of underground Orthodox life centred on a catacomb parish in Sergiev Posad from the 1920’s to the 1940’s. In this simply written and engaging memoir, the  second-cousin and mother of the late Father Alexander Men speak of their spiritual lives, initially under the spiritual direction of their dukhovnik, the Archimandrite Serafim.

In one letter to Vera Iakovlevna Vasilevskaia – Men’s second cousin – Archimandrite Serafim describes humility with great spiritual clarity…

 “Humility is the door opening up the heart and giving it the means to a spiritual existence. Humility gives the heart graceful rest, to the mind it gives peace, to one’s thoughts – concreteness. Humility is strength, encompassing the heart, separating it from all that is earthly, giving it understanding about the existence of eternal life, which cannot enter the heart of the carnal person. Humility gives the mind its original purity. It begins to see clearly the difference between good and evil in everything. And to each spiritual situation and movement it knows their name, as the primordial Adam named the animals according to the characteristics he perceived in them. With humility, silence proposes to be imprinted on everything that is in each person, and, in this silence, the spirit of human beings, submitting to the Lord in prayer, hears his prophesies. Until the sensation of humility resides in one’s heart, there cannot be pure prayer…”

“Women of the Catacombs” – edited and translated by Wallace L. Daniel, Northern Illinois University Press, 2021.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark