In the following passage, taken from a sermon of his, Saint Ephrem the Syrian (306-373) speaks of the pure light of God, and asks for it to enter into us, clearing away the darkness that sin has cast upon our minds. Saint Ephrem, a Doctor of the Church, was especially known for his use of verse to communicate theological truth, and this was the case even in his sermons, as is evidenced in the example below, which has a distinctly poetic feel to it. He is still considered to be one of, if not the greatest, poets in the Syriac language, and over the years has received titles such as ‘Sun of the Syrians’ and ‘Harp of the Spirit’ – titles which allude not only to his great poetic gift but for the way in which he was thereby able to deliver sound teaching in a clear and luminous fashion.
In the excerpt below, Saint Ephrem petitions God to bring the light of His wisdom and the nourishing power of His grace to us, that we might be able to dispel the darkness of our selfishness and embrace the new creation that the Resurrection has begun. He appeals to the institution of the sacraments, particularly of Baptism, in which we have been initiated into this new life of holiness and truth, and asks that we may receive the Eucharist in a worthy fashion, so that the continued pouring out of God’s very life that is communicated there will be for our further enrichment and enlightenment. The whole passage is a deeply felt exhortation that God may draw us closer to Him, and that we may keep our eyes fixed firmly on Him, entering ever deeper into His very life:
‘O Lord, drive away the darkness from our minds
with the light of your wisdom,
so that enlightened in this way
we may serve you with renewed purity.
The beginning of the sun’s passage through the sky
marks the beginning of the working-day for us mortals:
we ask you, Lord, to prepare in our minds
a place where the day that knows no end may give its light.
Grant that we may have within us this light,
the life of the resurrection,
and that nothing may take away our delight in you.
Mark us with the sign of that day that does not begin
with the movement and the course of the sun,
by keeping our minds fixed on you.
In your sacraments we welcome you every day
and receive you in our bodies.
Make us worthy to experience within us
the resurrection for which we hope.
Be the wings for our thoughts, O Lord,
Drawing us lightly to the heights
And bearing us up to our true home.
By the grace of baptism we conceal within our bodies
the treasure of your divine life…
Let us appreciate the great beauty that is ours
through the spiritual beauty that your immortal will
arouses in our mortal nature…
May your resurrection, Jesus,
cause the spiritual man to grow in us (cf Eph 3,16)
and may the contemplation of your mysteries
become the mirror in which we come to recognise you (1Cor 13,12).
Grant, Lord, that we may hasten to our true home,
and, like Moses on the mountain-top
seeing the promised Land, (Dt 34,1)
let us possess it even now through contemplation.’
Taken from Sermon 3, 2.4-5, courtesy of Daily Gospel