The winter is past, the rain is over and gone

At Vespers for the Feast of St Ephrem the Syrian (January 28). Source.

WHEN thou hadst beheld, as in a mirror (2 Cor 3:18), the beautiful things of Paradise, and delighted abundantly in its unspoiled meadows, thou madest the knowledge of God to blossom in the world; and when we partake of it, through the spiritual disposition of our souls, we bloom again in spirit.

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Fuchsia 'Deep Purple' glistening with raindrops. © Jonathan Billinger, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

Fuchsia ‘Deep Purple’ glistening with raindrops. © Jonathan Billinger, Geograph. Licensed for reuse. Click for original.

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Song of Songs 2:10-13.

MY beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

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Frédéric Chopin, Prelude No. 5 (“Raindrop”).
Played by Hélène Grimaud.

With the Forerunner we sing: Blessed art thou, O Lord

HE will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Luke 1:17.

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A BUSH unburnt by fire upon the mountain (Ex 3:1-6), a Chaldean furnace dropping with dew (Az 1:26-27), proclaim thee, O Bride of God: for unconsumed thou didst receive the immaterial fire divine in the material of thy womb; therefore, we sing praise to him who was born from thee: Blessed art thou, O God of our Fathers.

Ministering the baptism, O Forerunner, and publicly performing the mysteries before God given to thee, thou wast offered as a sacrifice, consecrated as an innocent lamb (Mt 14:3-12);* therefore, with one voice we sing with thee: Blessed art thou, O God of our Fathers.

* A similar phrase is used of John’s father Zechariah on his feast, September 5. He too was murdered: see Mt 23:35.

An icon of St John the Forerunner and Baptist

An icon of St John the Forerunner and Baptist

Having become a new Elijah (Mk 1:6; 4[2] Kgs 1:8; cf. Mal 4:5, Mk 9:13), with boldness O Forerunner didst thou publicly rebuke even kings when they were lawless (Mt 14:1-12), shewing thy immaterial life, as thou art thrice-blessed: therefore we sing with thee, O Prophet: Blessed art thou, O God of our Fathers.

Thou who are more than the prophets (Mt 11:7-10), O Forerunner, and didst inherit as a gift the divine honour of the Apostles of Christ, thou who art the fulfilment of the Law (Mt 11:13; Rom 13:10) didst also appear plainly as the first fruits of new grace; wherefore with thee, thrice-blessed, we sing: Blessed art thou, O God of our Fathers.

Theotokion.

LET us all fittingly offer up hymns of praise in hymns with all devotion to the all-holy Lady, who received God: because she bore God the Only-begotten, who appeared to us men, to whom we faithful with one voice sing: Blessed art thou, O God of our Fathers.

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

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.

They that saw were amazed as they stood,
at the Spirit Who came down and bare witness to Him.

Praise to Thy Epiphany that gladdens all,
Thou in Whose revelation the worlds are lightened!

St Ephrem the Syrian. Source.

A wonder is thy mother, O Lord

A WONDER is Thy Mother.

The Lord entered her, and became a servant:
the Word entered her, and became silent within her:
thunder entered her, and His voice was still:
the Shepherd of all entered her; He became a Lamb in her, and came forth bleating.

A miraculous icon of the Theotokos, Panagia Glykophilousa, at the Philotheou monastery on Mount Athos

A miraculous icon of the Theotokos, Panagia Glykophilousa, at the Philotheou monastery on Mount Athos

The Rich went in, He came out poor:
the High One went in, He came out lowly.
Brightness went into her and clothed Himself, and came forth a despised form.
The Mighty went in, and clad Himself with fear [i.e. human fear] from the womb.
He that giveth food to all went in, and gat hunger.
He that giveth all to drink went in, and gat thirst.
Naked and bare came forth from her the Clother of all.

St Ephrem the Syrian, Rhythms on the Nativity, No. 8.

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THOU art my strength, O Lord, and my power also, thou art my God, thou art my joy, who leaving not thy Father’s bosom yet visitedst our poverty. Therefore with the Prophet Habakkuk I cry to thee: glory to thy power, thou that lovest mankind.

THOU didst bear in thy womb, O immaculate Lady, God the Word of God, who with infinite wisdom brought to fulfilment the most noble plan of salvation for world. Therefore we all rightly sing thy praises, as thou intercedeth with him, that we be redeemed from diseases and from perils of all kinds.

Prayers selected from today’s liturgy. Source.

St Ephrem the Syrian: With eye and mind we have beheld Him

THAT which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

1 John 1:1-4

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Diskos with the prosphora bread cut by a lance and ready for consecration

‘By His graciousness he is felt by the hands.’ Diskos with the prosphora bread cut by a lance and ready for consecration.

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GLORY to Thy coming, which quickened the sons of men!

Glory to Him, who came to us by His First-born!

Glory to the Silence, who spake by His Voice.

Glory to the One on high, who was seen by His Day-spring!

Glory to the Spiritual, who was pleased to have a Body, that in it His virtue might be felt, and He might by that Body shew mercy on His household’s bodies!

Glory to that Hidden One, whose Son was made manifest!

Glory to that Living One, whose Son was made to die!

Glory to that Great One, whose Son descended and was small.

Glory to the Power who did stint His greatness by a form, His unseen nature by a shape!

With eye and mind we have beheld Him, yea with both of them.

Glory to that Hidden One, who even with the mind cannot be felt at all by them that pry into Him; but by His graciousness was felt by the hand of human beings!

St Ephrem the Syrian, Rhythms on the Nativity No. 3. Translated by J. B. Morris.

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AND the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Blessed is she who has despised perishable things and acquired love

IF any man will follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Mark 8:34

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An icon of St Paraskevi (Parascheva) of the Balkans, by Fr Arsenie Boca

An icon of St Paraskevi (Parascheva) of the Balkans, by Fr Arsenie Boca.

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It was these words from St Mark’s Gospel that in the 11th century inspired the young Petka (St Parascheva) to flee her home in Serbia to the desert of Jordan.

In the Prologue from Ohrid, however, St Nikolai Velimirovic gives us a hymn to St Parascheva of Serbia (whose feast falls today) based on words in St Matthew’s Gospel.

JESUS said unto him,

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Matthew 22:37

As St John Cassian wrote,

“THOUGH I give my body to be burned, and have no love, it profits me nothing” (1 Cor 13:3).

From this we learn that perfection does not follow immediately upon renunciation and withdrawal from the world.

It comes after the attainment of love which, as the Apostle said, “is not jealous or puffed up, does not grow angry, bears no grudge, is not arrogant, thinks no evil”(cf. 1 Cor 13:4-5).

All these things establish purity of heart; and it is for this that we should do everything, scorning possessions, enduring fasts and vigils gladly, engaging in spiritual reading and psalmody.

St John Cassian, “On the Holy Fathers of Sketis And on Discrimination”, in the Philokalia.

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“THE Lord desires a pure heart”:
Thus says the Gospel.
A pure virgin you remained,
And you gave your pure heart to God –
O most wonderful saint,
Saint Parasceva, our ideal!

THE Lord seeks a most pure mind,
Without fancy and without falsehood;
And you presented Him your most pure mind,
Like that of an angel, of the same kind.
O most wonderful saint,
O Saint Parasceva, hearken to our petitions!

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The Metropolitan Cathedral of Iaşa, Romania

“The Lord seeks a pure soul, as a heavenly shrine; you perfected such a soul, and now shine in heaven, O most wonderful saint.” The Metropolitan Cathedral of Iaşa, Romania, where the relics of St Parascheva now rest.

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THE Lord seeks a pure soul,
As a heavenly shrine;
You perfected such a soul,
And now shine in heaven.
O most wonderful saint,
Parasceva, help us!

BY your prayers, help us
In the misfortunes of life.
Through the clouds of earthly sorrow
Bring us light, like a rainbow –
O chaste virgin, most wonderful,
Holy Mother Parasceva!

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AGAIN I say, and I will not stop saying, ‘Blessed is one who has despised all earthly and perishable things and acquired love.’

Such a person’s reward increases every day. Such a person’s reward and crown has been prepared, the Kingdom of heaven has been given them.

All the Angels call them blessed; all the Powers of heaven praise them; the choirs of the Archangels receive them with joy.

For them the gates of heaven will be speedily opened, and they will enter with boldness, take their stand by the throne of God, be crowned by God’s right hand, and will reign with him for endless ages.

Ephrem the Syrian. Translation by Archimandrite Ephrem at Anastasis.

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THROUGH thee the divine likeness was securely preserved, O Mother Paraskeva; for thou didst carry the cross and followed Christ.

By example and precept thou didst teach us to ignore the body because it is perishable, and to attend to the concerns of the undying soul.

Therefore, doth thy soul rejoice with the angels.

(The Romanian Troparion sung above differs from the Greek and Russian)

St John the Forerunner baptised Him whom the prophets preached

Today is the Apodosis (Leave-taking) of the Feast of the Beheading of St John the Forerunner, which fell yesterday.

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THE memory of the righteous man is with praises: but thou wast pleased with witness to the Lord, O Forerunner.

For truly thou wast destined to be more reverend than the Prophets, because thou wast accounted worthy to baptise him whom they preached.

Wherefore, having laboured for the truth, with joy didst thou preach to them that were in Hades the gospel of God made visible in the flesh, of him that taketh away the sin of the world and granteth unto us his great mercy.

Apolytikion on the Feast of the Beheading of St John the Forerunner (August 29)

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(Resp.—Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Thee—with joy Heaven and earth worship!)

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.

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 baptize Him.

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An icon of St John the Forerunner and Baptist

An icon of St John the Forerunner and Baptist

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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.

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.

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.” […]

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An icon of the Baptism of Christ (Theophany)

An icon of the Baptism of Christ (Theophany)

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

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.

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

St Ephrem Syrus, “Fifteen Hymns for the Feast of the Epiphany”, Hymn XIV: Concerning our Lord and John. Source.

St Ephrem the Syrian: Let your mouth sing psalms and your mind pray

IT is better to sing than to read. Sing. People say that he who sings does not think ill.

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

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IF you stretch out your hand to work, let your mouth sing psalms and your mind pray.

Let psalmody be continually on your mouth, for when God is being named he puts the demons to flight and sanctifies the singer.

Psalmody is calm of soul, author of peace. Psalmody is convenor of friendship, union of the separated, reconciliation of enemies.

Psalmody attracts the help of the Angels, is a weapon in night-time fears, repose of the day’s toils, safety for infants, adornment for the old, consolation for the elderly, most fitting embellishment for women.

It make deserts into homes, market places sober.

It is the ABC for beginners, progress for the more advanced, confirmation for the perfect, the voice of the Church.

It makes festivals radiant; it creates mourning that is in accordance with God, for psalmody draws tears even from a heart of stone.

Psalmody is the work of the Angels, the commonwealth of heaven, spiritual incense.

Psalmody is enlightenment of souls, sanctification of bodies.

St Ephrem the Syrian, “Three Short Discourse”, No. 2: On Psalmody. From Anastasis.

More Psalms, and more on the Psalms, on my dedicated Page.

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Psalm 135(136)

Alleluia.

1 Give thanks to the Lord: for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever. 2 Give thanks to the God of gods; for his mercy endures for ever. 3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy enduresfor ever.4 To him who along has wrought great wonders: for his mercy endures for ever. 5 To him who made the heavens by understanding; for his mercy endures for ever. 6 To him who established the earth on the waters; for his mercy endures for ever. 7 To him who alone made great lights; for his mercy endures for ever. 8 The sun to rule by day; for his mercy endures for ever. 9 The moon and the stars to rule the night; for his mercy endures for ever.

10 To him who smote Egypt with their first-born; for his mercy endures for ever. 11 And brought Israel out of the midst of them; for his mercy endures for ever: 12 with a strong hand, and a high arm: for his mercy endures for ever. 13 To him who divided the Red Sea into parts: for his mercy endures for ever: 14 and brought Israel through the midst of it: for his mercy endures for ever: 15 and overthrew Pharao and his host in the Red Sea: for his mercy endures for ever. 16 To him who led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endures for ever.

17 To him who smote great kings: for his mercy endures for ever: 18 and slew mighty kings; for his mercy endures for ever: 19 Seon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endures for ever: 20 and Og king of Basan: for his mercy endures for ever: 21 and gave their land for an inheritance: for his mercy endures for ever: 22 even an inheritance to Israel his servant: for his mercy endures for ever.

23 For the Lord remembered us in our low estate; for his mercy endures for ever: 24 and redeemed us from our enemies; for his mercy endures for ever. 25 Who gives food to all flesh; for his mercy endures for ever. 26 Give thanks to the God of heaven; for his mercy endures for ever.