November 5, 2010

On Psalmody (St. Ephraim the Syrian)

By St. Ephraim the Syrian

...All this and much more could be said about love. But let us return to the subject and speak of repentance and the coming judgement. For we should always meditate on these things, because the day of the Lord is coming like a thief in the night. Therefore by night and day, look to your last hour and meditate on the law of the Lord day and night. Say many things to God and few to humans. 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.

Let us, brethren, never stop making psalmody our meditation, both at home and on the road, both sleeping and waking, speaking to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Psalmody is the joy of those who love God. It banishes idle chatter, brings laughter to an end, reminds us of the judgement, rouses the soul towards God, joins the choir of the Angels. Where there is psalmody with compunction, there God is, with the Angels. Where the songs of the opponent are, there is God's wrath, and 'woe!' is the reward of laughter. Where sacred books and readings are, there are the joy of the just and the salvation of the listeners. Where there are harps and dances, there is the darkening of men and women, and a festival of the Devil.

O the wicked cunning and contrivance of the Devil! How he trips each one through craft, and deceives them and persuades them to do evil as though it were good! Today they decide to chant, tomorrow they dance with enthusiasm. Today they are Christians, tomorrow heathens. Today of good repute, tomorrow pagans. Today servants of Christ, tomorrow rebels against God. Do not be deceived. No one can be servant of two lords, as it is written. You cannot serve God and dance with the Devil.

As true servants of Christ, let us serve him, let us worship him, let us devote ourselves to him, let us stay by him until our last breath, and let us not obey the Devil, for he goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may swallow up, whom he may deceive. Resist him stoutly, as soldiers of Christ, serving him and staying by him. Do not chant today and dance tomorrow. Do not repent today for your sins and tomorrow dance for your destruction. Do not read today and play the harp tomorrow. Do not be master of yourself today and come forward tomorrow reeling and dizzy and the laughing stock of all.

Do not, brethren, let us lose like this the moment of our salvation, by playing about and being played about with. Be like a good farmer, working and taking care. My brother, do not make light of the provisions for eternal life. Do not reject fasting, do not desert vigil, do not be despondent about sleeping on the ground, do not abandon psalmody. For these things and things like them escort you to life and joy and gladness and eternal repose. Love silence rather than wicked conversation. Conversations about worldly things separate the mind from God.