Identifying the Greek Texts of St. Theophan’s Spiritual Psalter

sppsalterIf you know the Spiritual Psalter of St. Theophan the Recluse (St. John of Kronstadt Press, 1997), you know that this is a collection of 150 Ephremic texts arranged into a collection of prayers to be prayed like the psalms. Like the rest of the corpus of St. Ephrem, these prayers are deeply penitential and profoundly moving.

As far as I know, no one has gone to the trouble, so far, of tracking down the Greek texts behind St. Theophan’s translations (see the bibliography page for the Slavonic and Russian translations of Ephrem Graecus). But we have been able to pinpoint, for now, the source of Psalm 122.

That prayer begins with the call,

Take an interest, at last, in your salvation, O sinner. Seclude yourself, collect your thoughts and say to yourself: how much time have you spent feeding the lusts of your flesh and imagination, and what benefit has it brought you; what have you attained by doing this?

And it ends with an appeal to turn to the Lord in repentance, culminating in the following lines:

Approach with faith and He will cleanse you straightway as He cleansed the leper, lift you from your bed as He lifted the paralytic, and raise you from the dead as He raised Lazarus.

This exhortation, it turns out, corresponds to about eighty lines from the forty-second of the fifty Exhortations to the Monks of Egypt (ed. Phrantzolas 3:36-294). It is a paraenesis To A Monk Who Has Fallen, with the subtitle, On Repentance. The exhortation begins with the words,

The Enemy attacks those who are subject to a spiritual father, saying….

It is concerned largely with the details of monastic endurance. But large portions of it also apply to Christian strugglers in general. The portion excerpted by St. Theophan begins at line 114 of the paraenesis (already quoted above):

Σχόλαζε τοιγαροῦντῇ ἑαυτοῦ σωτηρίᾳ, ἀγαπητὲ ἀδελφέ, καὶ καθίσας ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ, ἐπισυνάγαγέ σου τοὺς λογισμοὺς καὶ εἰπὸν ἐν σεαυτῷ· Ἄνθρωπε, τοσοῦτον χρόνον ἔχειςποιῶν τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς σαρκὸς καὶ τῶν διανοιῶν σου. Τί ὠφελήθης καὶ τίἐκέρδησας τὰ τοιαῦτα ἐπιτελῶν;

And it ends at line 192:

Καὶ τῷ λεπρῷ εἶπε· θέλω, καθαρίσθητι· καὶ εὐθέως ἐκαθαρίσθη αὐτοῦ ἡ λέπρα. Τὸν δὲ Λάζαρον τεταρταῖον ἤγειρεν ὁ Κύριος ἐκνεκρῶν.

The excerpt appears in the edition of Phrantzolas, vol. 3, pp. 228-233, though naturally, there are some variations in the translation. The Greek text goes on for another two pages (about thirty lines more). So, in total, St. Theophan’s Psalm 122 is about 1/3 of the entire text. The original paraenesis, as we said, is about monastic perseverance. But St. Theophan has wisely excerpted this portion which is of extreme relevance to every sinful human soul.

I would encourage everyone to obtain a copy of the Spiritual Psalter and make frequent use of it, as it is among the very, very few translations we have of the Greek Ephrem; and these are exceptionally edifying and compunctive prayers.



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