To the Indolent Soul

British Library, Harley 5639 f.90v

Soul: do not be downcast, and do not be anxious. Neither count yourself to be in a multitude of sins. Do not draw upon yourself the fire. Say not, “The Lord has cast me away from his face,” for saying this will not reconcile you to God. He cries to you, saying, My people what have I done to thee? How have I grieved thee? Or how have I troubled thee? (Micah 6:3). When someone falls, does he not get up? And when someone is turned around, does he not turn back?

Soul: do you not hear of the goodness of the Lord? Have you not been redeemed, as one condemned at the hands of a ruler or a general? Do not be anxious that you have wasted your riches. Do not be ashamed to turn back. Rather, say, I will arise and return to my Father (Lk 11:18).

Arise and go! He will receive you. He will not upbraid you. Rather, he will even rejoice at your return. He will take you in. Only, do not be ashamed, like Adam. Do not hide from the face of God.

For your sake was Christ crucified. Will he then reject you? Of course not! For he knows what troubles us, and he alone is our helper. Christ knows that man is miserable. Let us not disregard this, as if we wanted to burn. For Christ has no need to cast anyone into the fire. He gains nothing by sending us to be punished.

Do you wish to learn what the punishment entails? For when the sinner has been driven from the face of God, the very foundations of the earth cannot endure the cry of his groaning. For it is written, That day shall be a day of darkness and gloom, a day of cloud and fog, a day of trumpet and shouting (Zeph 1:15-16). For if a condemned man is exiled by a ruler for two, five, or ten years, what sort of anguish, shame, and groaning do you imagine that man would have? And yet this man is comforted by the fact that his time will come to an end. We wish, therefore, to learn the time of sinners. How long will their exile last? Twenty years? Fifty? One-hundred? Five-hundred? How can we count the time, when the days and years never reach a number? Woe! Woe! The time is unknown. For the wrath that threatens sinners has also yet to be seen.

Do you hear the distress of sinners? Do not disgrace yourself with this necessity. For you need not fall under this threat. Do you have a multitude of sins? Do not hold back from crying to the Lord. Go! Do not be ashamed. The path is near. Arise and shake off the excrement of this world. Imitate the prodigal son. For, when he lost everything, he was not embarrassed to go to his father. The father, for his part, was more concerned about his son’s captivity than the original riches that he lost. Thus, he approached without embarrassment, and he entered the house as nobility. He arrived naked, and he was received with robes. He presented himself as a hired servant, and he was restored to his position as master.

This story is directed at us! Do you see how much was solved by the son’s lack of embarrassment? Do you understand the father’s goodness? You, too, Soul: do not hesitate. Knock! Do you need something? Wait at the door and you will receive everything that you require, as the divine Scripture says: On account of his shamelessness, he will rise and give him whatsoever he requires (Lk 11:8). He will not reject you. He will not upbraid you, man, for the original riches that have been lost. For he has no lack of money. He gives to all eagerly, as the Apostles says. Ask of God, who gives to all simply and without reproach (James 1:5).

Are you at rest in the harbor? Ignore the waves, lest you be snatched, all of a sudden, into the depths of the sea by an oncoming storm. Then you will begin to say, with groaning, I am come into the depths of the sea and the squall has plunged me down. I am weary with shouting and my throat is grown hoarse (Ps 68:3-4). For the abyss of the sea is truly Hades, according to the Lord, who said that there is a great chasm between the righteous and sinners (Lk 16:26).

Therefore, do not condemn yourself to that chasm. Imitate the prodigal son. Leave the city that is in famine. Abandon the misery of the swine. Rest from eating their pods, and do not take them up again.

Come, then, and be comforted. Eat continually of the Manna, the sustenance of angels. Come, that you may behold the glory of God and your face may be enlightened. Come, dwell in the Paradise of delight. Abandon your brief years and take hold of eternity. Let not the span of this present life disturb you. It is swift and short. From Adam until now the time has passed as a shadow. Prepare yourself for the journey. Do not overburden yourself. Winter approaches. Take up your covering, which we, too, by the grace of Christ, are seeking.


Ad animam neglegentem (CPG 4059), ed. K.G. Phrantzoles, Ὁσίου Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου ἔργα 5. Thessaloniki, 1994: 427-431. Cf. Assemani 6:419-461. See, also, Dictionnaire de Spiritualité 4:814.

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