St Ephraim the Syrian (on Repentance)


When St Ephraim was almost an adolescent, he had a curious dream. Out of his mouth sprouted a vine with many grapes. The height of the vine was great, and the branches reached across the earth. On the branches sat various species of birds flying from branch to branch feeding from the grapes. We understand this to be his God-given ability to preach, and we are the “birds” who are able to “feast” spiritually.

On the topic of repentance he begins with the words of Christ “There shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repents!” He proposes the following questions to us, “Why then, O sinner, do you sit, listless, and negligent? Why are you disheartened and in despair? If there will be joy in heaven at your repentance, what are you afraid of?” In order to stir our often insensitive hearts to repentance he brings before us the judgment of Christ, where we must all give account. He emphasises the necessity of a constant life long journey of repentance so that we may not be confounded at the tribunal where “ten thousands of angels and archangels shall wait with trembling, when the hidden things of darkness will be brought to life and books will be opened”.

St Ephraim tells us “repent, my brother, and then rid yourself of all fear”. He continues, “Do the works of repentance, O sinner, confiding in and looking to the infinite goodness and mercy of Christ, who says, ‘I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’.” When we sin, when we fall, he encourages us to apply the remedy of tears while we have time for repentance, because the time for repentance is very short, but the Kingdom of Heaven has no end. Let us all make haste.


Source: Lychnos November/December 2018