St. Ephrem was born in Syria in 306. He became a deacon and an important Christian teacher. He’s considered a liturgical theologian, because liturgy and prayer were the sources of his spirituality. He wrote hymns and homilies promoting the liturgy in the Syrian churches he served. The Catholic Church today increasingly recognizes the rich spirituality and contributions to Christianity made by the eastern churches and saints like Ephrem. In 1920 the Roman Catholic Church named him a Doctor of the Church.
One of Ephrem’s writings deals with a common challenge we face in prayer and liturgy. We can expect too much from the word of God. This is especially true in daily prayer where monotony can so easily occur. Daily prayer, after all, is a “work” we can tire of. Ephrem calls for humility and patience in prayer and liturgy:
“Lord, who can comprehend even one of your words? Like those drinking from a running stream we only take in so much. Everyone finds something in God’’s word. The Lord’s word is many colored. If you gaze on it, you’ll see what you’re meant to see. It hides many different treasures. Seek and you’ll find what will make you rich.
The word of God is a tree of life bearing blessed fruit on each of its branches. It’s like that rock struck in the wilderness from which all drank. As the apostles says, ‘They all ate spiritual food and they all drank.’
So when you find a part of that treasure don’t think you have exhausted God’s word. Rather, this is yours so far. Also, don’t think the word of God is not much because this is all you have found. Thank God for what you have.
A thirsty person is happy to drink but he’s not able to drink the whole spring. Thirst brings you back to the flowing waters .
What you receive is enough for now; more is promised, but you can’t have all, there will be more if you persevere. Don’t give up. The time will come.”
(On the Diatessaron)
For Ephrem the imagery of drinking from a spring of water describes the way we draw upon God’s word for wisdom and strength. The trouble is we want more than we need or can take in. We want to know it all and do it all, but we only can drink one mouthful at a time. That’s the way we’re built.
The spring is never exhausted, though. The tree of life is there all the time, but we don’t like waiting, eating and drinking day by day.
“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to thy servant.Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge others, for you are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.O God, be gracious to me, a sinner.” (Prayer of St. Ephrem)
Daily morning and evening here.