Friday, March 2, 2012

"Accept My Bitter Tears": A Lenten Prayer by John Saba

John Saba (690-780), also known as John of Dalyatha or John the Venerable, was a Syrian monk from the region of Dalyatha, where modern-day Turkey, Iran, and Iraq meet.  His writings were well-read throughout the Christian East, and they are still popular today, at least in the Oriental Orthodox churches (where he is a saint), despite his being condemned as a Nestorian, a Messalian, and a Sabellian at different times.  Among his writings is the following prayer which fits perfectly for this holy season of Lent:

You who wept and shed tears of sorrow over Lazarus, accept my bitter tears. 

May my passions be allayed by Your Passion; may my wounds be healed by Your wounds, my blood be blended with Your blood, and the lifegiving fragrance of Your holy body be mingled with my body. 

May the bitter drink that was given to You by Your enemies soothe my soul, which has been made to drink wormwood by the evil one. 

May Your body, which was stretched out on the tree, stretch my mind out to you, for it has been shrunken by demons. 

May Your head which was bowed down upon the cross lift up my head, which has been buffeted by impure men. 

May Your pure hands, which were transfixed with nails by unbelievers, draw me up to you from the abyss of evil, as Your mouth has promised. 

May Your face, which has received spit of derision from accursed men, cleanse my face, which has become odious through its sins. 

May Your soul, which on the cross you committed to Your Father bring me up to You by Your grace.

As this first full week of Lent draws to a close, let us recommit ourselves to repentance and asceticism, and let us continue to especially remember the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Since I am not certain of John Sabas' veneration in the Eastern Catholic churches, let us ask for the prayers of another famous spiritual writer from Syria:

St. Ephrem the Syrian, pray for us!

Nota Bene: This prayer is from John's "Discourse on Flight From the World," and it is Excerpt LXVI in Brian E. Colless' The Wisdom of the Pearlers: An Anthology of Syriac Christian Mysticism.  Information on John was taken from Lucas Cleophas and

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