Feast of the Translation of the Relics of St Nicephorus the Patriarch of Constantinople
BEFORE THY GLORY, O Christ my Savior, I will announce all my misconduct and confess the infinitude of Thy mercies, which Thou pourest out upon me according to Thy kindness. From my mother's womb I began to grieve Thee, and utterly have I disregarded Thy grace, for I have neglected my soul. Thou, O my Master, according to the multitude of Thy mercies, hast regarded all my wickedness with patience and kindness. Thy grace has lifted up my head, but daily it is brought low by my sins. Bad habits entangle me like snares, and I rejoice at being thus bound. I sink to the very depths of evil, and this delights me. Daily the enemy gives me new shackles, for he sees how this variety of bonds pleases me. The fact that I am bound by my own desires should provoke weeping and lamentation, shame and disgrace. And yet more terrible is the fact that I bind myself with the shackles that the enemy places upon me, and I slay myself with the passions that give him pleasure. Although I know how dreadful these shackles are, I hide them behind a noble appearance from all who might see. I appear to be robed in the beautiful clothes of reverence, but my soul is entangled with shameful thoughts. Before all who might see, I am reverent, but inside I am filled with all manner of indecency. My conscience accuses me of all this, and I act as if I wish to be freed of my shackles. Every day I worry and sigh over this, yet I ever remain bound by the same snares. How pitiful I am; and how pitiful is my daily repentance, for it has no firm foundation. Every day I lay a foundation for the building, and again with my own hands I demolish it. My repentance has not even made a good beginning as yet; yet there is no end to my wicked negligence. I have become a slave to passions and to the evil will of the enemy who destroys me. Who will give the water to my head, and the founts to my eyes for tears, so that I may ever weep before Thee, O merciful God, that Thou mightest send Thy grace and draw me, a sinner, out of the sea, furious with the waves of sin, that hourly convulses my soul? For my desires are worse than wounds that cannot be bandaged. I wait hoping for repentance and deceive myself with this vain promise until my death. Ever do I say, "I will repent," but never do I repent. My words give the appearance of heartfelt repentance, but in deed I am always far from repentance. What will happen to me in the day of the trial, when God unveils all things at His court! Certainly I shall be sentenced to torment, if here I have not moved Thee to mercy, O my Judge, by my tears. I hope on Thy mercies, O Lord; I fall at Thy feet and beseech Thee: Grant me the spirit of repentance and lead my soul out of the dungeon of iniquity! May a ray of light shine in my mind before I go to the terrible judgement which awaits me, where there is no opportunity to repent of one's wicked deeds.
—St Ephraim the Syrian, A Spiritual Psalter