Thursday, January 28, 2021

On the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Ephraim the Syrian)

On the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ

By St. Ephraim the Syrian

1. Attend and come, ye sons of light, and hearken to that blessed voice of our Savior, who says to us: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom of the heavens" (Mt 25:34). Look, my brethren: let none of you be deprived of this blessed inheritance. For, behold, he is at the gates. Light from Light has come down to us and has illumined us and brought us up toward the Light. He has come down to us by becoming as we are, that we might be made like him. The Immortal descended to mortals and, making them immortal, ascended again to the Father. Now he comes with the glory of the blessed Father to judge the living and the dead. He has become a Way for us, full of light and glory, that we might walk in light towards the Father.

2. Come, beloved, let us walk onto the Way which the Lord has shown us, that with joy we might enter into his kingdom. Let us take provisions and oil in our coffers, for the length of this Way is not slight. Let us gird our loins with purity and truth as men and genuine slaves receiving their Master. Let us hang our lamps and nobly keep vigil. For we are waiting to receive our Lord from the heavens. Let us not slumber, that our lamps might not be extinguished. Come, it is time. The night is spent and the day draws near. Ye sons of light, approach the Light. Go out with joy to meet our Lord. Show him your virtues. Bring him your asceticism and your discipline, your tears and your poverty. Do not be indolent. Do not drift off or sleep. Let none of you look back, but direct the eye of your soul upwards, to that celestial beauty. Lift your eye to that joy, ye heirs of the Father and co-heirs of the Only-begotten Son of God. Behold, all these things has our Lord given us. What, then, shall we render unto him, beloved?

3. Come, let us tear from ourselves every thought and care of this age, and with great zeal and much desire, let us serve him alone. For behold the day has truly drawn near, and his coming has truly arrived. Come, then, brethren, let us prepare ourselves and keep watch, receiving our Lord and immortal Bridegroom. For, behold, he has shone forth. Behold, he has dawned. For that cry rings out suddenly: ‘Behold the bridegroom cometh.’ Go out to meet him all ye that love him and prepare to see him with glory. For he will make glad all them that long for him, in that ineffable and eternal bridal chamber, full of light and radiance. Take heed, my brethren, lest, when that cry rings out, any of you be found holding a lamp that is dark and lacking oil, or, being clad in a soiled and tainted garment, any of you be condemned to the outer darkness, and to that undying and eternal punishment, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

4. Let us assure ourselves, my beloved, that we do not know when our Lord comes. For that day comes as a thief in the night, and as a snare. As the fastest lightning, so does the coming of the Lord occur. For the trumpet will sound, and the earth will tremble at its foundations. The heavens, with their hosts, will be shaken, and all the dead will rise. Alas, alas, beloved! Who, in that hour, will not fear the examination of his heart? Forgive my weakness. For I understand that, in that hour, every breath will tremble. But the grace of God strengthens and gladdens the hearts of the righteous; and they are taken up in the clouds to meet him. While those who have become indolent and sluggish like me remain trembling on the earth.

5. Let us lift ourselves up a little from the earth, my beloved, and let us ascend without hesitation to heaven. What does the world profit us, when we shackle ourselves to its concerns? Or what do we gain from the beautification of our garments except unquenchable fire? Or what do we reap from obsession over food except eternal chastisement? Know for certain that unless we struggle in this brief period of time, we will repent in that place for eternity.

6. Dearest brethren, why are we negligent, and why are we indolent? Why do we not prepare ourselves? For behold, the day of the Lord has drawn near to us. Why do we not tear from us every unprofitable concern and lift ourselves up from the burden of things? Do you not know that the gate is narrow and strait, and the heavy-laden cannot enter in through it? For it loves those who have nothing, and who afflict themselves voluntarily in asceticism and vigils, who prepare themselves to see the immortal Bridegroom with glory, that they might inherit the kingdom of the heavens.

7. For behold, my beloved, the gate calls to us, saying, “Make haste and come to me.” Behold, our mother, Jerusalem, also tells us, “Come, my dear children. Come to me. Multiply your number in me and in the bridal chamber of your Lord. Let yours choirs be magnified with the holy angels in the light. I see you with glory and majesty, and with gladness and rejoicing. Desire me, my children, as I desire you. Acquire nothing on the earth. Take care for nothing. For behold the Bridegroom is ready to proceed on the clouds of heaven with the glory of his blessed Father. He will call you each by name, and he will place you within the ranks of those saints who abide in that ineffable light, in the life that is untainted, immortal, and eternal, in proportion to your toils.

8. Let us be zealous, my brethren. Let us be zealous in this brief period of time. Let us not be negligent here, my beloved, lest we be rueful for endless ages, where tears and groans will be of no avail; where there is no repentance. In your zeal, my beloved, the angels and archangels rejoice, while in your indolence rejoices the enemy. Be zealous, my dear children. Be zealous, that I may be glad in you, and you in me, for eternity. I fall down before you, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. Grant to me, and to those who love you, to see you with glory in your kingdom, and to inherit it with those who desire you, O Lord, my Master.

9. My beloved, if we are negligent in this brief period of time, we will have no defense on that fearful day. For we will not find an excuse for our sins. For when our Lord and Savior descended to earth for our sake, our every excuse was taken away. For by his coming he bestowed on us eternal life. We were his enemies, and he brought us reconciliation; earthly, and we have become heavenly; mortal, and we have been deemed immortal; slaves of sin, and we have been freed; poor, and we have been made rich. We were lost and have been found; hated, and we have been loved; unrighteous, and we have been made righteous. We were without mercy, and we have been shown mercy; sinners, and we have been saved; scattered, and we have been gathered together; earth and dust, and we have become sons of God; naked, and we have been covered. We have become heirs of God, and co-heirs of his Only-begotten Son. Behold, our Lord has bestowed all these things upon us. What, then, shall we give him in return, my beloved?

10. Come, let us tear from us every concern and care of this futile age, and let us serve him alone with great zeal and much eagerness. For, behold, his day has truly drawn near, and his coming has really arrived. Come, then, my brethren, prepare yourselves and keep watch, awaiting our Lord and immortal Bridegroom. For, behold, he has shone forth. Behold, he has dawned. Behold, he has come. The night is far spent, and the day draws near. Sons of light, approach the Light. Go out to meet him with joy. Show him your virtues. Bring to him your asceticism and your self-discipline, your vigils and your exertion, your tears and poverty. Do not be indolent, then. Do not doze. Do not sleep. Let none of you look back, but direct the eye of your soul upward to that supercelestial beauty. Hold your eye up to that joy of the immortal Bridegroom, whereby our soul is satiated from the contemplation of his glory, brilliance, and comeliness.

11. Let anyone who is hungry be patient. For, behold, the table of the kingdom awaits him. Let anyone who is thirsty endure. For, behold, the delight of Paradise is prepared for him. Let anyone who keeps vigil, who chants, prays, and laments, be strong, for the joy of our Lord’s bridal chamber will comfort him. Seeing all these things, let us acquire nothing on the earth, my beloved brethren. On that day each of us must show which virtue we have acquired in the present, or which struggles we endured, or which asceticism, or which act of vigilance we performed.

12. What, my brethren? When the martyrs show the wounds of their sufferings and tortures, and when the noble ascetics show their asceticism and self-discipline, their patience and affliction, and their poverty, will the indolent, the sluggish, and the indifferent have anything in which to boast? Will they boast of their vanity, their indolence, and their perdition? Woe to them, for they wickedly indulged in negligence! Woe to them, for they were indolent!

13. Come, my friends. Come, let us be zealous. Come, let us fall down before him. Let us be contrite and lament unceasingly before his face, that he may grant illumination to our soul. Let us understand the wiles of our enemy, our adversary and hater of what is good. He throws before us ways to slip, scandals, the harm that comes from having too much, the lengthening of this age, carnal pleasure, further expectation for more years in the present life, cowardice in asceticism, sluggishness in prayer, sleep in psalmody, and carnal rest. The more zealous he is, the more negligent and indolent we are. The more he plots, the more contemptuous we are, resenting the fact that the days have been shortened, and the time has come, and the Lord of glory comes with the majesty of his comeliness, and with the fearful hosts of his kingdom, to render to each according to his deeds. I fear, my brethren, lest the word that the Lord spoke be fulfilled in us: that "They will come from the east and from the west and from the north and from the sea, and will recline with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, but you will be cast out."

14. I beseech you, Christ, the Light of truth, offspring of the blessed Father, impress and effulgence of his hypostasis, who sits at the right hand of his greatness, uncircumscribed Son, unsearchable Christ, and inscrutable God, boast and joy of those who love you, Christ my life: save me a sinner in thy kingdom. The weary laborer hopes to receive his rewards. Woe is me: my tongue is weary of doxology. But do not render to me according to me deeds as I have done. But save me by thy grace, and have compassion on me by thy tender mercies. For thou art blessed and glorified unto the ages. Amen.