FIFTY FIVE CHAPTERS
This on one of a number of
sets of Beatitudes in the writings of the Greek Ephrem. They are in the nature of apothegmata.
They cover many aspects on monastic life, though their application is much wider. They
seem to have no particular arrangement, though from time to time thoughts on related
topics, or with linked images, appear to be grouped together. There are numerous allusions
to Holy Scripture, which I hope to add later. The curious expression the skin of the
flesh in number 48 is an allusion to the regulations for dealing with 'leprosy' in
Leviticus 13. St Ephrem uses it to refer to the visible, the physical, body, which,
despite its allure, will rot and exude putrefaction after death. As in a number of texts
in these writings, St Ephrem, towards the end of the series, is much preoccupied with
death and the coming judgement.
Like the similar set of
twenty beatitudes, which I hope to translate shortly, these fifty five beatitudes are
followed by a number of pages of continuous prose in the form of a sermon on the need for
repentance, which are prepared for by the final sentence, in the first person, of
Beatitude 55. This too I hope to translate before too long.
FIFTY FIVE BEATITUDES
- Blessed the one who has become wholly free in the
Lord from all the earthly things of this vain life and loved God alone, the good and
- Blessed the one who has become a good ploughman of
the virtues and raised a harvest of fruits of life in the Lord, like a ploughed field
- Blessed the one who has become a good husbandman of
the virtues and planted a spiritual vine, plucked the grapes and filled his presses with
fruits of life in the Lord.
- Blessed the one who has made his fellow servants glad
with spiritual gladness from the fruit of the virtues, which he planted by toiling to give
back the fruit of life in the Lord.
- Blessed the one who stands in the assembly and prays
like an Angel from heaven, keeping his thoughts pure day by day, and has given no entrance
to the Evil One to make his soul a prisoner, far from God his Saviour.
- Blessed the one who with understanding has loved
weeping and with compunction rained tears upon the ground, like fair pearls before the
- Blessed the one who loves holiness like the light and
has not defiled his body with dark deeds of the Evil One in the sight of the Lord.
- Blessed the one who keeps his body for holiness for
the Saviour and has not shamed his soul by unnatural deeds, but remained well-pleasing to
- Blessed the one who has hated evil-doing that is full
of shame and presented himself as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to the Lord.
- Blessed the one who always keeps the memory of God in
himself, he will be wholly like an Angel from heaven upon earth, ministering to the Lord
with fear and love.
- Blessed the one who loves repentance that saves
sinners and has not thought of doing ill, like someone ungrateful before God our Saviour.
- Blessed the one who seated in his cell, like a noble
warrior, guards the treasure of the kingdom, that is his body with his soul, blameless in
- Blessed the one who seated in his cell like Angels in
heaven keeps his thoughts pure and with his mouth sings praise to the One who has
authority over everything that breath.
- Blessed the one who has become like the Seraphim and
the Cherubim and never wearied in his spiritual ministry, unceasingly giving glory to the
- Blessed the one who is always full of spiritual joy
and has not grown slack in bearing the Lords good yoke, for he will be crowned with
- Blessed the one who has cleansed himself of every
stain of sins, so that with boldness he may receive into his own house the King of glory,
our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Blessed the one who draws near with fear and
trembling and dread to the spotless Mysteries of the Saviour and has realised that he has
received in himself eternal life.
- Blessed the one who meditates on death each day and
destroys the base passions lurking in the hearts of the vines, for he will be consoled in
the moment of separation.
- Blessed the one who continually remembers the fear of
Gehenna and hastens with tears and groans to repent sincerely in the Lord, for he will be
delivered from the great tribulation.
- Blessed the one who continually humbles himself
willingly; he will be crowned by the One who willingly humbled himself for our sake.
- Blessed the one who sits in his cell with all
devotion, as Mary sat at the Lords feet, and hastens, like Martha, to receive him,
the Lord and Saviour.
- Blessed the one who is fired by the fear of God, ever
having in himself the fervour of the Holy Spirit, and who has burned up the thorns and
thistles of the thoughts.
- Blessed the one who has not defiled his hands with
unseemly deeds like one accursed, for about this there will be a judgement in the dread
day in the presence of the Lord.
- Blessed the one who farms fair and good thoughts each
day and by hope conquers the wicked passion of despondency, by which the Lords
ascetics are warred upon.
- Blessed the one who has become like a noble warrior
in the Lords work, rousing the idle, encouraging the faint-hearted in the way of the
- Blessed the one who has become fruitful in the Lord,
that he may have the holy Angels as guardians, as a fruitful tree has its own husbandman
- Blessed the one who loves gentleness with spiritual
understanding and is not tripped up by the wicked Serpent, for he has as his hope the good
and compassionate Lord.
- Blessed the one who honours the Saints and loves his
neighbour and has banished envy from his own soul; envy through which Cain became his
- Blessed the one who has rebuked the tyrant and not
quailed at the flame of the pleasures, for his soul will be refreshed with dew by the dew
of the Holy Spirit.
- Blessed the one whose mind the dark diabolical cloud
has not been able to invade and deprive of the sweet light and joy of the just.
- Blessed the one the eyes of whose heart have been
enlightened as he ever mirrors the Lord, for such a one has been unburdened of the
passions and evil thoughts.
- Blessed the one who loves good and fair words and
hates base and destructive speech, because he will not become a prisoner of the Evil One.
- Blessed the one who rebukes his neighbour with fear
of God and has not deceived his soul, fearing each day the iron rod of the great Shepherd.
- Blessed the one who in accordance with Gods
will obeys his neighbour and while enduring afflictions gives thanks. Such a one will be
crowned, for he will become a confessor for the Lord.
- Blessed the one who has not been worsted by the
passion of despondency like a coward, but has found perfect endurance, by which all the
Saints received their crowns.
- Blessed the one who in accordance with Gods
will loves self-mastery and has not been condemned, thanks to his stomach, as a pleasure
seeker and defiled, for such a one will be magnified by the Lord.
- Blessed the one who has not been made drunk by wine
like a prodigal, but has been made glad each day by the memory of the Lord, in whom all
the Saints rejoice continually.
- Blessed the one who manages his possessions in
accordance with Gods will and has not been condemned by God the Saviour as a lover
of money without compassion for his neighbour.
- Blessed the one who keeps vigil in prayers and
reading and good work, such a one will become enlightened so that he does not sleep in
- Blessed the one who has become a good spiritual net
and caught many for the good Lord, such a one will greatly praised by the Lord.
- Blessed the one who has become a good example to his
neighbour and not scandalized the conscience of his fellow servant by acting lawlessly,
such a one will be eulogized by the Lord.
- Blessed the one who has become long-suffering and
compassionate and not become the slave of the barbarian, I mean anger and evil wrath, for
such a one will be exalted by the Lord.
- Blessed the one who, exalted by love, has become a
city founded upon a mountain, from which the enemy, when he saw it, withdrew in fear,
trembling at its security in the Lord.
- Blessed the one who has shone by the light of faith
of the Lord, like a radiant lamp on a tall lampstand, and has enlightened souls that are
darkened, for they followed the heresy of the faithless and impious.
- Blessed the one who loves truth continually and has
not lent his mouth as an instrument of impiety by lying, for he fears the commandment
about idle speech.
- Blessed the one who, like one unwise, does not judge
his neighbour, but as understanding and spiritual has struggled to throw the plank out of
his own eye.
- Blessed the one who heart has blossomed like a palm
tree by rightness of faith and has not been thrust out, as by thorns, by the heresy of the
faithless and impious.
- Blessed the one who has kept the mastery of his
eyelids and has not deceived himself with either mind or senses with regard to the skin of
the flesh that after a little while oozes putrefaction.
- Blessed the one who has before his eyes the day of
departure and has hated pride, before the weakness our nature has been proved as it rots
in the tomb.
- Blessed the one who considers those who sleep in
their coffins in graves and has rejected every foul smelling desire, for he will rise in
glory when the heavenly trumpet sounds, rousing all the children of humankind from sleep.
- Blessed the one who observes with spiritual
understanding the choirs of stars shining with glory and the beauty of the heavens and
longs to contemplate the Maker of all things.
- Blessed the one who keeps in mind the fire that came
down on Mount Sinai and the sounds of the trumpets and Moses standing there with fear and
trembling and who does not neglect his own salvation.
- Blessed the one who does not set his hope on man, but
on the Lord, who is coming again in great glory to judge the universe with justice, for he
will be like a tree planted by waters and will not fail to bear fruit.
- Blessed the one whose thought has been with grace,
like a cloud filled with rain, and which waters souls for the increase of fruits of life;
his praise will be for everlasting glory.
- Blessed are those who watch according to God
continually, for they will be overshadowed by God in the day of judgement, becoming sons
of the bridal chamber, in joy and gladness they will see the Bridegroom. But I and my
like, idle and pleasure-loving, will weep and lament as we watch our brothers in
everlasting glory, while we are in torments.