An Exhortation To Repentance

“O Lord, I am a suppliant to You;
You [The] Good! I am knocking at Your door;
Break not, O Lord, Your promise,
“Knock, and I will open to you.
Thy door is not closely fastened
When the sinner comes and knocks at it;
Thy door is always opened
To the righteous and the wicked.
You show the door to the sinner,
That he may call, and knock, and enter.
Your love encourages the enquirer,
That he may be eager for Your treasures.
Behold, I ask as You have taught me,
Lord, give me according to Your promise
Behold, I knock as You have advised me,
Lord, open to me according to Thy word.
O Lord, I ask not for gold,
For it is the mammon of unrighteousness
Neither for treasures and possessions,
For they procure not salvation.
Forgiveness is better than gold,
And the remission of sins than much silver;
And poverty without sins [is better],
Than a wealthy inheritance…
For man can take nothing with him
When he dies, as it is written.
And since he would sell all he has
For one drop of water,
Which of these two should a man take
From the door of the tomb and onwards
The labour of righteousness,
Or the servitude of sins?…

I hope that repentance will cleanse
The great sore which has befallen me,
And that goodness will cover up
The hateful and foul stain;
Because Jesus the physician cries,
“O man, your sins are forgiven you,”
And abundantly bestows health
To the soul and body of the sickly;
And because the crucified King carries
The key of the gate of Paradise,
And opens it without stint
To robbers and murderers;
And because the Father of Mercies says,
‘Behold, my son was dead and yet lives’

He was lost but has come again
From the snares”” of sinners ;”—
Because also the fatted calf was slain,
By its blood to cleanse from blemishes
And a glorious robe was brought forth,
That the wounds might be covered by it;
Because I may come as the thief,
Confessing and inheriting Paradise,
And as the harlot in her sins,
Who annulled the charge against her with her tears-…

Thy habitation is full of sinners,
And extends a hand to the penitent;
It casts forth the net of its teaching
Upon those at home and those abroad.
Paul cries out from within,
“I am the chief of sinners,
That through me Jesus may show to all men
The long suffering of His grace.
Peter, weeping, was made whole
After he had denied, and become a stranger.
Aaron, though a sinner, was justified
After he fashioned the calf, and became polluted.
David, that wise physician,
After he sinned, fell sick;
He confessed that he believed and was healed.
Princes and mighty men of war
Were overcome in battle and were restored.
Who can cover his eyes
From the mirror of the Scriptures,
And not find medicine for his malady
In these troops of penitents?

Pains, and trespasses, and sins
Surround me, Lord, on all sides;
And there is no physician like You
To whom I can recount my diseases.
Lord, not on account of the righteous
Was Thy advent to the world,
But for the sake of sinners,
That they might be reconciled by repentance.
It is not on behalf of the healthy
That the physician compounds his medicines;
But for the sake of the sick,
That they may be made sound by his care.
“The whole do not need a physician,”
As Thou hast said, O Lord;
Nor do righteous and perfect men
Require the balsam of repentance.
For all physicians, Lord,
Heal diseases by medicines;
But without drugs and balsams
Thy love is prompt with all men.
For sinners such as I am
Need, Lord, remission of sins
And he whose distemper is like mine,
Earnestly begs for health.
A physician is made friendly with a fee,
And then is careful of his patients;
But the sick, who comes for refuge unto Thee,
Is healed and bears away the reward”
St. Ephrem the Syrian, An exhortation to repentance, Strophe 1-149.

This translation is taken from the edition translated by Henry Burgess which is also contained with the homily on the repentance of the Ninevites. As those of the Coptic Church keep the fast of The Ninevites, let us recall our repentance in their same pattern. We, having been swallowed up by sin and death (as Jonah is by the whale) are rescued by Christ and have our own opportunity to come to shore, the land of the saved.

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