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Lenten prayer of St Ephraim - Differences between Greek and Slavonic versions

Translations

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#41 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 01:41 PM

Fr Alexander Schmemann wrote:


"Chastity! If one does not reduce this term, as is so often and erroneously done, only to its sexual connotations, it is understood as the positive counterpart of sloth. The exact and full translation of the Greek sofrosini and the Russian tselomudryie ought to be whole-mindedness. Sloth is, first of all, dissipation, the brokenness of our vision and energy, the inability to see the whole. Its opposite then is precisely wholeness. If what we usually mean by chastity the virtue opposed to sexual depravity, it is because the broken character of our existence is nowhere better manifested than in sexual lust - the alienation of the body from the life and control of the spirit. Christ restores wholeness in us and He does so by restoring in us the true scale of values leading us back to God."


As exegesis this has a very good point to it I think.

But as a point about translation I think it is incorrect. I believe that in the context of this prayer that 'chastity' is the correct choice of how to translate this word.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#42 Michael Astley

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 06:56 PM

For interest's sake, here is the English rendering of the prayer with its accompanying devotions as it appears in the Old Orthodox Prayer Book of the Old Rite:

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, negligence, avarice and idle talk. Prostration
But grant me, thy servant, the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. prostration
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou unto the ages. Amen. Prostration

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Prostration
God be merciful to me a sinner. Prostration
God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me. Prostration
Thou hast created me; Lord, have mercy on me. Prostration
I have sinned immeasurably; Lord, forgive me. Prostration
Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Prostration
God be merciful to me a sinner. Prostration
God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me. Prostration
Thou hast created me; Lord, have mercy on me. Prostration
I have sinned immesaurably; Lord, forgive me. Prostration
God be merciful to me a sinner. Prostration
Thou hast created me; Lord, have mercy on me. Prostration
I have sinned immeasurably; Lord, forgive me. Prostration

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, negligence, avarice and idle talk. But grant me, thy servant, the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou unto the ages. Amen. Prostration

Michael

#43 Lyle Mook

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 06:37 PM

A few additional interesting variations between the old Slavonic form of the prayer, and the Greek:

In terms of what the first petition asks God not to give (in the Greek) or take away (in the old Slavonic), the Greek has περιέργια, which is probably best translated as 'idle / wandering curiosity', though could also be 'meddling'. The Slavonic, however, reads оунынїѧ, which is 'despondency' or 'faintness of heart / faintheartedness'. Many liturgists and and historians have noted that this Slavonic word corresponds to ακηδία in Greek -- a key vice in monastic ascesis, that likely reflects accurately the thought of someone like St Ephraim. Hence a great deal of speculation as to whether this older Slavonic might represent an older, and perhaps more accurate, tradition of the text.

Going back to translations, the one Andreas provided earlier (as found in two English prayer books), was:

'O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, curiosity, ambition, and idle talk give me not.'

Having now looked at this a bit more closely, it seems inaccurate as well as stylistically problematic (the stylistic issue of putting 'give me not' at the end has already been addressed). The inaccuracy is in the translation's apparent failure to account for the word ἀργίας (part of πνεῦμα ἀργίας), meaning 'spirit of sloth'. It jumps directly to the next term, περιέργια ('idle curiosity') and splits it apart into 'idleness' (which I suppose could be related to sloth, but isn't in fact the same thing) and 'curiosity'. A more accurate reading would be:

'O Lord and Master of my life, give me not a spirit of sloth, idle curiosity, ambition[/lust for power], and idle talk.'

That's of the Greek. Of the old Slavonic, a translation would be:

'O Lord and Master of my life, take from me a spirit of despondency, carelessness, ambition [/lust for power], and idle talk.'

INXC, Dcn Matthew


Has Fr. Schmemman's wonderful commentary been noted? I have used it on my blog and taught on it in my church (I am not Orthodox but Evangelical Covenant and incorporate much of Orthodoxy in my teacing and practice.) I have used a variation based on this article that makes the prayer:

O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth and apathy, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity and wholeness, humility, patience, and love to Your servant. O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother; For You are blessed forever, to ages of ages. Amen

Commentary is at Ruminations Blog

thanks,

Lyle


#44 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 10:31 AM

Dear Mr Mook,

Thank you for your note, and welcome to the forum.

Yes, I've read Fr Alexander's notes on the prayer, some of which are good, and some of which are a bit more problematic. I'm curious which aspects in particular you have in mind? Perhaps you can give some specific comment...

Anticipating this,

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#45 Lyle Mook

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 11:55 PM

Dear Mr Mook,

Thank you for your note, and welcome to the forum.

Yes, I've read Fr Alexander's notes on the prayer, some of which are good, and some of which are a bit more problematic. I'm curious which aspects in particular you have in mind? Perhaps you can give some specific comment...

Anticipating this,

INXC, Dcn Matthew


Thank you,

IN particular in light of reading I have done on acedia (most recently Kathleen Norris has written Acedia and Me ) I appreciated the section on why sloth/acedia/spiritual apathy is so deadly and is the opposite of wholeness and humility. This paragraph is especially powerful to me.

The basic disease is sloth (or spiritual apathy, Grk: acedia) It is that strange laziness and passivity of our entire being which always pushes us “down” rather than “up” — which constantly convinces us that no change is possible and therefore desirable. It is in fact a deeply rooted cynicism which to every spiritual challenge responds “what for?” and makes our life one tremendous spiritual waste. It is the root of all sin because it poisons the spiritual energy at its very source.



The result of sloth is faint-heartedness. It is the state of despondency which the Church Fathers considered the greatest danger for the soul. Despondency is the impossibility for man to see anything good or positive; it is the reduction of everything to negativism and pessimism. It is truly a demonic power in us because the Devil is fundamentally a liar. He lies to man about God and about the world; he fills life with darkness and negation. Despondency is the suicide of the soul because when man is possessed by it he is absolutely unable to see the light and to desire it.



#46 Paul Cowan

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 01:48 AM

Thank you,

IN particular in light of reading I have done on acedia.


Lyle,

I would encourage you to also read all the threads/posts by a retired member of this forum Great Schemamonk Seraphim. He talks specifically on acedia and his spiritual father Fr. Sophrony.

When you view his profile, look under statistics and then view threads or posts by him.

Paul




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