Thursday, June 9, 2016


Cf. Ps 27 (26): 1-2

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; whom should I dread?
When those who do evil draw near, they stumble and fall.


Pour into our hearts O Lord, we pray, the Holy Spirit,
at whose prompting the Deacon Saint Ephrem
exulted in singing of your mysteries
and from whom he received the strength
to serve you alone.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.


Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

1 KGS 18:41-46

Elijah said to Ahab,
“Go up, eat and drink,
for there is the sound of a heavy rain.”
So Ahab went up to eat and drink,
while Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel,
crouched down to the earth,
and put his head between his knees.
“Climb up and look out to sea,” he directed his servant,
who went up and looked, but reported, “There is nothing.”
Seven times he said, “Go, look again!”
And the seventh time the youth reported,
“There is a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.”
Elijah said, “Go and say to Ahab,
‘Harness up and leave the mountain before the rain stops you.’”
In a trice the sky grew dark with clouds and wind,
and a heavy rain fell.
Ahab mounted his chariot and made for Jezreel.
But the hand of the LORD was on Elijah,
who girded up his clothing and ran before Ahab
as far as the approaches to Jezreel.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 65:10, 11, 12-13

R. It is right to praise you in Zion, O God.

You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God’s watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.

R. It is right to praise you in Zion, O God.

Thus have you prepared the land:
drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.

R. It is right to praise you in Zion, O God.

You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills.

R. It is right to praise you in Zion, O God.

JN 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

MT 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples:

“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother,
‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

June 9

Saint Ephrem (d. 373)

Ephrem (or Eprhaim) the Syrian left us hundreds of hymns and poems on the faith that inflamed and inspired the whole Church, but few facts about his own inspiring life.

Most historians infer from the lines quoted above that Ephrem was born into a Christian family -- although not baptized until an adult (the trial or furnace), which was common at the time. Other than that little is known about his birth and youth although many guess he was born in the early fourth century in Mesopotamia, possibly in Nisibis where he spent most of his adult life.

"He Who created two great lights, chose for Himself these three Lights, 
and set them in the three dark seasons of siege that have been."

Ephrem served as teacher, and possibly deacon, under four bishops of Nisibis, Jacob, Babu, Vologeses, and Abraham. The first three he describes in the hymn quoted above written while Vologeses was still alive. As the verse states, Ephrem did not live in easy times in Nisibis.

"I have chanced upon weeds, my brothers, That wear the color of wheat, To choke the good seed."

According to tradition, Ephrem began to write hymns in order to counteract the heresies that were rampant at that time. For those who think of hymns simply as the song at the end of Mass that keeps us from leaving the church early, it may come as a surprise that Ephrem and others recognized and developed the power of music to get their points across. Tradition tells us that Ephrem heard the heretical ideas put into song first and in order to counteract them made up his own hymns. 
In the one below, his target is a Syrian heretic Bardesan who denied the truth of the Resurrection:

"How he blasphemes justice, And grace her fellow-worker. For if the body was not raised, This is a great insult against grace, To say grace created the body for decay; And this is slander against justice, 
to say justice sends the body to destruction."

The originality, imagery, and skill of his hymns captured the hearts of the Christians so well, 
that Ephrem is given credit for awakening the Church to the important of music and poetry in spreading and fortifying the faith.

Ephrem's home was in physical as well as spiritual danger. Nisibis, a target of Shapur II, the King of Persia, was besieged by him three times. During the third siege in in 350, Shapur's engineers turned the river out of its course in order to flood the city as Ephrem describes (speaking as Nisibis):

"All kinds of storms trouble me -- and you have been kinder to the Ark: only waves surrounded it, but ramps and weapons and waves surround me... O Helmsman of the Ark, be my pilot on dry land! 
You gave the Ark rest on the haven of a mountain, give me rest in the haven of my walls."

The flood, however, turned the tide against Shapur. When he tried to invade he found his army obstructed by the very waters and ruin he had caused. The defenders of the city, including Ephrem, 
took advantage of the chaos to ambush the invaders and drive them out.

"He has saved us without wall, and taught us that He is our wall: He has saved us without king and made us know that is our king: He has saved us, in each and all, and showed us that He is All."

In the end, however, Nisibis lost. When Shapur defeated the Roman emperor Jovian, he demanded the city as part of the treaty. Jovian not only gave him the city but agreed to force the Christians to leave Nisibis. Probably in his fifties or sixties at that time, 
Ephrem was one of the refugees who fled the city in 363.

Sometime in 364 he settled as a solitary ascetic on Mount Edessa, 
at Edessa (what is now Urfa) 100 miles east of his home.

"The soul is your bride, the body is your bridal chamber..."

In the time before monks and monasteries, many devout Christians drawn to a religious life dedicated themselves as ihidaya (single and single-minded followers of Christ). 
As one of these Eprhem lived an ascetic, celibate life for his last years.

Heresy and danger followed him to Edessa. The Arian Emperor Valens camped outside of Edessa threatening to kill all the Christian inhabitants if they did not submit. But Valens was the one forced to give up in the face of the courage and steadfastness of the Edessans (fortified by Ephrem's hymns):

"The doors of her homes Edessa Left open when she went forth With the pastor to the grave, to die, And not depart from her faith. Let the city and fort and building And houses be yielded to the king; 
Our goods and our gold let us leave; So we part not from our faith!"

Tradition tells us that during the famine that hit Edessa in 372, Ephrem was horrified to learn that some citizens were hoarding food. When he confronted them, he received the age-old excuse that they couldn't find a fair way or honest person to distribute the food. Ephrem immediately volunteered himself and it is a sign of how respected he was that no one was able to argue with this choice. He and his helpers worked diligently to get food to the needy in the city and the surrounding area.

The famine ended in a year of abundant harvest the following year and Ephrem died shortly thereafter, as we are told, at an advanced age. 
We do not know the exact date or year of his death but June 9, 373 is accepted by many.

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will proclaim Your Praise!

Invitatory Psalm
Psalm 66 (67)

Come before the Lord, 

singing with joy.

O God, take pity on us and bless us,
and let your face shine upon us,
so that your ways may be known across the world,
and all nations learn of your salvation.

Come before the Lord, 

singing with joy.

Let the peoples praise you, O God,
let all the peoples praise you.
Let the nations be glad and rejoice,
for you judge the peoples with fairness
and you guide the nations of the earth.

Come before the Lord, 

singing with joy.

Let the peoples praise you, O God,
let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has produced its harvest:
may God, our God, bless us.
May God bless us,
may the whole world revere him.

Come before the Lord, 

singing with joy.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.

Come before the Lord, 

singing with joy.


Where true love is dwelling, God is dwelling there:
Love’s own loving Presence love does ever share.
Love of Christ has made us out of many one;
In our midst is dwelling God’s eternal Son.
Give him joyful welcome, love him and revere:
Cherish one another with a love sincere.

Psalm 43 (44)
In time of defeat

It was you who saved us, Lord:
we will praise your name without ceasing.

Our own ears have heard, O God,
and our fathers have proclaimed it to us,
what you did in their days, the days of old:
how with your own hand you swept aside the nations
and put us in their place,
struck them down to make room for us.
It was not by their own swords that our fathers took over the land,
it was not their own strength that gave them victory;
but your hand and your strength,
the light of your face,
for you were pleased in them.
You are my God and my king,
who take care for the safety of Jacob.
Through you we cast down your enemies;
in your name we crushed those who rose against us.
I will not put my hopes in my bow,
my sword will not bring me to safety;
for it was you who saved us from our afflictions,
you who set confusion among those who hated us.
We will glory in the Lord all the day,
and proclaim your name for all ages.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.

It was you who saved us, Lord:
we will praise your name without ceasing.

Psalm 43 (44)

Spare us, Lord,
do not let your people be put to shame.

But now, God, you have spurned us and confounded us,
so that we must go into battle without you.
You have put us to flight in the sight of our enemies,
and those who hate us plunder us at will.
You have handed us over like sheep sold for food,
you have scattered us among the nations.
You have sold your people for no money,
not even profiting by the exchange.
You have made us the laughing-stock of our neighbours,
mocked and derided by those who surround us.
The nations have made us a by-word,
the peoples toss their heads in scorn.
All the day I am ashamed,
I blush with shame
as they reproach me and revile me,
my enemies and my persecutors.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.

Spare us, Lord,
do not let your people be put to shame.

Psalm 43 (44)

Arise, Lord!
Redeem us because of your love.

All this happened to us,
but not because we had forgotten you.
We were not disloyal to your covenant;
our hearts did not turn away;
our steps did not wander from your path;
and yet you brought us low,
with horrors all about us:
you overwhelmed us in the shadows of death.
If we had forgotten the name of our God,
if we had spread out our hands before an alien god —
would God not have known?
He knows what is hidden in our hearts.
It is for your sake that we face death all the day,
that we are reckoned as sheep to be slaughtered.
Awake, Lord, why do you sleep?
Rise up, do not always reject us.
Why do you turn away your face?
How can you forget our poverty and our tribulation?
Our souls are crushed into the dust,
our bodies dragged down to the earth.
Rise up, Lord, and help us.
In your mercy, redeem us.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.

Arise, Lord!
Redeem us because of your love.

Lord, to whom shall we go?
– You have the words of eternal life.

First Reading
Joshua 5:13-6:21

When Joshua was near Jericho, he raised his eyes and saw a man standing there before him, grasping a naked sword. Joshua walked towards him and said to him, ‘Are you with us or with our enemies?’ He answered, ‘No, I am captain of the army of the Lord, and now I come...’ Joshua fell on his face to the ground and worshipped him and said, ‘What are my Lord’s commands to his servant?’ The captain of the army of the Lord answered Joshua, ‘Take your sandals off your feet, 
for the place you are standing on is holy.’ And Joshua obeyed.

Now Jericho had been carefully barricaded against the Israelites; no one came out, no one went in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Now I am delivering Jericho and its king into your hands. All you fighters, valiant warriors, will march round the town and make the circuit once, and for six days you will do the same thing. But seven priests will carry seven trumpets in front of the ark. On the seventh day you will go seven times round the town and the priests will blow their trumpets. When the ram’s horn rings out, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, the whole people must utter a mighty war cry and the town wall will collapse then and there; then the people can storm the town, each man going straight ahead.’

Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant, and seven priests are to carry seven trumpets of ram’s horn in front of the ark of the Lord.’ He said to the people, ‘Forward! March round the town and let the vanguard march before the ark of the Lord.’ All was done as Joshua ordered the people. Seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of ram’s horn in front of the Lord moved onwards and blew their trumpets; the ark of the covenant of the Lord came behind them, the vanguard marched in front of the priests with their trumpets, the rearguard followed behind the ark; the men marched, the trumpets sounded.

Joshua had given the people the following order: ‘Do not shout, do not utter even a word; 
let nothing be heard from you till the day when I say: Raise the war cry. Then you are to shout.’

At Joshua’s command, the ark of the Lord went round the town and made the circuit once; then they returned to the camp and spent the night there. Joshua rose early and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. Bearing the seven ram’s horn trumpets, the seven priests walked before the ark of the Lord sounding their trumpets as they went, while the vanguard marched before them and the rearguard behind the ark of the Lord, and the march went on to the sound of the trumpet.

They marched once round the town on the second day and returned to the camp, and so on for six days. On the seventh day they rose at dawn and marched seven times round the town in the same manner. Only on that day did they march round seven times. At the seventh time the priests blew their trumpets and Joshua said to the people, ‘Raise the war cry, because the Lord has given the town into your hands.

‘The town and everything inside it must be set apart for the Lord under a ban; only the life of Rahab the harlot is to be spared, with all who are in her house, since she hid the messengers we sent. But beware of the ban yourselves; do not be covetous and take anything that is under the ban; that would lay the whole camp of Israel open to the same ban and bring disaster on it. All the silver and all the gold, all the things of bronze and things of iron are consecrated to the Lord and must be put into his treasury.’

The people shouted, the trumpets sounded. When they heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a mighty war cry and the wall collapsed then and there. At once the people stormed the town, every man going straight ahead; and they captured the town. They enforced the ban on everything in the town: men and women, young and old, even the oxen and sheep and donkeys, massacring them all.


℟. Lord, you are my God: I extol you, I praise your name.
* The town which you have made a ruin will never be rebuilt.

℣. It was through faith that the walls of Jericho fell down when the people had marched round them for seven days.
* The town which you have made a ruin will never be rebuilt.

Second Reading
A sermon of Origen

The conquest of Jericho

Jericho is besieged and surrounded but has yet to fall. How is it to be conquered? Not with arrows or swords or battering-ram. Nothing is deployed but the priests’ trumpets, 
and the walls of Jericho crumble.

In Scripture we often find Jericho used as a symbol of the world. Even in the Gospel, when the traveller from Jerusalem to Jericho is set upon by robbers, is he not an image of Adam, thrown out of paradise into exile in this world? And again, those blind men who were in Jericho, when Jesus came to them to give them sight, are they not an example of those who live in this world, 
oppressed by the blindness of ignorance until the Son of God enlightens them?

And so this Jericho – this world – must fall. 
The consummation of this present age has long been prophesied by the sacred books.

How will this consummation come about? By what means? Scripture tells us, at the sound of the trumpet. What trumpet is that? Paul gives you the key to this secret. Listen to him: The trumpet will sound, and the dead who are in Christ will be raised, imperishable. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven. Then, therefore, our Lord Jesus will come with trumpets to conquer Jericho and throw it down, so that out of all its people there will survive only the prostitute and her household. Our Lord Jesus will come down, come down with the sound of the trumpet.

May he save that one woman who gave succour to his spies, who received his Apostles in trust and obedience and hid them in her roof. May he take that prostitute and give her a share with the house of Israel. But let us not go over this story again and label her with the name of her past sin. She may have been a prostitute once but now she is a chaste virgin, joined to her chaste spouse, who is Christ. Listen to what St Paul says about her: I arranged for you to marry Christ so that I might give you away as a chaste virgin to this one husband. And he was still speaking of her when he said: There was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and luxuries.

Do you want to know more about how the prostitute ceased to be a prostitute? Listen again to Paul: These are the sort of people you were once, but now you have been washed clean, and sanctified, and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God. To enable her to escape the destruction of Jericho she received from the spies a powerful sign of safety, the scarlet rope. For it is through the blood of Christ that the whole Church is saved, in Jesus Christ our Lord, 
to whom belong glory and power throughout all the ages. Amen.


℟. I beckon to the nations and raise my signal for the peoples;
* then all mankind shall know that I, the Lord,
am your savior and that your redeemer is the Mighty One of Jacob.
℣. When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he;
* then all mankind shall know that I, the Lord,
am your savior and that your redeemer is the Mighty One of Jacob.

Let us pray.

Lord God, source of all good,
hear our prayer:
inspire us with good intentions,
and help us to fulfil them.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Let us praise the Lord.
– Thanks be to God.