The Eastern Church Fathers on Prayer

Continuing the series on “the Saints and prayer,” I spoke yesterday on prayer and the Eastern Church Fathers. I wanted them as a change of pace for two reasons:

  1. I find that Catholics in the West are much more familiar with Western Church Fathers like Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory, and Leo, than they are with Eastern Church Fathers like Basil, the Gregories, or John Chrysostom.
  2. To the extent that people do know the Eastern Church Fathers, it’s principally for their theology or their liturgical contributions. I wanted to look at a different aspect: what do these amazing theologians and saintly men have to say about praying?

To mix things up, I also spoke on St. Ephrem the Syrian, who is quite different from the others, both because he’s a Syriac Christian (rather than a Greek Christian), and because he’s principally known for his theologically-rich poems. ¬†He’s been compared to the “Syriac Dante,” and I think once you hear some of his theologically-rich poetry, you’ll understand why.


  1. Excellent talk and insights into the Prayers of the Eastern Fathers!

    Unfortunately, your video cut you off toward the end there, while reading the Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian.

    1. Oh, how disappointing! I was trying to crop the end (I accidentally left the recorder one when a woman approached me to tell me about her trip to Ephesus), and I must have somehow cropped too much. I’m terribly unqualified for the technical side of this…

      1. Joe, can you some day post a little on your upbringing? Your mother must have been a saint to have a spiritually ingenius son like you! By the way, the videos you are doing are fantastic. I hope you keep them up. They’re great resources to pass on to friends and family who might not be inclined to read much.

  2. Ephrem’s Hymn 7 on Paradise portrays the strength of shame, the sense of sin which he–a saint–holds. His having made shame an idol is a bold and horrible image. This, from a saint, ought to cause pause for our world today. So many of us tend to not see sin and deny that our actions have little effect or meaning. What is that modern saying? The big sin is that we see no sin–exactly as Satan would have it. The remedy? Prayer.

    Chrysostom’s idea of prayer is also compelling: Allowing the image of God in one’s being, then allowing Him to act in one’s life. Chrysostom’s name is appropriate, similar to and alluding to the word of Christ.

    Great good idea, Joe, to bring the Eastern Fathers, their views on prayer, Mary, and praying for the dead. I trust you’ll have time to learn the technology you need. God bless.

      1. Ephrem and Chyrsostom had the ideas before I did…

        The charitable countering of opposing views is what I’ve observed from your typing-pen. The stories from the lives of the saints, the writings of the fathers, the Scriptural passages, all flow like a stream. One can swim along. There is a lot to learn here. Thank God, thank Joe, thank Al.

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