Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: St. Ephraim the Syrian

“If two brothers quarrel,” says Saint Ephraim the Syrian, “the one who first asks forgiveness will earn the crown of victory. And assent will be produced on the other’s behalf, if he does not treat his brother with scorn, but is eager to make peace between them.”

The importance of forgiveness cannot be emphasized too highly. It is among the most basic of spiritual principles. Jesus stresses it in the Gospels. When He teaches us to pray He tells to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If I can be permitted to fiddle with the words of Jesus, I would emphasize “as.” There’s a quid pro quo there.
Forgiving others is more of a benefit to ourselves than it is to the one we forgive. It is the forgiver’s heart which is softened. It is the one who forgives who is changed and healed by the act of forgiveness.

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