On Psalmody

De Psalmo (CPG 3981)

Let us come back to the subject at hand and discuss repentance and the judgement that is to come.* For it is always necessary to meditate on these things, since the Day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. Therefore, have your eyes on that Last Hour, night and day, and meditate on the law of the Lord day and night. Speak much to the Lord, and little to men.

Even if you extend your hand to work, let your mouth be engaged in psalmody and your mind in prayer. Let a psalm be unceasingly in your mouth. For the name of God repels the demons and sanctifies your singing.

Psalmody is the tranquility of the soul, the bringer of peace. Psalmody is the bestower of friendship, the unification of the separated, and the reconciliation of enemies. Psalmody draws down help from the angels. It is a weapon in nocturnal terrors, and rest from daily labors. It is a foundation for the young and an adornment for the old. It is a consolation for the aged and a most fitting ornamentation for women. It populates deserts and tempers market-places. It is the elementary learning of beginners, the growth of the advancing, and the support of the perfect. It is the voice of the Church. It brightens feasts. It produces Godly sorrow. Psalmody is the work of the angels, the heavenly polity and spiritual incense. Psalmody is the illumination of souls and the sanctification of bodies.

Let us never cease meditating on this, brethren, either at home or in the streets, whether lying down or rising. Let us speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

Psalmody is the joy of those who love God.  It uproots idle chatter and brings an end to laughter. It reminds us of the Judgement. It directs our soul to God and unites us in chorus with the angels. Where there is psalmody with compunction, there God is with the angels. But where there are alien songs, there the wrath of God is, and (woe!) the requital of laughter. Where there are sacred books and readings, there is the gladness of the just and the salvation of those listening. But where there are instruments and merry-making, there is the darkness of men and women and the feast of the Devil.

O, the wicked cunning and intent of the Devil! How he craftily trips up each one, deceives them, and convinces them to perform evil equally with the good. Today they appear to sing psalms, and tomorrow they eagerly make merry. Today they are Christians, and tomorrow they are pagans. Today they are of good repute, and tomorrow they are Greeks. Today they are servants of Christ, and tomorrow they are apostates from God. Do not be deceived! No servant can serve two masters, as it is written. You cannot serve God and make merry with the Devil. As genuine servants of Christ, let us serve him, worship him, persevere with him, and stand by him until our last breath; and let us not be persuaded by the Dragon. For as a prowling lion he seeks someone to devour (1 Pt 5:8). Be firm in resisting him, as soldiers of Christ! Serve him, and stand by him. Do not sing a psalm today and tomorrow make merry. Do not repent of your sins today and dance into your own destruction tomorrow. Do not read today and play at the instruments tomorrow. Do not exercise self-control today and proceed tomorrow to be borne about and laughed at by all.

No, brethren, let us not waste the time of our salvation in this way, making sport and being made sport of. Be like the good farmer, working and taking precaution. Do not gamble away the means of eternal life, brother. Do not neglect fasting. Do not refrain from vigil. Do not lay about in despondency. Do not give up singing psalms. For these things, and everything like them, bring you eternal life, joy, gladness, and rest. Love to be silent from wicked speech. For the discourse of worldly men separates the mind from God.


Περὶ ψαλμοῦ, ed. K.G. Phrantzoles, Ὁσίου Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου ἔργα 5 (Thessaloniki: To Perivole tes Panagias, 1994), 129-132. Cf. Assemani 6:17-19.

*This sermon, together with On Love, appears to form part of the longer Discourse on Repentance and Compunction. Part of the work is also duplicated in the work That Christians Ought to Refrain from Games, and On Love for the Poor (CPG 3397).

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