Today is the Feast of St. Ephrem the Syrian
(c. 306 – d. 373)
Poet, teacher, orator, and defender of the faith, Ephrem is the only Syrian recognized as a doctor of the Church. He took upon himself the special task of opposing the many false doctrines rampant at his time, always remaining a true and forceful defender of the Catholic Church.
Born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia, he was baptized as a young man and became famous as a teacher in his native city. When the Christian emperor had to cede Nisibis to the Persians, Ephrem fled as a refugee to Edessa, along with many other Christians. He is credited with attracting great glory to the biblical school there. He was ordained a deacon but declined becoming a priest. Ephrem was said to have avoided presbyteral consecration by feigning madness!
He had a prolific pen, and his writings best illumine his holiness. Although he was not a man of great scholarship, his works reflect deep insight and knowledge of the Scriptures. In writing about the mysteries of humanity’s redemption, Ephrem reveals a realistic and humanly sympathetic spirit and a great devotion to the humanity of Jesus. It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante.
It is surprising to read that he wrote hymns against the heretics of his day. He would take the popular songs of the heretical groups and using their melodies, compose beautiful hymns embodying orthodox doctrine. Ephrem became one of the first to introduce song into the Church’s public worship as a means of instruction for the faithful. His many hymns have earned him the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit.”
Ephrem preferred a simple, austere life, living in a small cave overlooking the city of Edessa. It was here that he died around 373.
Credit Franciscan Media; franciscanmedia.org; a nonprofit ministry of the Franciscan Friars.
O, Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despondency, lust for power, and idle talk. But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters. For blessed art Thou unto ages and ages.
– The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian
St. Ephrem the Syrian, Harp of the Holy Spirit and Doctor of the Church, pray for us.
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family pray for us. Amen.