Ephrem the Syrian

Saint Ephrem the Syrian
Ephrem the Syrian (mosaic in Nea Moni).jpg
mosaic in Nea Moni of Chios (11th century)
Harp of the Spirit, Deacon, Confessor and Doctor of the Church; Venerable Father
Born c. 306
Nisibis (modern-day Turkey)
Died 9 June 373
Edessa (modern-day Turkey)
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Church of the East
Oriental Orthodoxy
Anglican Communion
Feast

28 January ( Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches)
7th Saturday before Easter ( Syriac Orthodox Church)
June 9 ( Roman Catholic Church, Church of England)
June 18 ( Roman Catholic Church, Maronite Church)

July 22 ( Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria)
Attributes Vine and scroll, deacon's vestments and thurible; with Saint Basil the Great; composing hymns with a lyre
Patronage Spiritual directors and spiritual leaders

Ephrem the Syrian ( Syriac: ܡܪܝ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܣܘܪܝܝܐMār Aprêm Sûryāyâ; [1] Greek: Ἐφραίμ ὁ Σῦρος; Latin: Ephraem Syrus, also known as St. Ephraem (Ephrem, Ephraim); ca. 306 – 373) was a Syriac Christian deacon and a prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian of the 4th century. He is especially beloved in the Syriac Orthodox Church, and counted as a Venerable Father (i.e., a sainted Monk) in Eastern Orthodoxy. His feast day is celebrated on 28 January and on the Saturday of the Venerable Fathers. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in the Catholic Church in 1920.

Ephrem wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems, and sermons in verse, as well as prose biblical exegesis. These were works of practical theology for the edification of the church in troubled times. So popular were his works, that, for centuries after his death, Christian authors wrote hundreds of pseudepigraphal works in his name. He has been called the most significant of all of the fathers of the Syriac-speaking church tradition. [2]

Life

Ephrem was born around the year 306 in the city of Nisibis (now Nusaybin in Turkey), in the contested border region between Sassanid Assyria and Roman Mesopotamia, then-recently acquired by Rome. [3] [4] [5] [6]

Internal evidence from Ephrem's hymnody suggests that both his parents were part of the growing Christian community in the city, although later hagiographers wrote that his father was a pagan priest. [7] Numerous languages were spoken in the Nisibis of Ephrem's day, mostly dialects of Aramaic. The Christian community used the Syriac dialect. The culture included pagan religions, Judaism and early Christian sects.

Jacob, the second bishop of Nisibis, [8] was appointed in 308, and Ephrem grew up under his leadership of the community. Jacob of Nisibis is recorded as a signatory at the First Council of Nicea in 325. Ephrem was baptized as a youth and almost certainly became a son of the covenant, an unusual form of syriac proto- monasticism. Jacob appointed Ephrem as a teacher (Syriac malp̄ānâ, a title that still carries great respect for Syriac Christians). He was ordained as a deacon either at his baptism or later. [9] He began to compose hymns and write biblical commentaries as part of his educational office. In his hymns, he sometimes refers to himself as a "herdsman" (ܥܠܢܐ, ‘allānâ), to his bishop as the "shepherd" (ܪܥܝܐ, rā‘yâ), and to his community as a 'fold' (ܕܝܪܐ, dayrâ). Ephrem is popularly credited as the founder of the School of Nisibis, which, in later centuries, was the centre of learning of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Newly excavated Church of Saint Jacob in Nisibis, where Ephrem taught and ministered

In 337, Emperor Constantine I, who had legalised and promoted the practice of Christianity in the Roman Empire, died. Seizing on this opportunity, Shapur II of Persia began a series of attacks into Roman North Mesopotamia. Nisibis was besieged in 338, 346 and 350. During the first siege, Ephrem credits Bishop Jacob as defending the city with his prayers. In the third siege, of 350, Shapur rerouted the River Mygdonius to undermine the walls of Nisibis. The Nisibenes quickly repaired the walls while the Persian elephant cavalry became bogged down in the wet ground. Ephrem celebrated what he saw as the miraculous salvation of the city in a hymn that portrayed Nisibis as being like Noah's Ark, floating to safety on the flood.

One important physical link to Ephrem's lifetime is the baptistery of Nisibis. The inscription tells that it was constructed under Bishop Vologeses in 359. In that year, Shapur attacked again. The cities around Nisibis were destroyed one by one, and their citizens killed or deported. Constantius II was unable to respond; the campaign of Julian in 363 ended with his death in battle. His army elected Jovian as the new emperor, and to rescue his army, he was forced to surrender Nisibis to Persia [7] (also in 363) and to permit the expulsion of the entire Christian population.

Ephrem, with the others, went first to Amida ( Diyarbakır), eventually settling in Edessa [7] (modern Şanlıurfa) in 363. Ephrem, in his late fifties, applied himself to ministry in his new church and seems to have continued his work as a teacher, perhaps in the School of Edessa. Edessa had always been at the heart of the Syriac-speaking world, and the city was full of rival philosophies and religions. Ephrem comments that orthodox Nicene Christians were simply called "Palutians" in Edessa, after a former bishop. Arians, Marcionites, Manichees, Bardaisanites and various gnostic sects proclaimed themselves as the true church. In this confusion, Ephrem wrote a great number of hymns defending Nicene orthodoxy. A later Syriac writer, Jacob of Serugh, wrote that Ephrem rehearsed all-female choirs to sing his hymns set to Syriac folk tunes in the forum of Edessa. After a ten-year residency in Edessa, in his sixties, Ephrem succumbed to the plague as he ministered to its victims. The most reliable date for his death is 9 June 373.

Other Languages
български: Ефрем Сирин
čeština: Efrém Syrský
Ελληνικά: Εφραίμ ο Σύρος
español: Efrén de Siria
Հայերեն: Եփրեմ Ասորի
hrvatski: Efrem Sirijski
Bahasa Indonesia: Efrem orang Siria
italiano: Efrem il Siro
ქართული: ეფრემ ასური
Kiswahili: Efrem wa Syria
Nederlands: Efrem de Syriër
português: Efrém da Síria
română: Efrem Sirul
русский: Ефрем Сирин
slovenščina: Efrem Sirski
српски / srpski: Јефрем Сирин
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Jefrem Sirin
українська: Єфрем Сирин
Tiếng Việt: Ephrem xứ Syria