St. Ephrem the Syrian

Ephrem the Syrian

Mosaic in Nea Moni of Chios (11th century)

For this is the Good One, who could have forced us to please him without any trouble to himself, but instead he toiled by every means so that we might act pleasingly to him of our own free will,

that we might depict our beauty with the colors that our own free will had gathered, whereas, if he had adorned us, then we would have resembled a portrait that someone else had painted,
adorning it with his own colors.
— St. Ephrem the Syrian (+373)
St. Ephrem was born about 306. Some say his family was Christian while others say his father was a pagan priest of the goddess Abizal. He was baptized as a young man by Bishop  Jacob of Nisibus, a participant in the First Council of Nicea in 325. Later ordained as a deacon, Ephrem is said to have escaped consecration as a bishop by pretending to be insane. When Jovianus ceded Nisibus to the Persians in 363, Ephrem and many other Christians moved to Edessa where he died in 373 while ministering to people who had the plague. He wrote over a thousand poems. Many of his works are difficult to translate because of their
complex structures, images, word plays and parallels. Scholars question the authenticity of all texts attributed to the “Harp of the Faith,” a name frequently given to Ephrem, since many exist in Latin translation only. Ephrem wrote polemical verse defending the faith against gnostics and Arians. He was devoted to the Theotokos and wrote much in her praise. His Sermons on Faith are metrical homilies. He wrote prose commentaries on the Old Testament and on the Epistles of St. Paul. He annotated the Greek-Syriac New Testament Diatessaron. His descriptions of heaven and hell are said to have inspired Dante.
The iconographer is Deacon Paul Drozdowski. The icon is at St. Elizabeth the New Martyr
Orthodox Church in Rocky Hill, New Jersey.


IN COMMUNION / Feast of St. Ephrem the Syrian / Winter 2011/ Issue 59