The Church celebrated Memory of St. Ephrem the Syrian yesterday. We remember St. Ephrem in our fifth Diptych. We sing his songs in our prayers. I can never be justified if I won’t write about St. Ephrem.
Ephrem the Syrian, the greatest classical writer of the Syrian church was born in A.D 306 in Nisibis (North West of Mosul, Mesopotamia). His father is said to have been a heathen priest worshipping an idol called abnil. But the child Ephrem refused to accompany his parents to the temple of Abnil for which he was severely punished. He was later brought up by St. James the Bishop of Nisibis. He accompanied St. James to the council of Nicea at the age of 22.
Lamy, a noted biographer describes Ephram as “From the time he began to lead a monastic life till his death, he ate nothing but barely bread and dried herbs and sometimes green herbs. He drank nothing but water; his flesh had dried up in his bones until he resembled baked clay. His clothing was a mass of patches of the colour of mud. He was a small stature; his face always grave that he never laughed; he was bald and wore no beard.”
After baptism in early manhood he was ordained deacon in AD 338. He probably lived as a monk apparently never entered priesthood. Though in the clergical hierarchy he was just a decon, he is remembered as a great doctor of the universal Church.
After the death of James, Bishop of Nisibis, Ephream left for Edessa and went to Urahai. It is told that he met a great ascetic “Yulian”. Ephrem learned various tough practices of ascetic life from him. Ephrem started a monastic life of extreme austerity during this time and started composing hymns. He taught his followers through his songs and revealed divine mysteries in his poetry. About the poet in Ephrem, Lamy wrote, “No other writer has ever possessed the power of bringing tears to the eyes while the reader is profoundly stirred….” Ephrem’s teachings are centered as practical Christian life – free-will, supernatural gift, spiritual combat, and devotion to Virgin Mary.
After the death of Contantine Nisibis was invaded by Sapor King of Persia. The prayers of Ephrem resulted in withdrawal of Sapors forces. St. Ephrem was called as “Violin of Holy Spirit” by St. Ivanios. In his last days he told his disciples “Don’t give me a great funeral, don’t deliver long speeches praising me. Don’t build monuments in my name. Don’t save my relics, as I am a sinner. ” He died on 9th June AD 373.