SAINT EPHREM the SYRIAN (c.306-373), deacon and Doctor of the Church
Patron saint of spiritual directors and spiritual leaders
Poet, teacher and orator, Saint Ephrem (Ephraim – alternate spelling) 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 champion of the Catholic Church. And it is this dynamic and influential defender of the faith whom the universal Church honors today.
Born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia, about the year 306, Ephrem was baptized as a young man and became famous as a teacher in his native city. When the Christian emperor had to cede the city of Nisibis to the Persians, and, in order to escape the Christian persecutions which would follow, Ephrem, along with many other Christians, fled as refugees to Edessa, an Assyrian/Syriac town in northern Mesopotamia, where he spent the remainder of his life (Edessa is currently called Urfa located in south-eastern Turkey near the border with Iraq).
Ephrem was ordained a deacon but declined becoming a priest; and it was said he avoided episcopal consecration by feigning madness! And it was in Edessa where he founded a theological school for catechizing and educating the Christian refugees and those who would serve the needs of the Church.
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.
And for those who study the history of the early Church, Ephrem was known for also having written hymns against the heresies of his day. He would take the popular songs of the different heretical groups and, using their melodies, compose beautiful hymns embodying orthodox Christian doctrine.
As a result, 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 earned for him the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit”.
As a deacon of the Church, Ephrem preferred a simple, austere lifestyle, living in a small cave overlooking the city of Edessa. It was there he died on June 9th in the year 373. In humility, Saint Ephrem had asked to be buried with the graves of the destitute, the poor and the criminals.
We commemorate his feastday on June 9.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Ephrem)
“Lord, in Your Love, fill our hearts with the Holy Spirit, who inspired the deacon Ephrem to sing the praises of Your mysteries and gave him strength to serve You alone.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”