Saturday, June 9, 2007

St. Ephrem the Syrian: Deacon

St. Ephrem (the Syrian), a deacon who declined to become a priest and is believed to have avoided being consecrated a bishop by pretending to be crazy, is celebrated today on the Roman calendar. He was born in Nisibis in Mesopotamia, was baptized a Christian as a young mn and, like Origen in Alexandria, became a well-known and respected teacher of the faith. When the Roman emperor gave Nisibis to the Persians, Ephrem and many other Christians fled westward. He wound up in Edessa, the modern Turkish city of Sanli-Urfa, where I have been fortunate enough to have been. He taught at the Bible school in the city and made it very well known and respected far and wide. He was born in the early part of the fourth century, around 306CE and died in 373CE.

He was a prolific poet and hymn-writer, here is part of one hymn, indexed as number 4:

My weak speaking has
gone beyond itself and
dirtied the bright gold
of Majesty. I have nothing to give,
but there are those in the world
who receive, merely by being
worthy to receive. It is not
the spring that gives the water that we crave.
The spring is like a steward and distributes
streams of living water to all who thirst.
If the flow of my speech is sweet,
then its sweetness comes from the Truth.
But if it is insipid, feeble, and weak,
that is a consequence of the dust
and rubble over which
the stream has passed.

Glory to the Anointed One,
Who, when He died and rose again,
tore aside the curtain
where all the mysteries lay hidden.

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