Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saintly Saturdays: Saint Ephraem of Syria

Today the Pope has called all Christians and people of good will, but especially all Catholics, to pray and to fast for peace in Syria.  In honor of his request, I thought it fitting to take a look at the patron saint of Syria and to join with you in asking his intercession for the people of Syria.

Ephraem of Syria was born a pagan in the city of Nisibis which was, at the time, occupied by Rome. He was a priest of the goddess Abnil.  He was instructed by Saint James, the Bishop of Nisibis, and converted to Christianity at the age of 18. St. James then charged Ephraem with encouraging the citizens of Nisibis to renew their faith life.  The city came under siege in 338, 346, and 350.  Each time, the people managed to push back their attackers.

However, once free from Roman rule, the Christians in their city found themselves severely persecuted by the Persians.  The majority of them fled Syria, and Ephraem went with them to help them establish a church in their new home in Edessa. He spent the last 10 years of his life living as a hermit, but still kept watch over the Christians in Edessa and took a close interest in the local events.  It is during this time that the bulk of his writings were crafted.  He was a prolific writer, attending to everything from poetry to manuscripts of Christian teachings.   He was proclaimed one of the handful of Doctors of the Church in 1920. He died on the 9th of June in 373 in Edessa, located in modern day Iraq.

The Prayer of St. Ephraem:

O Lord and Master of my life,
Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,
of discouragement,
of lust for power,
and of vain speaking.

But bestow upon me, Thy servant,
the spirit of chastity,
of meekness,
of patience,
and of love.

Yea, O Lord and King,
grant that I may perceive
my own transgressions,
and judge not my brother,
for blessed art Thou
unto ages of ages. 


Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven. - Saint Ephraem
Remember me, you heirs of God, you brethren of Christ; supplicate the Savior earnestly for me, that I may be freed through Christ from him that fights against me day by day. - Saint Ephrem, The Fear at the End of Life
You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us that so we may love him. - Saint Ephrem, from Commentary on Mark
Lord, shed upon our darkened souls the brilliant light of your wisdom so that we may be enlightened and serve you with renewed purity. Sunrise marks the hour for men to begin their toil, but in our souls, Lord, prepare a dwelling for the day that will never end. Through our unremitting zeal for you. Lord, set upon us the sign of your day that is not measured by the sun. In your sacrament we daily embrace you and receive you into our bodies; make us worthy to experience the resurrection for which we hope. Teach us to find our joy in your favor! Savior, your crucifixion marked the end of your mortal life; teach us to crucify ourselves and make way for our life in the Spirit. - from a sermon by Saint Ephrem

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