Remembering St. Ephrem, the “Harp of the Holy Spirit”

Today is this great deacon saint’s feast.  I rather like the icon of him, shown above.  Those of us who spend a lot of our time poised over pages of words — or screens of text — can relate.  He has three desks, and too many words to keep track of!

A little background on the saint, from CNEWA:

Often referred to as the “Harp of the Holy Spirit,” this learned theologian and Doctor of the Church was born in Nisibis, Syria (modern Nusaybin, Turkey) in the year 306. He spent much of his life in preaching and writing hymns and poems dedicated to combating the heresies of Gnosticism and Arianism. He was baptized by Bishop James of Nisibis — a man who greatly influenced his life.

A poet and writer, Ephrem had a complex and artistic personality marked by a strong tendency to be hot-tempered. But with tremendous self-control, he dominated his fiery nature and devoted his life to asceticism.

Ephrem taught in Nisibis until the city was ceded to the Persians and he was forced, with other Christians, to emigrate to Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey). There, Ephrem continued his teaching at the famous School of Edessa whose reknown, and even founding, has been attributed to him.

An aspect of Ephrem’s unusual personality is evident in the fact that, although ordained a deacon, he never became a priest — avoiding consecration by feigning madness. Although no certain explanation can be found for this behavior, some biographers believe it was due to a feeling of unworthiness.

There’s more at the link, including a beautiful hymn he composed.

UPDATE: From a friend’s FB page, this eloquent and timely quote from the saint:

“In your sacrament we daily embrace you and receive you into our bodies; make us worthy to experience the resurrection for which we hope. We have had your treasure hidden within us ever since we received baptismal grace; it grows ever richer at your sacramental table. Teach us to find our joy in your favor! Lord, we have within us your memorial, received at your spiritual table; let us possess it in its full reality when all things shall be made new.”

St. Ephrem, pray for us!


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