Ephraem, 306-373. Doctor of Deacons and Poets, Feast June
For the nearly twenty five thousand deacons belonging to
the Catholic Church worldwide, St. Ephraem's life is a dramatic and
dynamic model. He is the only doctor that comes across and remembered not as a priest but as a deacon.
Whether he feigned madness to escape becoming a priest or
felt the priesthood too honorable is not known. What is known is
that many can identify with him because of his tremendous
contributions to the church. Thus, our exemplary doctor of deacons
and poets, is the only male doctor who perhaps never became a
The priesthood is such an exalted state that in
addition to deacons, priests themselves ought to petition Ephraem to
approach the holy table with fear and trembling. We, too, might petition Ephraem to help us show great respect to all humanity and most certainly to ordained clergy and consecrated lovers. All humanity carry within themselves the Lord of Lords in their holy souls, although hidden, invisible and sometimes they may be steeped in terrible sins.
No matter how bad anyone is, the God of Love lives in all living souls and is worthy of our love. Sin obfuscates God and keeps the Holy One from being perceived because sin taints our intellect, reasoning powers and weakens our will to do good. Scripture tells us that God hides himself from the proud and sinful.
of music, song and dance including musicians, singers and dancers,
Ephraem is an outstanding, heroic and original example. He is one of
Mary’s greatest cantors. It has been said that music is God’s best
gift to man. L.E. Landon said that music is the only art of heaven
given to earth and the only art of earth we take to heaven. Henry
Wordsworth said that music is the voice of the angels. Even to the
deaf, God imparts graces which is music to their souls. To the
blind, God’s virtue enables them to grasp his presence and sense
(hear) the sound of his touch and silent voice.
teachers, social workers, relief agents, writers, poets and many in
similar categories, might petition St Ephraem the Syrian for more
sensitivity in dealing with others. They too can share their gifts
toward the less gifted as Ephraem did. His ministry was involved
with all of the above categories.
One particular site on
refugees can be found at the below site. Perhaps you can make intercessions or contribute?
With Ephraem, who was a
refugee, we might pray for the 35 million today who face this
terrible plight. More than 7 million people around the world were
newly uprooted in 1999. Currently more than 35 million people are
refugees or internally displaced persons. These men, women, and
children have had to flee their homes to save their lives. One stat is that 10 million of the world's refugees almost 70% are children ?
sermons and exhortations of this wise teacher, who was head of a
school, became so popular that not only the Christian populations
but also great numbers of Pagans and Jews gathered to hear him. He
was most influential. Even when he was in exile, his popularity
soared. I am indebted to an anonymous Jesuit who has written
particularly about Ephraem on the Internet.
Ephraem was a mediator,
devout patriot, and great consoler of his people during a period of
tremendous hatred, killing and persecutions of
St Ephraem had prayerful and devout parents.
The deacon-doctor is often referred to as the "Harp of the Holy
Spirit”. This honorary title is given to the only Syrian deacon ever to be
acclaimed doctor of the universal, Catholic Church. The nearly
nineteen million Syrians today have a marvelous model to imitate and
In recent times, another mysterious event started in Damascus, Syria and is taking place before our very eyes. It's purpose is to unite different religions and people. For more information see the below link. This ongoing event is a powerful revelation on how much God wants all of us to be united and love the Lord Jesus Christ who has done so much for us.
Poems and hymns were Ephraem's spiritual-military' might and
strength. His armament of prayer, holy example and heroic virtue
gave witness to his calling. His primary vocation was to be a
teacher and an exegete. He gave “wings to thought”.
outstanding deeds with songs and hymns toward public worship as a
means of instruction for the faithful were most sensuous and
sonorous. He was one of the first to achieve this for God's people.
Imbued with God's Ghost, Ephraem’s prayers and singing
enlightened, inspired, and moved others deeply.
prayer-life, and actions emphasized great devotion to Jesus and
his Blessed Mother, Mary. Ephraem focused especially on the sacred
humanity of Jesus, which was rare during this early period.
both an ascetic and socially concerned. He combined prayer and
action whenever possible.
The inspiration he gained from his
personal meditation and knowledge of Jesus and Mary can be seen in
his words, actions, and writings. They strongly reflected deep and
profound insight and knowledge of scripture. He was a staunch
defender of the catholic faith through his music compositions,
poetry, and orthodoxy. He carefully avoided or clarified false
doctrines or errors that were rampant during his lifetime. Our
deacon was one of the first to use sacred songs from the heretical
groups, and, using their melodies, composed beautiful hymns
embodying orthodox doctrine.
The refugees from Yugoslavia,
Kosovo and other recent wars should make us aware what he, himself, as a
refuge, experienced its treatment. Ephraem accepted his
fate. He lived a simple and austere life. A great tribute to him is he is said to have
inspired Dante by his poetic account of the Last Judgment. Being a
prolific writer and orator, Ephraem’s words are tender, delicate, and
penetrating. Listen to his insightful, masterful, and profound words: "The
heaven is a throne for his glory, yet he sits on Mary's knee.”
Ephraem was the first great poet and musician of Marian devotion and
used graphic, feminine imagery for God. Again, ponder his words! "God is a
Mother whose living breast feeds all. He is also the Father of
Liturgical Music. Perhaps more than any other Father or Doctor he
affirmed and advocated the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception
long before it became a dogma.
Our saint was a most
compassion person and held a great concern and esteem for others. Throughout his
lifetime, persecutions under Diocletian and Valens were violent and
non-stop. He organized relief services for assisting the sick and
could serve as a great model for those who were persecuted in exile,
immigrants, and those fleeing for safety and security. We might
reflect on those fleeing their homes and country due to war. Our
TV’s have showed us daily pictures of refugees in pain and sorrow.
Historically, we have witnessed the bombing, horror, violence and
thousands of innocent people being abused because of an ethnic
cleansing mentality. Many of our military service personnel have
experienced these tragic events first-hand by actually being
The following poem taken from The Testament of St
Ephraem is a sample of his rich, beseeching and phenomenal
"Lay me not with sweet spices,
nor this honor
avails me not, nor yet use incense and perfumes,
honors befits me not. Burn yet the incense in the holy
As for me, escort me only with your prayer, give ye
your incense to God,
and over me send up hymns. Instead of
perfumes and spices,
be mindful of me in your
Ephraem understood the vital importance of
intercessions. He wants our prayers now, as the above poem states,
more than anything else. Praying is more than directing or moving
the mind and heart to God. It is using all of one's abilities
according to one's calling. Singing is praying twice. To work is to
pray. We as Christians can only become holy by helping others as we
are moved by God's Spirit. Symbolically, St Ephraem is like a harp.
God wants to use us as drums, violins, bugles and every imaginable
instrument. That is the cry of St Francis' peace prayer. Make me an instrument...
Doing God's holy will is inextricably connected
to all humanity. Christ is the model. We may not be able to be
involved in relief services physically as Ephraem, helping the
persecuted and other worthwhile causes. We are all called
differently. However, we are all called to intercede for others
especially those who are in most need of God's mercy and those we
are obligated to by reason of our own life and
gifts. This would most certainly include the possessed and obsessed; the depressed and oppressed; the suppressed and repressed; and especially those suffering from acute pain, trials, and temptations that God sometimes permits.
Christians today are witnessing more than ever before,
and thanks to new global networks and communication worldwide, the
abundant outpouring of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as a God of Mercy.
We might recall the recent St Faustina Kowalska. Similarly, the
devotions, prayers and honor that Christians are showing toward the
immaculate heart of Mary are additional signs that Jesus and Mary
are being moved to help humanity in unprecedented manifestations.
Our prayers and intercessions are being heard and God and his mother
are responding immensely. We owe thanks to Ephraem who helped in
laying the foundation for devotion to Jesus and Mary both in the
Eastern and Western Church, as early as 306 AD. St Ephraem is the
first within the Early Church Doctors category found in the Introducton on this site.(See introduction link on homepage.) Christians worldwide
should be ever mindful of escorting others to God by their precious prayers
according to their gifts, talents, and treasures.
can not pray without helping others. As one prays, others are
automatically benefited. With the added emphases of intercessory
prayer by Ephraem and other saints, results and favors are granted
that are unimaginable and staggering. Listen to some of the results
of intercessory prayers that Ephraem highlights. He says that prayer
has the strength of fire, it ends wars, quiets confrontation, expels
demons, breaks the chain of death, cures illnesses, eradicates
violence and builds devastated cities.
The historian Sozomen
informs us that Ephraem wrote no fewer than three million lines of
verse. This sounds like an exaggeration. However, the outpouring of
beauty, originality and sublimity of Ephraem’s thoughts, concepts
and words regarding Jesus and Mary may surpass even his recorded
quantity of verse. He is perhaps the most prolific poet ever.
Ephraem proclaims Jesus and Mary untiringly. He was rapt in God’s
Son and Mother and absorbed in intimate union exceeding all
tenderness, spiritual passion and infatuation. His warm and stirring
words toward Jesus and Mary reveal deep respect and intimate
confidence. He states that the mystery of God is fully understood
through the mystery of Mary. Why? Because Jesus Christ is both God
and Man and born of the Virgin.
Mary is compared to the
Church, Jerusalem, and all life, because she is the Mother of God.
Whatever Eve undid, Mary re-did more splendidly. Ephraem is the
first Christian author to call Mary, “Spouse of Christ”. In his
marvelous book, entitled Mary and the Fathers of the Church by
Luigi Gambero, this internationally known expert on early
Christianity, states that if Mary is incomprehensible, who is
capable of comprehending God? This title of Spouse of Christ is now
commonly been given to the Church. The terms Bride, Bridegroom and
Spouse are wedding words that reveal intimate marriage and close
union both physical and spiritual proximity.
receive this union when they first become Christians. It is as if
God could not wait to wed us to himself. Albeit, the consciousness and
joy of that wedding by the recipient can not be generally known
since we become Christians through baptism as an infant. Ephraem
comments on the eagerness of Christ to be baptized (some would say
that it wasn’t necessary) by St John the Baptist. Listen to the
words of Christ pleading and begging John not to deny him this
favor. He is to be our model as the source of all blessings that he
extends formally through his church.
The Catholic Church honors St Cecilia
as one of the patrons of music. She too, as Ephraem, is depicted in
art with a harp. She is also considered one of the first martyrs of
the early church. This virgin is also a model of purity. She was
also keenly aware of her guardian angel and promised to reveal her
angel to certain people if their faith was practiced in a continual
manner. We are certain that she can do that for us too.
Whether we are singing,
listening or creating music; whether
it is Church music, jazz, classical, rock and roll or another, it
can lead us to loving and enjoying God. Ephraem, Cecilia and many
others, perhaps our former music teachers we had in school, or
singers we enjoy today, may have helped us to love God that much
more because of their contributions or assistances to
Frequently with music, our spirits soar. Music, singing,
and even silence, affords the soul space-glorious space! God has a
way of lifting us up when we are down. Music, singing and silence
quickens us. Our souls want to ascend to God. It was made for that
purpose. It identifies with that role, journey, and adventure. Every
soul wants to be free. However, it is only in the choice of honest
and sincere love that we are totally free and discover freedom of
spirit. It is in the finding of freedom of the spirit that we also
discover the freedom of the body. It is never the reverse. Our body
craves what only the spirit can attain. Music, song and stillness
allows the body to know what the spirit senses
When one is playing an instrument with the
intention of pleasing God we are creating music for the Creator and
God's creatures. Acting in this manner and in any dedicated endeavor
for the Supreme Being, music not only comes from the instrument but
from the heart. There is an inspirational movie entitled Music from
the Heart with Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn, Angela Bassett, Gloria
Estefan and Cloris Leachman that shows how music inspires, completes
and moves us toward our goals.
The listening to music, the
singing of songs and the playing of instruments are precious
functions and activities because they stimulate and help us to be
creative and satisfied. When we do them for the Lord, as in
liturgies, we are lifted on a new plane of experience that only the
recipient can fully grasp. I played the guitar at folk mass for
eight years and this type of involvement was a tremendous blessing.
Whatever our profession, if we give ourselves to it in the right manner, attitude, and
full spirit of participation, we will be blessed by the infinite
Be it organ music, or any instrumental music,
coupled with singing for the Creator at Christian gatherings, we
will be enriched, motivated and blessed. There are many composers,
singers and talented individuals that would be impossible to list
but some of many liturgical favorites are: Bob Hurd, David Hass,
Bernadette Farrell, Carey Landry, Marty Haugen, Sebastian Temple,
Dan Schutte, Bob Dufford and Tom Conry to name but a few.
personal friend of mine, Richard F. Hashim, who attended a seminary
with me, was a professional organist before he joined. Dick also
shared his talents by playing at sport events, country club
entertainment and for special occasions when asked or requested. Dick also played for a weekly TV mass
for "shut-ins". Only some people have an ear for music but all have a heart for music
and song for the right occasion.
Our hearts and souls obtain
wings when they express themselves to God in their own type of worship
and adoration. It is not too well known and scripture doesn’t
mention it, but Jesus, I believe, loved to sing. He
undoubtedly had a powerful and beautiful voice. Others have written
about this fact. We can be sure that Mary had a part to play to
naturally foster this activity within her Son. We can also be sure
too that our Doctor, St Ephraem the Syrian, played an important role
and had a major impact in the early church to help his
contemporaries appreciate his major contributions.
the elegance of his writing style, St Ephraem has been called the
Lyre of the Holy Spirit. In addition, his Mariological teaching
has earned him the title of Marian Doctor with Sts Alphonsus,
Bernard, Ambrose and Anselm and others. In fact all the doctors spoke highly of Mary in
their writings, sermons and daily examples. Listen to the tone and
quality of his Marian prayer. Many of the doctor’s Marian prayers on
this website are taken from Prayers to Mary by Most Rev. Virgillio
Noe. These most beautiful Marian prayers below are taken from the
liturgies of the church and Christians throughout the centuries. The
church has beautiful and exquisite prayers, litanies, novenas, songs
and hymns to Mary. Saints have spent a lifetime saying the Hail Mary
to the Mother of God to keep them rapt in the presence of God and
united in holy prayer. The below is taken from Ephraem's writings.
Most Holy Lady, Mother of God, you are
the only one completely pure in soul and body, and you surpass all
purity, all virginity and all chastity.
You are the sole
dwelling place of all the grace of the Spirit, and you far surpass
the angels in purity and in holiness of soul and
Turn your eyes toward me. I am sinful and impure and
stained in soul as well as in body with the passions and
pleasures that constitute the weeds of my life.
spirit free from its passions. Sanctify and restrain my thoughts
when they race toward adventurism.
Regulate and divert my
senses. Shake off the detestable and infamous tyranny of my impure
inclinations and passions. Destroy in me the empire of
Grant wisdom and counsel to my spirit that is filled
with darkness and wretchedness. Help me to correct my faults and
failings. Then, set free from the night of sin, may I be worthy to
glorify and exalt you with reserve.
O sole true Mother of the
true Light, Christ our God. Alone with Him and through Him, you are
blessed and glorified by every visible and invisible creature, now
For more interconnecting links:
as Ephraem is the only doctor who chose to remain a deacon, to learn more about
deacons and other saints who were deacons:
For extensive information on Saint Ephrem, from the Syrian Library:
Fathers and Doctors:http://newadvent.org/fathers/
The above is a fascinating link on Ephraem from multiple dimensions.
St Ephraem taken from the web site below of the ministry of Dr Marcellino D'Ambrosio
Ephraem the Syrian
The below web site contains comprehensive resources on our church, faith, the bible, saints, writings, apologetics, evangelization, family issues, links, and many pertinent services. This superior and highly organized web site (see Table of Content) is a most fascinating site with beautiful prayers, devotions, and really too much to enumerate. A truly universal catholic site.
Source http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3703.htm Hymns 1-19 of Hymns of the Nativity
Below is hymn 8 in part.
To Your Mother, Lord, no man knew what name to give. Should he call her Virgin, her Child stood [there]; and married no man knew her to be! If then none comprehended Your Mother, who shall suffice for You?
For she was, alone, Your Mother; along with all, Your Sister. She was Your mother, she was Your Sister. She along with chaste women was Your betrothed. With everything You adorned Her, You ornament of Your Mother.
For she was Your Bride by nature ere You had come; she conceived You not by nature after You had come, O Holy One, and was a Virgin when she had brought You forth holily.
Mary gained in You, O Lord, the honours of all married women. She conceived [You] within her without marriage. There was milk in her breasts, not after the way of nature. You made the thirsty land suddenly a fountain of milk.
If she carried You, Your mighty look made her burden light; if she gave You to eat, it was because You were hungry; if she gave You to drink [it was], because You were thirsty; willingly if she embraced You, You, the coal of mercies, kept her bosom safe.
A wonder is Your Mother. The Lord entered her, and became a servant: the Word entered her, and became silent within her; thunder entered her, and His voice was still: the Shepherd of all entered her; He became a Lamb in her, and came forth bleating.
The Belly of Your Mother changed the order of things, O You that orders all! The rich went in, He came out poor: the High One went in, He came out lowly. Brightness went into her and clothed Himself, and came forth a despised form.
The Mighty went in, and clad Himself with fear from the Belly. He that gives food to all went in, and gat hunger. He that gives all to drink went in, and gat thirst. Naked and bare came forth from her the Clother of all.