June 9th we celebrate the feast of St. Ephrem. He was born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia (now Turkey/Syrian border) in the year 306. He was a prolific writer and helped fight the Arianism heresy that was so prevalent at his time. He wrote over 400 hymns (we still have the lyrics) and is credited with making music a very large part of the liturgy. Many of his songs were instructional as well as inspirational. He was a great teacher and after moving to Edessa, helped to make the School of Edessa the heart of the Syrian speaking world. He was a biblical scholar who wrote many commentaries on the scriptures. He fought hard to make the teachings of the Bible and the Council of Nicea stand within the Church.
St. Ephrem was a very simple and humble man. He spent a good deal of time living in a cave. He accepted ordination as a deacon but refused to be ordained a priest. When pressure was put on him to be named Bishop, he feigned mental illness. His writings really show his holiness. At the bottom of this post, I have included several quotes of his. Besides writing scripture commentaries and hymns, he wrote poems. It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante. St. Ephrem died of the plague on June 9, 373. He had been caring for plague victims. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed Ephrem to be a Doctor of the Church. He is the only Syrian to hold that distinction.
I really believe that we can learn about Ephrem from his writings. His quotes are quite inspirational and can help us today. The first quotes are on various topics. I ended with a quote that he wrote for his own funeral. God bless.
The boldness of our love is pleasing to you, O Lord, just as it pleased you that we should steal from your bounty.
Remember me, ye heirs of God, ye 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.
You (Jesus) alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is no blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?
Let books be your dining table, And you shall be full of delights. Let them be your mattress, And you shall sleep restful nights.
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.
The word of God is a tree of life that offers us blessed fruit from each of its branches. It is like that rock which was struck open in the wilderness, from which all were offered spiritual drink. Be glad then that you are overwhelmed, and do not be saddened because he has overcome you. A thirsty person is happy when drinking, and not depressed, because the spring is inexhaustible. You can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring; then when you thirst again, you can drink from it once more.
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother; for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
Scripture brought me to the Gate of Paradise, and the mind stood in wonder as it entered.
When you begin to read or listen to the Holy Scriptures, pray to God thus: “Lord Jesus Christ, open the ears and eyes of my heart so that I may hear Thy words and understand them, and may fulfill Thy will.” Always pray to God like this, that He might illumine your mind and open to you the power of His words. Many, having trusted in their own reason, have turned away into deception.
You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of 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 so that we may love Him.
Who is far from love is a bad state, and to be pitied. He passes his days in a delirious dream, far from God, deprived of light, and he lives in darkness … Whoever does not have the love of Christ is an enemy of Christ. He walks in darkness and is easily led into any sin.
It is blasphemy if you pray before God while you are full of anger.
Blessed the one who has become a good spiritual net and caught many for the good Lord, such a one will greatly praised by the Lord.
Blessed the one who, exalted by love, has become a city founded upon a mountain, from which the enemy, when he saw it, withdrew in fear, trembling at its security in the Lord.
Lay me not with sweet spices,
For this honor avails me not,
Nor yet use incense and perfumes,
For the honor befits me not.
Burn yet the incense in the holy place;
As for me, escort me only with your prayers,
Give ye your incense to God,
And over me send up hymns.
Instead of perfumes and spices,
Be mindful of me in your intercessions.
(From The Testament of St. Ephrem)