Friday, 23 March 2012

St. Ephrem (Ephraim) the Syrian

Icon, St. Ephrem (Ephraim) the Syrian, by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

 St. Ephrem (Syriac) or Ephraim (Greek) the Syrian was a saint of the early Church.  He was born in 306 A.D., a Syriac and a prolific Syriac-language hymnographer and theologian.  A sort of St. Gregory of the early eastern Church.  One of his many titles was "Harp of the Spirit".

Through his hymns and homilies, St. Ephrem, fought the heretics of his day.  One of his most famous battles was with the heretic, Bardesan, who claimed that the Resurrection did not occur (sadly, like too many theologians do at the present time!).  Using only his powerfully written music and texts, which moved the people deeply, St. Ephrem was able to defeat Bardesan.

It is said that St. Ephrem captured the hearts of the Christians so well that he awakened the entire Church of his day to the importance of music and poetry in spreading and fortifying the Faith.  Perhaps one of the best know hymns attributed to St.Ephraim is the one used in by the Orthodox churches each weekday during the Great Lent.  I have actually given this hymn to you previously, but I want to repeat it for you now:
1.  O Lord and Master of my life, Give me not a spirit of idleness, despondency, love of ruling others and idle chatter; [kneel or prostration after each verse]
2.  But rather, a spirit of chastity, humility of wisdom, patience and love, grant to me Your servant.
3.  Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brothers or sisters. For blessed are You forever and ever. Amen. (for more information regarding this prayer, go to: )
One of the main reasons I wanted to present this icon (which I have had sitting in my files for a while) at this time has to do with the fact that St. Ephrem was born in a place which, at that time, was part of Syria (it is now actually in Turkey on the border with Syria and is quite possibly full of Syrian refugees).  Syria was the land of St. Ephrem and he is given the most honour today by the Syriac Orthodox Church.  This makes St. Ephrem, I feel, a perfect saint from whom to request prayerful assistance for the people of Syria.

The tragic situation in that country now pulls at the heartstrings of most of the world's people.  No matter which side you are on, there is only more bloodshed, destruction, family disruption and separation -- all of these evils because people cannot resolve issues peacefully.  So, let us ask St. Ephrem of Syria to pray for the people and the country of Syria.  Perhaps we could even make a commitment to pray his famous Lenten prayer each day until Easter, including at the end the phrase:  "St. Ephrem, please pray for the people and for the Country of Syria.  Amen".  Let us pray particularly for the Christians in Syria who are being forced by radical Islamists to flee their ancient homeland.


Like many people, I am attracted to the shapes and patterns you find when you take a close look at the driftwood which washes up on the beach -- especially after a big storm. 

I can remember many time when, while visiting my sister and her husband in Florida, I would wander the beach picking up different things that appealed to me.  I often found beautiful pieces of driftwood which I would take back to my sister's house and try to smuggle in without her seeing.  Sadly, I always got caught and she always said the same thing:  "Sallie, put that outside and take it back to the beach next time you go.  You know you don't have room in your luggage to take it home and I am not going to let you fill up my house with your found treasures!"  She wasn't being mean; it was just that if left to my own devices, she knew I would fill the house with all sort of things I thought were beautiful.  Worst of all, I wouldn't be able to take these treasures home with me because there simply wasn't room in my luggage. 

I still collect photos of driftwood, however, and today I thought I would show you some of my recent additions.

I call this one "Struggling to be Free"
(excuse the poor quality, but it was scanned from an old newspaper)

It looks like a big storm is coming or is just leaving!  Either way
this lovely piece of driftwood may be gone before long with the sea all
green-coloured -- it is angry water as we used to say.

I cannot quite imagine of which kind of tree this piece of driftwood
was originally part?  Any suggestions?

This driftwood looks, to me, like some sort of alien robot worker developed
to move rocks from one place to another!

A quick glance at this driftwood at about dusk would probably startle me into thinking
I was looking at a skeleton washed up on the beach -- at first glance.  Fascinating how
our brains immediately want to make sense out of what we see.

This large piece of driftwood looks, to me, like a monk, prostrate in prayer --
perhaps praying the prayer of St. Ephrem in the section above.  He has chosen
a prostration after each verse rather than kneeling.


Well, my dear friend, Amra, came to visit yesterday -- you remember her -- she's the one who wrote the article accompanying the icon of St. Sava.

Curiosity got the best of her!

Anyway, when she arrived, Suki was hiding in the closet because I had the balcony door open, and, as I have mentioned before, Suki does not like the noise from outside and so when the door is open, she goes and hides in the back of the closet.

I had just finished explaining to Amra where Suki was and why and apologizing that she wasn't being more sociable, when who should suddenly appear, sticking her head up between us in her usual pushy way -- none other than her royal highness, Queen Suki, Mistress of my Household!  "Well," I said to Suki, very politely of course, "the curiosity just plain got the best of you, didn't it?"  She meowed politely in response.  We were being polite because we had company! 

She was acting as though she was hungry (which I, in fact, believed was the real reason she had left her hiding place).  I got up and served her a dish of her favourite food.  She quickly licked off a bit of the gravy and then went right back to being friendly with Amra.  I could just hear her saying "all those things you have heard about me, well, they are not true.  I don't know why this Sallie person has a need to make up stories.  I am always perfectly well behaved.  I never do anything wrong."  Thankfully, Amra didn't believe a word Suki was saying.

Even thought the balcony door remained open, Suki stayed with us for the remainder of Amra's visit, giving Amra the pleasure of scratching her chin (Suki's favourite thing).  However, I decided it was cool enough now in my place so I closed the balcony door without Suki even having to ask!  Of course, as soon as Amra left, here was Suki crying insistently over the fact that I had taken her food dish and covered it so the food would stay fresh and meanwhile, she couldn't get to it.  She was so hungry that she ate the whole thing without even stopping to breathe -- or so it seemed to me.

Stress Test:  Good and glorious news -- I did not have to re-do the stress test after all!  Hooray, hooray!

I went to the doctor's office at the appointed time only to discover that there had been a mix-up.  At the time the appointment was made, the cardiologist had not seen the results of my previous stress test and did not, in fact, even know that I had had such a test.  Once this was discovered today, the stress test was cancelled.  They even made an effort to get me in to have the Holter monitor put on, but the folks there were way too busy (most be lots of heart problems these days). 

Meanwhile, let us continue to remember to ask St. Ephrem to pray for all the Syrians and Syrian-Canadians that peace might come soon to that terribly troubled country.  May it be real peace not just the exchanging of one form of totalitarian regime for another.

St. Ephrem, pray for us.

And now, may the peace of God be with us all.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post on the serious situation in Syria. Our second son is named Ephrem; and we all feel called to pray for all those persecuted in Syria.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post on the serious situation in Syria. Our second son is named Ephrem; and we all feel called to pray for all those persecuted in Syria.