Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
OUR RIGHTEOUS FATHER EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Saint Ephraim. Plagal of Fourth Tone
With the streams of thy tears, thou didst cultivate the barrenness of the desert; and by thy sighings from the depths, thou didst bear fruit a hundredfold in labors; and thou becamest a luminary, shining with miracles upon the world, O Ephraim our righteous Father. Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion of Saint Ephraim. Second Tone
At all times thou foresee the hour of reckoning, and pricked in thy heart, thou ever didst lament with tears; and, O righteous Ephraim, thou wast a mighty teacher in works and deeds. Hence, O Father for all the world, thou didst rouse the slothful unto change of heart.
SAINT EPHRAIM was born in Nisibis of Mesopotamia some time about the year 306 AD, and in his youth was the disciple of Saint James, Bishop of Nisibis, one of the 318 Holy Fathers at the First Ecumenical Synod. Saint Ephraim lived in Nisibis, practicing a severe ascetical life and increasing in holiness, until 363 AD, the year in which Julian the Apostate was slain in his war against the Persians, and his successor Jovian surrendered Nisibis to them. Saint Ephraim then made his dwelling in Edessa, where he found many heresies to do battle with. He waged an especial war against Bardaisan; this gnostic had written many hymns propagating his heresies, which by their sweet melodies became popular and enticed souls away from the truth. Saint Ephraim, having received from God a singular gift of eloquence, turned Bardaisan's own weapon against him, and wrote a multitude of hymns to be chanted by choirs of women, which set forth the True Doctrines, refuted heretical error, and praised the contests of the Holy Martyrs.
Of the multitude of sermons, commentaries, and hymns that Saint Ephraim wrote, many were translated into Greek in his own lifetime. Sozomen says that Ephraim "surpassed the most approved writers of Greece," observing that the Greek writings, when translated into other tongues, lose most of their original beauty, but Ephraim's works "are no less admired when read in Greek than when read in Syriac" (Eccl. Hist., Book III, 16). Saint Ephraim was ordained Deacon, some say by Saint Basil the Great, whom Sozomen said "was a great admirer of Ephraim, and was astonished at his erudition." Saint Ephraim was the first to make the poetic expression of hymnody and song a vehicle of Orthodox theological teachings, constituting it an integral part of the Church's worship; he may rightly be called the first and greatest hymnographer of the church, who set the pattern for those who followed him, especially Saint Romanus the Melodist. Because of this he is called the "harp of the Holy Spirit." Saint Jerome says that his writings were read in some churches after the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and adds that once he read a Greek translation of one of Saint Ephraim's works, "and recognized, even in translation, the incisive power of his lofty genius" (De vir. ill., ch.CXV).
Shortly before the end of his life, a famine broke out in Edessa, and Saint Ephraim left his cell to rebuke the rich for not sharing their goods with the poor. The rich answered that they knew no one to whom they could entrust their goods. Saint Ephraim asked them, "What do you think of me?" When they confessed their reverence for him, he offered to distribute their alms, to which they agreed. He himself cared with his own hands for many of the sick from the famine, and so crowned his life with mercy and lover for neighbor. Saint Ephraim reposed in peace, according to some in the year 373 AD, according to others, 379 AD.
Another account about Saint Ephraim states that "because of his youthfulness, he was of the opinion that everything happens by chance, but the following unpleasant happening convinced him he was wrong. Once, the young Ephraim was accused of stealing sheep, for which the judge sent him to jail even though he was completely innocent. Finding himself in the dungeon and lamenting over what happened, Ephraim once saw in a dream how he was being punished for other sins that he truly committed. After a certain period, the judge found out about his innocence and released him. Saint Ephraim realized that people's lives were not directed by blind chance, but by Lord God. After this, Saint Ephraim abandoned the world and withdrew into the mountains with the recluses, where he became a disciple of Saint James of Nisibis. Under his guidance, Ephraim changed and became meek, penitent and committed to God.
James became a bishop and made Ephraim his assistant. Later, Saint Ephraim went to Edessa and withdrew into the mountains. Here he committed himself to a strict routine of monastic ordeals and zealously studied the Word of God. God endowed Saint Ephraim with the gift of teaching and he became renowned for his inspirational sermons. He labored intensely in expounding the Holy Scriptures and enunciating Orthodox teachings. At the close of his life, he visited the great Holy Fathers of the Nitria desert (in Egypt) as well as Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he met Saint Basil the Great.
"Whenever I have meditated upon You I have acquired a veritable treasure from You, whatever aspect of You I have contemplated, a stream has flowed from You; there is no way I can contain it. Your fountain, Lord, is hidden form the person who does not thirst for You" (Faith 32:2-3).
"The chutzpah of our love is pleasing to you, O Lord, just as it pleased you that we should steal from Your bounty."
"The hater of mankind, in his shameless impudence, attacks the Holy Church in the person of her servers. O Lord, do not leave Thy Holy Church without Thy care, that the promise that Thou didst utter concerning her invincibility may not be shown false".
"Blessed is the person who has consented to become the close friend of faith and of prayer: he lives in single-mindedness and makes prayer and faith stop by with him. Prayer that rises up in someone's heart serves to open for us the door of heaven: that person stands in converse with the Divinity and gives pleasure to the Son of God. Prayer makes peace with the Lord's anger and with the vehemence of His wrath. In this way too, tears that well up in the eyes can open the door of compassion."
The Seraph could not touch the fire's coal with his fingers, but just brought it close to Isaiah's mouth: the Seraph did not hold it, Isaiah did not consume it, but us our Lord has allowed to do both".
PRAYER OF SAINT EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN USUALLY OFFERED DURING GREAT AND HOLY LENT
O Lord and Master of my life, Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness, 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. Amen.
Over four hundred hymns composed by Saint Ephraim still exist. Granted that some have been lost to us, Saint Ephraim's productivity is not in doubt. The Church history Sozomen credits Saint Ephraim with having written over three million lines. Saint Ephraim combines in his writings a threefold heritage: he draws on the models and methods of early Rabbinic Judaism, he engages wonderfully with Greek science and philosophy, and he delights in the Mesopotamian/Persian tradition of mystery symbolism.
The most important of his works are his lyric hymns. These hymns are full of rich imagery drawn from biblical sources, folk tradition, and other religions and philosophies.
Saint Ephraim wrote exclusively in the Syriac language, but translations of his writings exist in Armenian, Coptic, Greek and other languages
SAINT ISAAC the great luminary of the life of stillness, was born in the early 7th century in Eastern Arabia, the present-day Qatar on the Persian Gulf. He became a monk at a young age, and at some time left Arabia to dwell with monks in Persia. He was consecrated Bishop of Nineveh (and is therefore sometimes called "Saint Isaac of Nineveh"), but after five months received permission to return to solitude; he spent many years far south of Nineveh in the mountainous region of Beit Huzaye, and lastly at the Monastery of Rabban Shabur. He wrote his renowned and God-inspired Ascetical Homilies toward the end of his long life of monastic struggle, about the end of the 7th century. The fame of his Homilies grew quickly, and about one hundred years after their composition they were translated from Syriac into Greek by two monks of the Monastery of Mar Savvas in Palestine, from which they spread throughout the monasteries of the Roman Empire and became a guide to hesychasts of all generations thereafter.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of Saint Isaac. Plagal of First Tone
He that thundered on Sinai with saving laws for man hath also given thy writings as guides in prayer unto monks, O revealer of unfathomable mysteries; for having gone up in the mount of the vision of the Lord, thou was shown the many mansions. Wherefore, O God-bearing Isaac, entreat the Savior for all praising thee.
Kontakion of Saint Isaac. Plagal of Fourth Tone
As an ascetic and God-bearer great in righteousness and an instructor of monastics do we honor thee, thou revealer of things sacred, and our protector. But, O Isaac, since thou hast great boldness with the Lord, intercede with Him for all of us who sing thy praise and who cry to thee: Rejoice, O Father most wise in God.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God