The Feast of St. Ephraim the Syrian, Life and Works

++My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


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 Council. 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 heretic 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 contest 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, a famous historian of the early Church, says that Saint 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 Saint Ephraim's work "are no less admired when read in Greek than when read in Syriac". Saint Ephraim was ordained Deacon, some say by Saint Basil the Great, whom Sozomen said "was a great admirer of Saint 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' 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 Romanos the Melodist (Melodos), 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 Scripture, 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."

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 of whom they could entrust their goods. Saint Ephraim asked then, "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 form the famine, and so crowned his life with mercy and love for neighbor. Saint Ephraim reposed in peace, according to some in the year 373 AD, according to others, 379 AD.


The great luminary of the life of stillness, Saint Isaac, was born in the early seventh 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 long life of monastic struggle, about the end of the seventh century. The fame of his Homilies grew quickly, and about 100 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.


With the streams of your tears, you cultivated the barrenness of the desert; and by your sighing from the depths, you beared fruit a hundredfold in labors; and you became a luminary, shining with miracles upon the world, O Ephraim our righteous Father. Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.


He that thundered on Mount Sinai with saving laws for man has also given your 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, you were shown the many mansions. Wherefore, O God bearing Isaac, entreat the Savior for all praising you.

(Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia)


Saint Ephraim the Syrian: According to thy mercy, pour out...

"According to Thy mercy, pour upon me, who am miserable, at least one small drop of grace to make me understand and be converted, that I might make at least some small effort to correct myself. For if Thy grace does not illumine my soul, I will not be able to see the carelessness and negligence that the passions have produced in me through my apathy and recklessness."

"Glory be to Him, Who never felt the need of our praising Him..."

"Glory be to Him, Who never felt the need of our praising Him; yet felt the need as being kind to us, and thirsted as loving us, and asks us to give to Him, and longs to give to us. His fruit was mingled with us men, that in Him we might come near to Him, Who condescended to us. By the Fruit of His stem He grafted us into His Tree."

"Come, let us wonder at the Virgin Most Pure..."

"Come, let us wonder at the Virgin Most Pure, wondrous in herself, unique in creation, she gave birth, yet knew no man; her pure soul with wonder was filled, daily her mind gave praise in joy at the twofold wonder: her virginity preserved, her Child most dear. Blessed is He Who shone forth from her!"

"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."

"Imagine that someone, while standing before a king..."

"Imagine that someone, while standing before a king and conversing with him, at the summons of a servant like unto himself leaves the king and begins to converse with that servant; such also is he who engages in conversation and gives himself over to distraction during the Divine Service."

"Blessed the one who farms fair and good thoughts..."

"Blessed the one who farms and good thoughts each day and by hope conquers the wicked passion of despondency, by which the Lord's ascetics are warred upon."

"When you begin to read or listen to the Holy Scriptures..."

"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."



Saint Ephraim, having written countless hymns and sermons exclusively in the Syriac language, is especially beloved within the Syriac Orthodox Church. The Pearl contains eight hymns praising God for His love and offer of salvation. The collection takes its name from Jesus' parable of the Pearl of Great Price (St. Matthew 13:45-46). As in the parable, a beautiful pearl symbolizes God's Kingdom, irresistible and perfect. In verse that retains its beauty in translation, Saint Ephraim explores how God's grace changes lives.



The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


Glory Be To GOD For All Things!


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Fr. George