St. Ephrem the Syrian

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Today, June 9, is the Memorial of St. Ephrem the Syrian.

Ephrem was born in 306 in Nisibis in southern modern-day Turkey. He was baptized at age 18 and it was then that he may also have been ordained a deacon. He lived an ascetic life, but this did not prevent him from his ministries of aiding the poor, preaching, and writing. Ephrem wrote many treatise to assist the faithful in understanding the faith, but he is especially regarded for his hymns. 400 of St. Ephrem’s hymns remain extant today, and his hymns were so loved that they earned him the title “Harp of the Spirit.” In 363, Ephrem fled to Edessa to escape the Persians. There he continued his ministries, writing hymns and also treatises against Arianism, defending the Council of Nicaea. He died in Edessa in 373. Ephrem was canonized by public acclimation, and in 1920, Pope Benedict XV declared him a Doctor of the Church, the first and, so far, only permanent deacon to be so honored.

From a sermon by St. Ephrem the Syrian:

Lord, shed upon our darkened souls the brilliant light of your wisdom so that we may be enlightened and serve you with renewed purity. Sunrise marks the hour for men to begin their toil, but in our souls, Lord, prepare a dwelling for the day that will never end. Grant that we may come to know the risen life and that nothing may distract us from the delights you offer. Through our unremitting zeal for you, Lord, set upon us the sign of your day that is not measured by the sun.

In your sacrament we daily embrace you and receive you into our bodies; make us worthy to experience the resurrection for which we hope. We have had your treasure hidden within us ever since we received baptismal grace; it grows ever richer at your sacramental table. Teach us to find our joy in your favor! Lord, we have within us your memorial, received at your spiritual table; let us possess it in its full reality when all things shall be made new.

We glimpse the beauty that is laid up for us when we gaze upon the spiritual beauty your immortal will now creates with our mortal selves.

Savior, your crucifixion marked the end of your mortal life; teach us to crucify ourselves and make way for our life in the Spirit. May your resurrection, Jesus, bring true greatness to our spiritual self and may your sacraments be the mirror wherein we may know that self.

Savior, your divine plan for the world is a mirror for the spiritual world; teach us to walk in that world as spiritual men.

Lord, do not deprive our souls of the spiritual vision of you nor our bodies of your warmth and sweetness. The mortality lurking in our bodies spreads corruption through us; may the spiritual waters of your love cleanse the effects of mortality from our hearts. Grant, Lord, that we may hasten to our true city and, like Moses on the mountaintop, possess it now in vision.

Lord, in your love fill our hearts with the Holy Spirit, who inspired the deacon Ephrem to sing the praise of your mysteries and gave him strength to serve you alone. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who llives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Sources: Saint Ephrem the Syrian, Deacon and Doctor of the Church (

Liturgy of the Hours, Book III, Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1975.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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