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Ephrem the Syrian

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Over four hundred [[hymn]]s composed by Ephrem still exist. Granted that some have been lost to us, Ephrem's productivity is not in doubt. The church historian [[Sozomen]] credits Ephrem with having written over three million lines. Ephrem combines in his writing 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 (''madrâšê''). These hymns are full of rich imagery drawn for from biblical sources, folk tradition, and other religions and philosophies. The madrâšê are written in stanzas of syllabic verse, and employ over fifty different metrical schemes. Each madrâšê has its ''qâlâ'', a traditional tune identified by its opening line. All of these qâlê are now lost. It seems that [[Bardaisan]] and [[Mani]] composed madrâšê, and Ephrem felt that the medium was a suitable tool to use against their claims. The madrâšê are gathered into various hymn cycles. Each group has a title — ''Carmina Nisibena'', ''On Faith'', ''On Paradise'', ''On Virginity'', ''Against Heresies''—but some of these titles do not do justice to the entirety of the collection (for instance, only the first half of the ''Carmina Nisibena'' is about Nisibis). Each madrâšâ usually had a refrain (''`unîtâ''), which was repeated after each stanza. Later writers have suggested that the madrâšê were sung by all women choirs with an accompanying lyre.
Ephrem also wrote verse [[homily|homilies]] (''mêmrê''). These sermons in poetry are far fewer in number than the madrâšê. The mêmrê are written in a heptosyllabic couple]s couplets (pairs of lines of seven syllables each).
The third category of Ephrem's writings is his prose work. He wrote biblical commentaries on [[Tatian]]'s [[Diatessaron]] (the single gospel harmony of the early Syriac church), on [[Genesis]] and [[Exodus]], and on the [[Acts of the Apostles]] and [[Pauline Epistles]]. He also wrote refutations against [[Bardaisan]], [[Mani]], [[Marcion]] and others.
Ephrem is popularly believed to have taken certain legendary journeys. In one of these he visits St. [[Basil the Great]]. This links the Syrian Ephrem with the [[Cappadocian Fathers]], and is an important theological bridge between the spiritual view of the two, who held much in common.
Ephrem is also supposed to have visited Abba Bishoi (Pisoes) in the monasteries of the Wadi NatunNatrun, Egypt. As with the legendary visit with Basil, this visit is a theological bridge between the origins of monasticism and its spread throughout the church.
The most popular title for Ephrem is ''Harp of the Spirit'' (Syriac Kenârâ d-Rûhâ). He is also referred to as the ''Deacon of Edessa'', the ''Sun of the Syrians'' and a ''Pillar of the Church''.
== Quotations ==
"The hutzpah 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 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 singlemindedness single-mindedness and makes prayer and faith stop by with him. Prayer that rises up in someone's heart serves to open up 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."
* (Ephrem is) "The greatest poet of the patristic age and, perhaps, the only theologian-poet to rank beside Dante." — Robert Murray.
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