Poet, teacher, orator and defender of the faith, Ephrem is the only Syrian recognized as a doctor of the Church. He took upon himself the special task of opposing the many false doctrines rampant at his time, always remaining a true and forceful defender of the Catholic Church.
Born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia, he was baptized as a young man and became famous as a teacher in his native city. When the Christian emperor had to cede Nisibis to the Persians, Ephrem, along with many Christians, fled as a refugee to Edessa. He is credited with attracting great glory to the biblical school there. He was ordained a deacon but declined becoming a priest (and was said to have avoided episcopal consecration by feigning madness!).
He had a prolific pen, and his writings best illumine his holiness. Although he was not a man of great scholarship, his works reflect deep insight and knowledge of the Scriptures. In writing about the mysteries of humanity’s redemption, Ephrem reveals a realistic and humanly sympathetic spirit and a great devotion to the humanity of Jesus. It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante.
It is surprising to read that he wrote hymns against the heretics of his day. He would take the popular songs of the heretical groups and, using their melodies, compose beautiful hymns embodying orthodox doctrine. Ephrem became one of the first to introduce song into the Church’s public worship as a means of instruction for the faithful. His many hymns have earned him the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit.”
He preferred a simple, austere life, living in a small cave overlooking the city of Edessa. It was here he died around 373.
Comment:Many Catholics still find singing in church a problem, probably because of the rather individualistic piety that they inherited. Yet singing has been a tradition of both the Old and the New Testament. It is an excellent way of expressing and creating a community spirit of unity as well as joy. Ephrem's hymns, an ancient historian testifies, "lent luster to the Christian assemblies." We need some modern Ephrems—and cooperating singers—to do the same for our Christian assemblies today.
Lay me not with sweet spices,
For this honor avails me not,
Nor yet use incense and perfumes,
For the honor befits me not.
Burn yet the incense in the holy place;
As for me, escort me only with your prayers,
Give ye your incense to God,
And over me send up hymns.
Instead of perfumes and spices,
Be mindful of me in your intercessions.
(From The Testament of St. Ephrem)
Today also in the Latin Calendar we commemorate SS. Mark and Marcellian, Martyrs. A story about this commemoration can be found by Clicking Here.
Mark and Marcellian were twin brothers from a noble Roman family. They had converted to Christianity when they were young and were now deacons in the Roman Church. Although the boys had converted in their youth, their parents remained unconverted. Each brother had a wife and children. When the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian began, the brothers were arrested and thrown into prison. They were threatened with the loss of their lives, unless they offered sacrifices to the Roman gods. Friends intervened and obtained a thirty-day reprieve, in the hope of being able to persuade the two brothers to renounce their faith and make the required sacrifices. Their wives and little children, along with their unconverted parents, begged them with tears and pleading, to make the sacrifices to the Roman gods.
Although they had been released from the prison on a thirty-day reprieve, they were still kept under guard and basically prisoners in the home of the public registrar Nicostratus. St. Sebastian (pg. 34 Building the Family Cookbook Feast Day: January 20th) was a Roman officer in the emperor’s household. St. Sebastian visited Mark and Marcellian every day and gave them encouragement to persevere. These discussions, before relatives and friends, caused many conversions to take place, even Nicostratus. Another man, Chromatius, who kept the prisoners under guard, also converted. He set the prisoners free, resigned his post and left to live in the country. After their release, Mark and Marcellian were hidden by a Christian official in the imperial household. They were betrayed by a spy and arrested again. Fabian (who had replaced Chromatius after his conversion) condemned Mark and Marcellian to death. The tombs of the two martyrs were discovered in the Catacomb of St. Balbina.
Their tombs were surmounted by a painting representing the “coronation of themselves and their companions.” The relics of St. Mark and St. Marcellian are found in Rome in the Basilica of St. Praxedes.
God Is Persistent:
God does not hide from us, and He persists in coming after us until He finds us and takes us to Himself.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
Make a habit of thinking of him (your guardian angel).
Paint an image according to the pattern you see
In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale. After a while, Jesus said to me, "Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You". - (Diary No. 47)