Saturday, February 25, 2012

First Saturday of Holy Lent - St. Ephraim-4

We celebrate the first Saturday of the Lent Memory of St Theodore and St Ephraim. This is the fourth part of this short article on St. Ephraim by my friend Jacob Varghese of Sharjah

Mar Aprem - ‘HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT’ - 1st Sat of Great Lent

When the heretic Apollinaris was creating havoc in the Church with his erroneous teaching concerning the nature of Christ at His Incarnation, St. Ephraim tricked Apollinaris' servant into lending him the two books in which these teachings were set forth. After gluing all the pages together, he returned the books to the unsuspecting servant and then challenged Apollinaris to a public debate. When Apollinaris found himself unable to open his books to quote from them, he became thoroughly confused and retired in shame. His heresy soon died out.

He served the Nisibian community during several Roman and Persian sieges. A story is often related that on one such siege he cursed the Persian attackers from the city walls and a cloud of flies and mosquitoes settled on the army of Shapur II and compelled it to withdraw. To escape the cruel Persian persecution of the Christians, Assyrian populations of the Bet-Nahrain communities abandoned their homes. Mar Aphrem, too, accompanied his flock from Nisibin and finally settled at Edessa (Urhai), the capital of Osrhoene (Atouriya or Little Assyria). Living as a monk and a prolific writer, he spend the remaining years of his life defending his theology against the heresies of his time.

Not only was St. Ephraim en eloquent and powerful teacher, he was also a prolific writer. Although he lacked a formal education, he comprehended with ease the most abstruse problems of philosophy, and his commentaries on the Old Testament books of Moses impressed even the most scholarly men of Ms time. But if his writings spoke to the mind, they were more greatly to be praised for the effect they had on the soul. As St. Gregory of Nyssa writes: “Who that is proud would not become the humblest of men, reading his discourse on humility? Who would not be influenced with a divine fire, reading his discourse on charity? Who would not wish to be chaste in heart and soul by reading the praise he has lavished on virginity? Who would not be frightened by hearing his discourse on the Last Judgment, which he has depicted so vividly that nothing can be added to it?"

To be Continueed...

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