Our Righteous Father ''' Ephrem the Syrian''' was a prolific Syriac language hymn writer and theologian of the 4th century. He is venerated by Christians throughout the world, but especially among Syriac Christians, as a [[ saint]]. His [[ feast day]] in the [[ Orthodox Church]] is [[ January 28]].
[[Image:Ephrem the Syrian.jpg|right|frame|Sf. Efrem Sirul]]
Name == Ephrem is also variously known as Ephraim ( Hebrew and Greek), Ephraem ( Latin), Aphrem and Afrem ( both Syriac). However, " Ephrem" is the generally preferred spelling.: Syriac — <big> ܡܪܝ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ</big> — ''Mâr Aphrêm Sûryâyâ''.: Greek — Άγιος Εφραιμ Συρος — ''Hagios Ephraim Syros''.: Latin — Sanctus Ephraem Syrus: English — Saint Ephrem the Syrian: Arabic — أفرام السرياني — ''Afram as-Suryani''
Life == Ephrem was born around the year 306, in the city of Nisibis ( the modern Turkish town of Nusaybin, on the border with Syria). Internal evidence from Ephrem's hymnody suggests that both his parents were part of the growing Christian community in the city, although later hagiographers wrote that his father was a pagan priest. Numerous languages were spoken in the Nisibis of Ephrem's day, mostly dialects of Aramaic. The Christian community used the Syriac dialect. Various pagan religions, [[ Judaism]] and early Christian sects vied with one another for the hearts and minds of the populace. It was a time of great religious and political tension. The Roman Emperor [[ Diocletian]] had signed a treaty with his Persian counterpart, Nerses in 298 that transferred Nisibis into Roman hands. The savage persecution and martyrdom of Christians under Diocletian were an important part of Nisibene church heritage as Ephrem grew up.
St. [[James of Nisibis|James]] (Mar Jacob), the first [[ bishop]] of Nisibis, was appointed in 308, and Ephrem grew up under his leadership of the community. St. James is recorded as a signatory at the [[ First Ecumenical Council]] in 325. Ephrem was [[ baptism| baptized]] as a youth, and James appointed him as a teacher ( Syriac ''malpânâ'', a title that still carries great respect for Syriac Christians). He was ordained as a [[ deacon]] either at this time or later. He began to compose hymns and write biblical commentaries as part of his educational office. In his hymns, he sometimes refers to himself as a " herdsman" (''`allânâ''), to his bishop as the " shepherd" (''râ`yâ'') and his community as a " fold" (''dayrâ''). Ephrem is popularly credited as the founder of the School of Nisibis, which in later centuries was the centre of learning of the [[ Assyrian Church of the East]] (i.e., the [[Nestorianism| Nestorians]]).
In 337, emperor [[ Constantine the Great| Constantine I]], who had established Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire, died. Seizing on this opportunity, Shapur II of Persia began a series of attacks into Roman North Mesopotamia. Nisibis was besieged in 338, 346 and 350. During the first siege, Ephrem credits Bishop James as defending the city with his prayers. Ephrem's beloved bishop died soon after the event, and Babu led the church through the turbulent times of border skirmishes. In the third siege, of 350, Shapur rerouted the River Mygdonius to undermine the walls of Nisibis. The Nisibenes quickly repaired the walls while the Persian elephant cavalry became bogged down in the wet ground. Ephrem celebrated the miraculous salvation of the city in a hymn as being like Noah's Ark floating to safety on the flood.
One important physical link to Ephrem's lifetime is the baptistery of Nisibis. The inscription tells that it was constructed under Bishop Vologeses in 359. That was the year that Shapur began to harry the region once again. The cities around Nisibis were destroyed one by one, and their citizens killed or deported. The Roman Empire was preoccupied in the west, and [[Constantius]] and [[Julian the Apostate]] struggled for overall control. Eventually, with Constantius dead, Julian began his march into Mesopotamia. He brought with him his increasingly stringent persecutions on Christians. Julian began a foolhardy march against the Persian capital Ctesiphon, where, overstretched and outnumbered, he began an immediate retreat back along the same road. Julian was killed defending his retreat, and the army elected Jovian as the new emperor. Unlike his predecessor, Jovian was a Nicene Christian. He was forced by circumstances to ask for terms from Shapur, and conceded Nisibis to Persia, with the rule that the city's Christian community would leave. Bishop Abraham, the successor to Vologeses, led his people into exile.