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Dreptul Părintele nostru Efrem Sirul a fost un prolific scriitor de imnuri şi teolog din secolul IV. El este cinstit de creştini din lumea întreagă, dar în mod deosebit de creştinii siriaci, ca sfânt. Prăznuirea sa în Biserica Ortodoxă este în 28 Ianuarie.
Efrem mai este cunoscut şi ca Efraim (ebraică sau greacă), Efrem (latină), Afraim sau Afrem (ambele siriace). Totuşi, "Efrem" este scrierea preferată în general.
- Siriacă — ܡܪܝ ܐܦܪܝܡ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ — Mâr Aphrêm Sûryâyâ.
- Greacă — Άγιος Εφραιμ Συρος — Hagios Ephraim Syros.
- Latină — Sanctus Ephraem Syrus
- Engleză — Saint Ephrem the Syrian
- Arabă — أفرام السرياني — Afram as-Suryani
Efrem s-a născut în jurul anului 306, în oraşul Nisibis (actualul Nusaybin, la graniţa cu Siria). Dovezi cuprinse în imnografia sa sugerează că ambii săi părinţi făceau parte din comunitatea creştină în creştere a oraşului, deşi hagiografii târzii au scris că tatăl său era preot păgân. În Nisibis-ul zilelor lui Efrem erau vorbite numeroase limbi, îndeosebi dialecte ale aramaicii. Comunitatea creştină folosea dialectul siriac. Numeroase religii păgâne, iudaismul şi grupările creştine timpurii concurau una cu cealaltă pentru inima şi sufletul locuitorilor. Erau vremuri de puternice tensiuni religioase şi politice. Împăratul roman Diocleţian semanse un tratat cu omologul său persan, Nerses în 298 care trecuse Nisibis în mâinile romanilor. Persecuţiile sălbatice ale lui Diocleţian sunt o parte importantă a moştenirii bisericii Nisibene din perioada creşterii lui Efrem.
Sfântul Iacov (Mar Jacob), primul episcop din Nisibis, a fost ales în 308, Iar Efrem a crescut sub îndrumarea sa. Sfântul Iacov este cunoscut ca unul din participanţii la Primul Sinod Ecumenic din 325. Efem a fost botezat de tânăr, Iacov i-a fost profesor (în siriacă malpânâ, un titlu cu o mare încărcătură de respect pentru creştinii siriaci). A fost hirotonit ca diacon or atunci ori mai târziu. A început să compună imnuri şi să scrie comentarii biblice ca parte a sarcinilor sale educative. În imnurile sale, adeseori se referă la sine însuşi ca la un "om care adună laolaltă", (`allânâ), la episcopul său ca "păstorul" (râ`yâ) iar la comunitatea sa ca "ţarc" (dayrâ). Popular, Efrem este creditat ca fondatorul Şcolii din Nisibis, care în secolele următoare a a fost centrul învăţăturilor Bisericii Asiriene de Răsărit (i.e., Nestorieni).
În 337, împăratul Constantin I, care a transformat creştinismul în religie legală (recepta) în Imperiul Roman, a murit. Profitând de această oportunitate, Shapur al II-lea al Persiei a iniţiat o serie de atacuri în nordul Mesopotamiei de sub administraţie romană. Nisibis a fost asediat în 338, 346 şi 350. În timpul primului asediu, Efrem consideră că episcopul Iacov a apărat oraşul cu rugăciunile sale. Episcopul îndrăgit de Efrem a murit curând după acest evenimet, iar Babu a condus destinele bisericii prin vremurile tulburi ale disputelor de frontieră. În timpul celui de-al treilea asediu, din anul 350, Shapur a schimbat cursul râului Mygdonius pentru a ocoli zidurile Nisibisului. Nisibisenii au refăcut repede fortificaţiile în timp ce cavaleria pe elefanţi a perşilor s-a împotmolit în pământul mocirlos de pe fundul râului. Efrem a sărbătorit salvarea miraculoasă a oraşului într-un imn ca fiind ca plutirea sigură Arcei lui Noe pe puhoaiele potopului.
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.
Ephrem found himself among a large group of refugees that fled west, first to Amida (Diyarbakir), and eventually settling in Edessa (modern Sanli Urfa) in 363. Ephrem, in his late fifties, applied himself to ministry in his new church, and seems to have continued his work as a teacher (perhaps in the School of Edessa). Edessa had always been at the heart of the Syriac-speaking world, and the city was full of rival philosophies and religions. Ephrem comments that Orthodox Nicene Christians were simply called "Palutians" in Edessa, after a former bishop. Arians, Marcionites, Manichees, Bardaisanites and various Gnostic sects proclaimed themselves as the true Church. In this confusion, Ephrem wrote a great number of hymns defending Orthodoxy. A later Syriac writer, Jacob of Serugh, wrote that Ephrem rehearsed all female choirs to sing his hymns set to Syriac folk tunes in the forum of Edessa.
After a ten-year residency in Edessa, in his sixties, Ephrem reposed in peace, according to some in the year 373, according to others, 379.
Over four hundred hymns 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 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 homilies (mêmrê). These sermons in poetry are far fewer in number than the madrâšê. The mêmrê are written in a heptosyllabic couple]s (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 wrote exclusively in the Syriac language, but translations of his writings exist in Armenian, Coptic, Greek and other languages. Some of his works are extant only in translation (particularly in Armenian). Syriac churches still use many of Ephrem's hymns as part of the annual cycle of worship. However, most of these liturgical hymns are edited and conflated versions of the originals.
The most complete, critical text of authentic Ephrem was compiled between 1955 and 1979 by Dom Edmund Beck, OSB as part of the Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium.
Ephrem's artful meditations on the symbols of Christian faith and his stand against heresy made him a popular source of inspiration throughout the church. This occurred to the extent that there is a huge corpus of Ephrem pseudepigraphy and legendary hagiography. Some of these compositions are in verse, often a version of Ephrem's heptosyllabic couplets. Most of these works are considerably later compositions in Greek. Students of Ephrem often refer to this corpus as having a single, imaginary author called Greek Ephrem or Ephraem Graecus (as opposed to the real Ephrem the Syrian). This is not to say that all texts ascribed to Ephrem in Greek are false, but many are. Although Greek compositions are the main source of pseudepigraphal material, there are also works in Latin, Slavonic and Arabic. There has been very little critical examination of these works, and many are still treasured by churches as authentic.
The most well known of these writings is the Prayer of Saint Ephrem that is a part of most days of fasting in Eastern Christianity:
- O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power, and idle talk.
- But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to thy servant.
- Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother, for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
- O God, be gracious to me, a sinner.
Veneration as a saint
Though St. Ephrem was probably not formally a monk, he was known to have practiced a severe ascetical life, ever increasing in holiness. In Ephrem's day, monasticism was in its infancy in the Egypt. He seems to have been a part of a close-knit, urban community of Christians that had "covenanted" themselves to service and refrained from sexual activity. Some of the Syriac terms that Ephrem used to describe his community were later used to describe monastic communities, but the assertion that he was monk is probably anachronistic.
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 Natun, 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.
With the Tradition of the Church, Ephrem also shows that poetry is not only a valid vehicle for theology, but in many ways superior to philosophical discourse. He also encourages a way of reading the Holy Scripture that is rooted in faith more than critical analysis. Ephrem displays a deep sense of the interconnectedness of all created things, which leads some to see him as a "saint of ecology."
"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 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 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.
Troparion (Tone 8)
- By a flood of tears you made the desert fertile,
- And your longing for God brought forth fruits in abundance.
- By the radiance of miracles you illumined the whole universe.
- O our holy father Ephraim, pray to Christ our God to save our souls!
Kontakion (Tone 2)
- O holy father Ephraim,
- As you meditated constantly on the final judgment,
- You shed abundant tears of sorrow,
- Making your struggles examples that we could follow and imitate,
- And awakening the slothful to repentance:
- You are indeed a father of high renown.
- Brock, Sebastian P (1985). The luminous eye: the spiritual world vision of Saint Ephrem, Cistercian Publications (ISBN 0-87907-624-0)
- Brock, Sebastian (trans.) (1990). Hymns on paradise: St. Ephrem the Syrian. St Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York (ISBN 0-88141-076-4)
- Griffith, Sidney H (1997). Faith adoring the mystery: reading the Bible with St. Ephraem the Syrian. Marquette University Press, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (ISBN 0-87462-577-7)
- Matthews, Edward G and Joseph P Amar (trans.), Kathleen McVey (ed.) (1994). Saint Ephrem the Syrian: selected prose works. Catholic University of America Press (ISBN 0-8132-0091-1)
- McVey, Kathleen E (trans.) (1989). Ephrem the Syrian: hymns. Paulist Press. (ISBN 0-8091-3093-9)
- Wikipedia:Ephrem the Syrian
- Margonitho: Mor Ephrem the Syrian
- Saint Ephrem the Syrian Library
- Anastasis article
- Hugoye: Influence of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, part 1
- Hugoye: Influence of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, part 2
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Saint Ephraem
- Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911: "Ephraem Syrus"
- Ephraim the Syrian from the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
- Venerable Ephraim the Syrian from the website of the OCA
- Selections from the Hymns of St. Ephrem the Syrian on the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ in the Flesh (PDF) - Arranged responsorially by Fr. Josiah Trenham
- Prayer of Saint Ephraim
- Icon of St. Ephraim the Syrian