Optional Memorial of St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor

Mor_ephrem_icon

Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.

– St. Ephrem of Syria


St. Ephrem, called “the Harp of the Holy Spirit,” is the great classic Doctor of the Syrian church. As deacon at Edessa, he vigorously combated the heresies of his time, and to do so more effectively wrote poems and hymns about the mysteries of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints. He had a great devotion to Our Lady. He was a commentator on Scripture and a preacher as well as a poet, and has left a considerable number of works, which were translated into other Eastern languages as well as into Greek and Latin. He died in 373. Benedict XV proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1920.


READ THE BIBLE AT MASS

First Reading: Acts 22:30; 23:6-11

Wishing to determine the truth about why Paul was being accused by the Jews, the commander freed him and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to convene. Then he brought Paul down and made him stand before them.

Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees, so he called out before the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees; I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the group became divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all three. A great uproar occurred, and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party stood up and sharply argued, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” The dispute was so serious that the commander, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, ordered his troops to go down and rescue Paul from their midst and take him into the compound. The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

Responsorial Psalm: 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,you it is who hold fast my lot. 

R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.

I bless the LORD who counsels me;even in the night my heart exhorts me.I set the LORD ever before me;with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,my body, too, abides in confidence;Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.

R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.

You will show me the path to life,fullness of joys in your presence,the delights at your right hand forever.

R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Gospel: Jn 17:20-26

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:

“I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”


SAINT EPHREM

Ephrem was of Syrian descent and son of a citizen of Nisibis. While yet a young man be betook himself to the holy bishop James, by whom he was baptized, and he soon made such progress in holiness and learning as to be appointed master in the school of Nisibis in Mesopotamia. After the death of the bishop James, Nisibis was captured by the Persians, and Ephrem went to Edessa, where he settled first among the monks in the mountains. Later, to avoid the company of those who flocked to him, he adopted the eremitical life. He was made deacon of the church of Edessa, but refused the priesthood out of humility. He was rich in all virtues and strove to acquire piety and religion by the following of true wisdom. He placed all his hope in God, despised all human and transitory things, and was ever filled with the earnest desire of those which are divine and eternal.

He was led by the Spirit of God to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he saw Basil, the mouthpiece of the Church, and they obtained benefit from their mutual intercourse. In order to refute the many errors which troubled the Church at that time, and to expound the mysteries of Jesus Christ, he wrote many books in the Syrian tongue, almost all of which have been translated into Greek. St. Jerome bears witness that he attained such fame that his writings were read publicly in the churches after the reading from the Holy Scriptures.

On account of his works, so full of the light of heavenly doctrine, he was greatly honored even during his lifetime as a Doctor of the Church. He composed a poem in praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints for which he was called by the Syrians “the Harp of the Holy Ghost.” He was noted for his great and tender devotion towards the immaculate Virgin. He died, rich in merits, at Edessa in Mesopotamia, on the fourteenth of the Kalends of July, in the reign of Valens. Pope Benedict XV, at the instance of many Cardinals of the holy Roman Church, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, abbots and religious communities, declared him by a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites to be a Doctor of the Universal Church.

Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

Patron: Spiritual directors; spiritual leaders.

Symbols: cowl with small cross; pillar of light; scourge.

Often portrayed: In monastic habit; lying on a funeral slab; with a scroll and vine, as a deacon.

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