Monday, December 2, 2013

Ephrem of Edessa

Ephrem of Edessa (circa 306—373) is a poet and church teacher who lived in the Syrian city of Edessa, which is close to Damascus. In 325 Ephrem accompanied Bishop James of Nisibis to the council of Nicea, in present-day Turkey. This was when the Nicene Creed was adopted by the first ecumenical council, which declares acceptance of the common doctrine of Christ's divinity.

Ephrem often wrote in support of Nicene doctrine, and in opposition to Gnosticism and other heresies. He is credited as the founder of the School of Nisibis, which became a centre of learning in the Syriac Orthodox Church. He is known as "the Harp of the Holy Spirit" because of his use of music for teaching doctrine.

(The following was translated by John Howard Rhys, and adapted for the Episcopal hymnbook by F. Bland Tucker.)

From God Christ's Deity Came Forth

From God Christ's deity came forth,
his manhood from humanity;
his priesthood from Melchizedek,
his royalty from David's tree:
praised be his Oneness.

He joined with guests at wedding feast,
yet in the wilderness did fast;
he taught within the temple's gates;
his people saw him die at last:
praised be his teaching.

The dissolute he did not scorn,
nor turn from those who were in sin;
he for the righteous did rejoice
but bade the fallen to come in:
praised be his mercy.

He did not disregard the sick;
to simple ones his word was given;
and he descended to the earth
and, his work done, went up to heaven:
praised be his coming.

Who then, my Lord, compares to you?
The Watcher slept, the Great was small,
the Pure baptized, the Life who died,
the King abased to honor all:
praised be your glory.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.