1. Religion & Spirituality
Scott P. Richert

Saint Ephrem the Syrian: Praying Through Song

By June 9, 2013

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June 9 is the feast day of Saint Ephrem the Syrian. Born around 306, Saint Ephrem lived through some of the most tumultuous times in the early Church. Heresies, especially Arianism, were rampant; the Church faced persecution; and without Christ's promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it, the Church might not have survived.

As a deacon, Saint Ephrem distributed food and other necessary goods to the poor, but just as deacons do today, he also assisted priests in preaching the Gospel. His most effective tools for helping Christians understand the True Faith were the prayers (such as the penitential Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian, recited by Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox during Lent) and the hundreds of hymns that he composed. Not all Christians have the time or the opportunity to study theology in any depth, but they all join in worship, and even children can easily memorize theologically rich hymns.

Thus, Saint Ephrem helped spread the faith through song, and, in recognition of his accomplishment, Pope Benedict XV in 1920 declared him a Doctor of the Church, a title reserved to a small number of men and women whose writings have advanced the Christian Faith.

(Icon of Saint Ephrem the Syrian, from Meryemana Kilesesi, Diyarbakr, Turkey. Public Domain).

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