Tag Archives: St Ephrem

Baptism of the Lord: splendor shining forth

Baptism of the LordSaint Ephrem the Syrian (deacon and Doctor of the Church) teaches:

“Today the Source of all the graces of baptism comes himself to be baptized in the river Jordan, there to make himself known to the world. Seeing him approach, John stretches out his hand to hold him back, protesting: ‘Lord, by your own baptism you sanctify all others; yours is the true baptism, the source of perfect holiness. How can you wish to submit to mine?’ But the Lord replies,’ I wish it to be so. Come and baptize me; do as I wish, for surely you cannot refuse me. Why do you hesitate, why are you so afraid? Do you not realize that the baptism I ask for is mine by every right? By my baptism the waters will be sanctified, receiving from me fire and the Holy Spirit. Unless I am immersed in them they will never be empowered to bring forth children to eternal life. There is every reason for you to let me have my way and do what I am asking you to do. Did I not baptize you when you were in your mother’s womb? Now it is your turn to baptize me in the Jordan. So come, then, carry out your appointed task’…. See the hosts of heaven hushed and still, as the all-holy Bridegroom goes down into the Jordan. No sooner is he baptized then he comes up from the waters, his splendor shining forth over the earth. The gates of heaven are opened, and the Father’s voice is heard: ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’. All who are present stand in awe as they watch the Spirit descend to bear witness to him. O, come all you peoples, worship him! Praise to you, Lord, for your glorious epiphany which brings joy to us all! The whole world has become radiant with the light of your manifestation.”

Scripture reveals to us that we are intimately connected with the person –not the idea– of Jesus Christ. How does this happen? By grace; by the singular grace of the sacrament of Baptism. The door opened for us in the sacrament of Baptism is the fullness of communio with God, resurrection of the body (eternal life); gives us the promise of our own bodies to be glorified like the Lord’s, Baptism illumines our every step, our every fiber of our being, and by Baptism we are inserted into the Paschal Mystery of the Lord (His life, death, resurrection and Ascension), and it makes us adopted children of God. Thus, we become members of Christ’s sacrament, the Church.

Being a new creation in Christ Jesus is way of life

Christ feeding himself.jpg

The Apostle urges the followers of Jesus Christ to allow His Word and life to penetrate hearts and transform lives: to live as a “new creation.”

As Saint Ephrem of Syria taught, “Blessed the one who draws near with fear and trembling and dread to the spotless Mysteries of the Savior and has realized that he has received in himself eternal life.” 

Hence, wolves changed into sheep; sinners into disciples, zombies into human beings. Now that’s a new creation!

The Holy Eucharist and the Divine Office are graces beyond compare.

Nativity of the Lord

Blessed be the Child who today delights Bethlehem.

be the Newborn who today made humanity young again.
Blessed be the Gracious One
who suddenly enriched all of our poverty
and filled our need.

Saint Ephrem

The Season of Advent proposes reclaiming the Garden of Eden

I love the Syriac tradition of liturgical theology. Often I find it a far more satisfying liturgical tradition than the Latin church craziness I face. It is Semitic, very biblical and rich in humanity. I recommend that you immerse yourself in the poetry of Saint Ephrem, deacon and Doctor of the Church.

The Maronite Church is one of whose heritage is West Syrian theologically; historically it’s rooted in the mountains of Lebanon. Their Advent Season has already begun with what is called the Season of Announcements (follow this link for more info on the season). This past Sunday was the Announcement to Mary. This coming weekend the Maronites will celebrate the Visitation of Elizabeth.
Father Steven Bonian, SJ, writes frequently on the sacred Liturgy of the West Syrian Church, the Maronites. See how he connects the Creator, creation and the Liturgy; the image of the Garden is key here for us Christians who are seeking salvation, that is, to dwell again in the Garden of Eden. 
Father Bonian said about the Sunday of Mary’s Announcement:

Annunciation Boccaccino.jpg

Today, the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians (3:15-22), reminds us of how the promise made to Abraham is now being fulfilled through those who believe; those who live by the Law and the Torah of the heart through righteousness. To such as these –like Mary– is the gift of God and his promise handed down through his angels. The Gospel of Luke makes it clear that Mary is the righteous one who has gained the favor of God, and thus, inherited this Gift (Christ) and the Promise (Salvation).
In the Gospel-Icon of Mary and the Angel drawn for us by Saint Luke, and framed for us in this Sunday’s prayers –in the context of the relationship of the creator with his creation –the mountains, the earth, the sea, and the waves are rejoicing in God’s Word! Mary herself has become the New Earth (as Saint Ephrem would teach us) and true representative for all of God’s creation. The Son of God comes to dwell in her, and through her God has returned to live –as in Paradise— in the midst of his creation. Now in Mary, the new covenant, and God’s plan of salvation is being fulfilled. She has become the Cloud, the Pure Womb, the Fountain of Life and Blessings!

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Saint Ephrem the Syrian

saint-ephrem2.gifIt is indeed fitting to honor the blessed deacon of
Edessa for his desire that the preaching of the divine word and the training of
his disciples rest on the purity of Sacred Scripture. He also acquired honor as
a Christian musician and poet. He was so accomplished in both arts that he was
called the “lyre of the Holy Spirit.” From this, Venerable Brothers,
you can learn what arts promote the knowledge of sacred things. Ephrem lived
among people whose nature was attracted by the sweetness of poetry and music.
The heretics of the second century after Christ used these same allurements to
skillfully disseminate their errors. Therefore Ephrem, like youthful David
killing the giant Goliath with his own sword, opposed art with art and clothed
Catholic doctrine in melody and rhythm. These he diligently taught to boys and
girls, so that eventually all the people learned them. In this fashion he not
only renewed the education of the faithful in Christian doctrine and supported
their piety with the spirit of the sacred liturgy, but also happily kept
creeping heresy at bay.

The artistry introduced by Blessed Ephrem added dignity
to sacred matters as Theodoretus stresses. The metric rhythm, which our saint
popularized, was widely propagated both among the Greeks and the Latins. Indeed
does it seem probable that the liturgical antiphonary with its songs and
processions, introduced at Constantinople in the works of Chrysostom and at
Milan by Ambrose (whence it spread throughout all of Italy), was the work of
some other author? For the “custom of Eastern rhythm” deeply moved
the catechumen Augustine in northern Italy; Gregory the Great improved it and
we use it in a more advanced form. Critics acknowledge that that “same
Eastern rhythm” had it origins in Ephrem’s Syrian antiphonary.

It is no
wonder then that many of the Fathers of the Church stress the authority of St.
Ephrem. Nyssenus says of his writings, “Studying the Old and New
Scriptures most thoroughly, he interpreted them accurately, word for word; and
what was hidden and concealed, from the very creation of the world to the last
book of grace, he illumined with commentaries, using the light of the
Spirit.” And Chrysostom: “The great Ephrem is scourge of the
slothful, consoler of the afflicted, educator, instructor and exhorter of
youth, mirror of monks, leader of penitents, goad and sting of heretics,
reservoir of virtues, and the home and lodging of the Holy Spirit.” Certainly
nothing greater can be said in praise of a man who, however, seemed so small in
his own eyes that he claimed to be the least of all and a most vile sinner”

Pope Benedict XV

Apostolorum Pet
ro (On St. Ephrem the Syrian), 5 October 1920

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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