Tag Archives: St Ephrem

Mary in the theology of St Ephrem

In another place, I posted the following on Mary’s place in the theology of St Ephrem.

The month of May is traditionally known on as the Month of Mary. The Church holds Mary in the highest esteem; she is venerated but not worshipped by Catholics and Orthodox. A Syrian Father, St Ephrem, –the Harp of the Holy Spirit– the fourth century hymnographer, theologian and deacon as something to offer about the Mother of God.

“As lightning illu­mi­na­tes what is hid­den, so also Christ puri­fies what is hid­den in the nature of things. He puri­fied the Vir­gin also and then was born, so as to show that where Christ is, there is mani­fest purity in all its power. He puri­fied the Vir­gin, having pre­pa­red Her by the Holy Spi­rit… having been born, He left Her vir­gin. I do not say that Mary became immor­tal, but that being illu­mi­na­ted by grace, She was not dis­tur­bed by sin­ful desi­res”

“Most holy Lady, Mother of God, alone most pure in soul and body, alone exceeding all perfection of purity… alone made in thy entirety the home of all the graces of the Most Holy Spirit, and hence exceeding beyond all compare even the angelic virtues in purity and sanctity of soul and body… my Lady most holy, all-pure, all-immaculate, all-stainless, all-undefiled, all-incorrupt, all inviolate spotless robe of Him Who clothes Himself with light as with a garment… flower unfading, purple woven by God, alone most immaculate.”

“There is in you, Lord, no stain, nor any spot in your mother.”

“You Jesus and your mother are the only ones who are beautiful in all aspects. Because in you, O Lord, there is no deformation, and in your mother, there is no stain.”

“The two women were pure and simple, Mary and Eve. One of them, however, became the cause of our death and the other, the cause of our life.”

St. Ephrem the Syrian

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

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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

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Blessed be the Child who today delights Bethlehem.


Blessed
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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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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