On this feast of St Ephrem,(so appropriate on Pentecost) which the Latin and Anglican Churches celebrate today (Eastern churches earlier this year), I recall this quote of his from my patristic studies.
“At the beginning of the conversation he [Jesus] did not make himself known to her, but first she caught sight of a thirsty man, then a Jew, then a Rabbi, afterward a prophet, last of all the Messiah. She tried to get the better of the thirsty man, she showed dislike of the Jew, she badgered the Rabbi, she was swept off her feet by the prophet, and she adored the Christ.”
Ephrem was a poet, writer, speaker, and a brilliant person. In his youth, he was ‘hell on wheels,’ picked fights, had a temper, put in jail for stealing sheep. Most notably, he wrote music, songs for liturgy often wrote songs that the melody was of his time in the “top ten” but changed the words to battle the heresy of the day. He was a deacon and refused to be ordained a priest. Even today many of his prayers are ‘Famous prayers’ talking about the Most Holy Trinity, the Son of God, and to the Most Holy Theotokos. He composed hymns for the Twelve Great Feasts of the Lord (the Nativity of Christ, the Baptism, the Resurrection), and funeral hymns. Saint Ephraim’s Prayer of Repentance showed his focus on turning your life around, especially in his own experience growing up. Ephrem had a passion for people to understand the humanity of Jesus and what that meant in relation to Christ. When you study his life, you see the life of a Syrian ascetic living in his modern world, very much in tune with the current events. A man who build what was called at the time “poor houses” for the sick and poor.
In the end, Ephrem wrote: “If the Son of God is within you, then His Kingdom is also within you. Thus, the Kingdom of God is within you, a sinner. Enter into yourself, search diligently, and without toil, you shall find it. Outside of you is death, and the door to it is a sin. Enter into yourself, dwell within your heart, for God is there.”
On this feast of Pentecost, many of Ephrem’s hymns have earned him the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit.”