Category Archives: St. Ephraim the Syrian

Born: c. 306 AD in Nisibis (modern-day Turkey)
Reposed: 9 June 373 in Edessa (modern-day Turkey)
Feast: 28 January

St. Ephraim the Syrian: If he was not flesh . . . And if he was not God . . .

JesusThe facts themselves bear witness and his divine acts of power teach those who doubt that he is true God, and his sufferings show that he is true man. And if those who are feeble in understanding are not fully assured, they will pay the penalty on his dread day.

If he was not flesh, why was Mary introduced at all? And if he was not God, whom was Gabriel calling Lord?

If he was not flesh, who was lying in the manger? And if he was not God, whom did the Angels come down and glorify?

If he was not flesh, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes? And if he was not God, whom did the shepherds worship?

If he was not flesh, whom did Joseph circumcise? And if he was not God, in whose honour did the star speed through the heavens?

If he was not flesh, whom did Mary suckle? And if he was not God, to whom did the Magi offer gifts?

If he was not flesh, whom did Symeon carry in his arms? And if he was not God, to whom did he say, “Let me depart in peace”?

If he was not flesh, whom did Joseph take and flee into Egypt? And if he was not God, in whom were words “Out of Egypt I have called my Son” fulfilled?

If he was not flesh, whom did John baptise? And if he was not God, to whom did the Father from heaven say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased”?

If he was not flesh, who fasted and hungered in the desert? And if he was not God, whom did the Angels come down and serve?

If he was not flesh, who was invited to the wedding in Cana of Galilee? And if he was not God, who turned the water into wine?

If he was not flesh, in whose hands were the loaves? And if he was not God, who satisfied crowds and thousands in the desert, not counting women and children, from five loaves and two fishes?

If he was not flesh, who fell asleep in the boat? And if he was not God, who rebuked the winds and the sea?

If he was not flesh, with whom did Simon the Pharisee eat? And if he was not God, who pardoned the offences of the sinful woman?

If he was not flesh, who sat by the well, worn out by the journey? And if he was not God, who gave living water to the woman of Samaria and reprehended her because she had had five husbands?

If he was not flesh, who wore human garments? And if he was not God, who did acts of power and wonders?

If he was not flesh, who spat on the ground and made clay? And if he was not God, who through the clay compelled the eyes to see?

If he was not flesh, who wept at Lazarus’ grave? And if he was not God, who by his command brought out one four days dead?

If he was not flesh, who sat on the foal? And if he was not God, whom did the crowds go out to meet with glory?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Jews arrest? And if he was not God, who gave an order to the earth and threw them onto their faces.

If he was not flesh, who was struck with a blow? And if he was not God, who cured the ear that had been cut off by Peter and restored it to its place?

If he was not flesh, who received spittings on his face? And if he was not God, who breathed the Holy Spirit into the faces of his Apostles?

If he was not flesh, who stood before Pilate at the judgement seat? And if he was not God, who made Pilate’s wife afraid by a dream?

If he was not flesh, whose garments did the soldiers strip off and divide? And if he was not God, how was the sun darkened at the cross?

If he was not flesh, who was hung on the cross? And if he was not God, who shook the earth from its foundations?

If he was not flesh, whose hands and feet were transfixed by nails? And if he was not God, how was the veil of the temple rent, the rocks broken and the graves opened?

If he was not flesh, who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me”? And if he was not God, who said “Father, forgive them”?

If he was not flesh, who was hung on a cross with the thieves? And if he was not God, how did he say to the thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”?

If he was not flesh, to whom did they offer vinegar and gall? And if he was not God, on hearing whose voice did Hades tremble?

If he was not flesh, whose side did the lance pierce, and blood and water came out?And if he was not God, who smashed to gates of Hades and tear apart it bonds? And at whose command did the imprisoned dead come out?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Apostles see in the upper room? And if he was not God, how did he enter when the doors were shut?

If he was not flesh, the marks of the nails and the lance in whose hands and side did Thomas handle? And if he was not God, to whom did he cry out, “My Lord and my God”?

If he was not flesh, who ate by the sea of Tiberias? And if he was not God, at whose command was the net filled?

If he was not flesh, whom did the Apostles and Angels see being taken up into heaven? And if he was not God, to whom was heaven opened, whom did the Powers worship in fear and whom did the Father invite to “Sit at my right hand”. As David said, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, etc.”

If he was not God and man, our salvation is a lie, and the words of the Prophets are lies.  But the Prophets spoke the truth, and their testimonies were not lies. The Holy Spirit spoke through them what they had been commanded.

+ St. Ephrem the Syrian, Excerpt from the Sermon on Transfiguration

St. Ephraim the Syrian: Joseph as a Type of Christ

Patriarch JosephFor just as the Lord was sent to us
from the Father’s bosom [John 1:18] to save us all,

So the youth Joseph from Jacob’s bosom [Gen 37:13-14]
was sent to enquire about his own brothers.

And just as Joseph’s harsh brothers,
as soon as they saw him approaching,

began to devise evil against him,
though he was bringing them peace

from their father, so the Jews also,
ever hard of heart, as soon as they saw

the Saviour, said, ‘This is the heir [Matt 21:38],
let us kill him, and all will be ours’.

And just as Joseph’s brothers said,
‘Let us do away with him, and let us be set free

of his dreams’, [Gen 37:20] in the same way too
the Jews said, ‘Come, let us kill
him and lay hold on his inheritance’.[Mat 21:18]

Joseph’s brothers, while eating,
sold him, slaying him in intent.

In the same way too the abominable Jews,
while eating the Passover, slew the Saviour.

The descent of Joseph into Egypt signifies
the descent to earth of our Saviour.

And as Joseph within the marriage chamber
trampled down all the strength of sin,

putting on the bright prizes of victory,
against the Egyptian woman, his mistress,

so too the Lord, the Saviour of our souls,
by his own right hand, descending into Hell,

destroyed there all the power
of the dread and near invincible tyrant.

When Joseph had conquered sin
he was put in prison until the hour of his crowning;

so too the Lord, that he might take away
every sin of the world, was placed in a grave.

Joseph in prison spent two whole years,
passing his time in great freedom [cf Gen 39:21-23]

while the Lord, as powerful, remained
in the tomb for three days, not undergoing corruption.

Joseph, on Pharao’s order, was brought out
graciously from prison, as a true type,

when he easily interpreted the meaning of the dreams,
indicating the abundance of grain that was going to be;

while our Lord [Jesus Christ] was raised from the dead
by his own power, despoiling Hell,

offering to the Father our liberation,
proclaiming resurrection and everlasting life.

Joseph took his seat in Pharao’s chariot,
having received authority over the whole of Egypt;

while our Saviour, king before the ages,
ascending into heaven on a cloud of light,

took his seat with glory at the Father’s right hand,
above the Cherubim, as Only-begotten Son.

When ruling over Egypt, Joseph
having received authority against his enemies

his brothers were brought willingly
before the tribunal of the one who had died through them;

they were brought to prostrate with fear and trembling
before the one who had been sold by them to death;

and with fear they prostrated before Joseph,
whom they had not wanted to be king over them.

But Joseph, recognising his brothers,
revealed them as murderers by a single word;

but they, when they realised, stood dumbfounded
in great shame, not daring to utter,

not having anything at all to say in their defence,
knowing exactly their own sin

at the moment when they sold him;
while he, who seemed to have been destroyed by them in Hades,

was suddenly found to be ruling over them.

So too on that fearful day,
when the Lord comes on the clouds of the air,

he takes his seat on the throne of his kingdom,
and all his enemies are brought bound
by fearsome Angels before the judgement seat,

all those who did not want him to rule over them.

For the lawless Jews thought then,
that if he were crucified, he would die as a human;

the wretches not being persuaded that God had come,
for salvation, to save our souls.

Just as Joseph said quite openly
to his brothers, making them fear and tremble,

‘I am Joseph, whom you sold [into slavery],
but now I rule over you, though you did not want it’. [Cf. Gen 45:4]

So too the Lord shows the Cross
in an image formed of light to those who crucified him,

and they recognize the Cross itself
and the Son of God who was crucified by them.

Know how accurately Joseph became
a true type of his own Master.

+ St. Ephraim the Syrian, Excerpt from “Sermon on Joseph the Most Virtuous”, translation by Fr. Ephraim Lash
Read the full sermon at http://anastasis.org.uk/Joseph.pdf

St. Ephraim the Syrian: While the dying person addresses his last words to us . . .

Icon of St. Ephraim the Syrian“While the dying person addresses his last words to us, suddenly his tongue is at a loss, his eyes dim, his mouth falls silent, his voice paralyzed when the Lord’s troops have arrived, when His frightening armies overwhelm him, when the divine bailiffs invite the soul to be gone from the body, when the inexorable lays hold of us to drag us to the tribunal… Then the angels take the soul and go off through the air. There stand principalities, powers and leaders of the adverse troops who govern the world, merciless accusers, strict agents of an implacable tax bureau, like so many examiners that await the soul in the air, ready to demand a reckoning, to examine everything, brandishing their claims, that is to say our sins: those of youth and of old age, those intentional and those not so, those committed by actions and those by words or thoughts. Great then is the fear of the poor soul, inexpressible its anguish when it sees itself at grips with these myriads of enemies, who stop it, push and shove it, accuse it, hinder it from dwelling in the light, from entering into the land of the living. But the holy angels, taking the soul, lead it away.”

— St. Ephrem the Syrian, “Sur la seconde venue du Christ”, ed. Assemani, tome 3, pp. 275-276. excerpted from “Life After Death According to the Orthodox Tradition” by Jean-Claude Larchet pp. 90-91

St. Ephraim: Glory be to Him, Who never felt the need of our praising Him . . .

Icon of St. Ephraim the Syrian“Glory be to Him, Who never felt the need of our praising Him; yet felt the need as being kind to us, and thirsted as loving us, and asks us to give to Him, and longs to give to us. His fruit was mingled with us men, that in Him we might come near to Him, Who condescended to us. By the Fruit of His stem He grafted us into His Tree.”

— St. Ephraim the Syrian

St. Ephraim the Syrian: Come, let us wonder at the virgin most pure . . .

Icon of the Nativity of Jesus“Come, let us wonder at the virgin most pure, wondrous in herself, unique in creation, she gave birth, yet knew no man; her pure soul with wonder was filled, daily her mind gave praise in joy at the twofold wonder: her virginity preserved, her child most dear. Blessed is He who shone forth from her!”

— St. Ephraim the Syrian, Songs of Praise

St. Ephrem of Syria: Virtues are formed by prayer. . . .

Icon of St. Ephraim the Syrian“Virtues are formed by prayer.

Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy.

Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.”

— St. Ephrem of Syria

St. Ephraim the Syrian: Imagine that someone, while standing before a king . . .

Icon of St. Ephraim the Syrian“Imagine that someone, while standing before a king and conversing with him, at the summons of a servant like unto himself leaves the king and begins to converse with that servant; such also is he who engages in conversation and gives himself over to distraction during the divine service.”

— St. Ephraim the Syrian