Monday, June 8, 2009


 "St. Ephrem the Syrian"
14th century



Biographical Information about St. Ephrem

Readings for the Memorial of St. Ephrem [1]

Readings and Commentary:

Colossians 3:12-17

Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one Body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Commentary on
Col 3:12-17

St. Paul exhorts the Colossians with a litany of positive attitudes that culminate in the cardinal axiom of the faith “love one another.”  He goes on to implore them to let the peace of Christ control their every action and to praise God constantly through Jesus, God’s only Son.

This is the introduction to the family hierarchy of the era described by St. Paul. This entire section of the letter is a discourse on harmony within the family of Christ. It is important to note the instruction given in the first part of this reading. Paul describes the Christian rules for relationships; “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another”. The consistent focus of the passage brings home the Pauline ideals of harmony and unity within the Christian Family.

CCC: Col 3:14 815, 1827, 1844; Col 3:16-17 1156, 2633; Col 3:16 2641
Psalm 37: 3-4,5-6,30-31

R. (30) The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.

Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart's requests.
R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.

Commit to the LORD your way;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.
R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.

The mouth of the just tells of wisdom
and his tongue utters what is right.
The law of his God is in his heart,
and his steps do not falter.
R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.
Commentary on
Ps 37: 3-4,5-6,30-31

Psalm 37 is a lament containing the plea to be faithful to God and remain steadfast in the time of adversity. The psalmist sings that the faith of the people will bring them salvation and that the Lord is faithful and intercedes for them against the wicked. Salvation comes from the Lord alone is the common message.

This selection of Psalm 37 (the main thrust or which is –evil is passing but God and His Law are eternal) exhorts the listener to trust in God and the “light” of truth will show the way of righteousness. The psalm appropriately extols the true teaching of God.

Luke 6:43-45

Jesus said to his disciples:
"A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person, out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil,
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."
Commentary on Lk 6:43-45

St. Luke’s Gospel brings us the conclusion of Jesus’ discourse on judgment of others, using the analogy of the fruits borne by a tree, good and bad. The intent of this allegory was to expose false prophets, hypocrites who say one thing but do another. "What matters is not whether or not we wear a religious habit, it is whether we try to practice the virtues, surrender our will to God, and order our lives as His Majesty ordains, and not want to do our will but his" (St Teresa of Avila, "Interior Castle", II, 6). [3]

The second section of this reading is the conclusion of Jesus’ long discourse. He uses the analogy of the house built upon sand and the house built upon rock to indicate that those who have a deep faith and act out of that faith have a strong foundation and can stand against adversity, while those who give the faith lip service for others to see, but do not have that deep faith, will fall.


St. Ephrem was born to a time in the Church when, because of the newness of the Magisterium, there were many articles of faith not commonly held among all of those who claimed to be of the Christian faith. It is difficult for us to understand how difficult it was for the truth about Jesus’ life and mission to be chronicled and interpreted. St. Ephrem assumed his ministry in the Middle East at a time when no fewer than ten heretical sects were attempting to put forward their own stamp on the faith. The good deacon battled all of them, preaching and teaching throughout the region. He wrote prolifically and is named a Doctor of the Church for his contributions to her store of reason and understanding.

How, we may ask, could one, born of a father who was a pagan priest, become so knowledgeable about the faith that he could rise to such heights? It was through his exposure to great minds; St. James, the famous Bishop of Nisibis who instructed him and baptized him, St. Basil, with whom he spent time in Egypt to mention but a few.

His example for is clear. If we are to be great defenders of the faith against the heresies of today we must form ourselves in the faith. Ironically it is those of us who are lifetime Catholics who are most at risk of not having an adult understanding of our faith. Even if we have gone to Mass regularly since childhood, we may not understand many of the theological and sacramental developments that have changed the Church’s understanding of herself and her role in the world.

We who were raised in the faith generally stopped taking formal study when we were confirmed. Unless we work at reading the papal encyclicals and educating ourselves about new developments in scripture scholarship or by studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we may not understand our own faith. As we reflect upon the great Doctors of the Church like St. Ephrem, let us pledge that we too will be students of what we believe and take to heart the words of our Savior who commends great teachers to us.


[1] The picture of St. Ephrem the Syrian is part of a triptych, possibly from Constantinople. Early 14th century. Artist UNKNOWN.
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[3] The Navarre Bible, “Gospels and Acts”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp. 396

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