Feast of Sts. James of Nisibis and Ephrem of Edessa (June 10)   3 comments

Above:  Edessa and Nisibis, Fourth and Fifth Centuries C.E.

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (Philadelphia, PA:  The Publishers Agency, Inc., 1957), H-7

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SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS (DIED CIRCA 338)

Bishop of Nisibis and “Moses of Mesopotamia”

Also known as Saint Jacob of Nisibis

His feast transferred from July 15

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SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA (306/307-373)

Deacon, Hymn Writer, Exegete, and “Harp of the Holy Spirit”

Also known as St. Ephrem the Syrian and St. Ephraem Syrus

Episcopal feast day = June 10

Roman Catholic and Church of England feast day = June 9

Scottish Episcopal feast day = June 8

Maronite feast day = June 18

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No one has seen or shall see the things which you have seen.  The Lord himself has become the altar, priest, and brad, and the chalice of salvation.  He alone suffices for all, yet none suffices for him.  He is Altar and Lamb, victim and sacrifice, priest as well as food.

–St. Ephrem of Edessa, on the Passion of Jesus

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Much of the available information about these two saints is of uncertain veracity.  Some of it is even mutually exclusive.  With that caveat I proceed with due caution, aware of the limitations of my sources.

St. James (Jacob) of Nisibis (now Nusaybin, Turkey), was the first Bishop of Nisibis, from 309 until his death, circa 338.  He, renowned for his sanctity, learning, and ability, defended orthodoxy against the Arian heresy.  St. James/Jacob also participated in the First Council of Nicaea (325), to which he might have taken St. Ephrem of Edessa, whom he might have baptized but certainly ordained to the diaconate.

Ephrem of Edessa

Above:  St. Ephrem of Edessa

Image in the Public Domain

St. Ephrem of Edessa was a native of Nisibis.  Traditionally accounts of his life have indicated that his family was pagan and that St. James/Jacob baptized him at the age of 18 years.  More recent scholarship has suggested, however, that St. Ephrem’s family was Christian, however.  Certainly St. James/Jacob, the bishop, was a mentor.  Furthermore, the bishop ordained St. Ephrem a deacon.

In 363 Nisibis came under Persian jurisdiction; persecution of Christians and an exodus of Christians ensued.  St. Ephrem settled at Edessa.  There he founded a theological school, wrote prolifically, and lived in a cave above the city, ate simple foods, and drank only water.  St. Ephrem, who frequently preached in Edessa, composed hymns, 72 of which have survived.  Our saint, who had a devotion to Mary and wrote solely in Syriac, wrote hymns for feasts of the Church, against heresies, and about the Last Judgment, among other topics.  St. Ephrem was an influential figure in the development of Syriac and Greek hymnography and a pioneer in the use of hymns in public worship.  Furthermore, our saint wrote sermons and Biblical commentaries, some of which have survived.

St. Ephrem died of exhaustion in 373, after helping the poor and ill of Edessa during a famine (372-373).  He organized an ambulance service and distributed money and food to the poor, to his detriment.

The Roman Catholic Church declared St. Ephrem a Doctor of the Church in 1920.  It was a wise decision.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT ST. GALLEN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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Pour out on us, O Lord, that same Spirit by which your bishop James proclaimed your divinity

and your deacon Ephrem rejoiced to proclaim in sacred song the mysteries of faith;

and so gladden our hearts that we, like them, may be devoted to you alone;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 98:5-10

Ephesians 3:8-12

John 16:12-15

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 419

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3 responses to “Feast of Sts. James of Nisibis and Ephrem of Edessa (June 10)

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  1. Pingback: St. Ephrem of Edessa | GATHERED PRAYERS

  2. Pingback: Devotion for Proper 17, Year B (Humes) | ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS

  3. Pingback: The Scandal of Grace VI | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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