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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Praying to St Ephrem and the Syrian Saints


There is a great wealth of sensible comment on the question of military intervention in Syria and I do not think that I can add anything particularly useful to what others have said on the question.

I thought instead that it might be useful to read the Syriac Fathers. Fr Freddie Broomfield used to use this as a euphemism for going to have a rest after lunch. I am sure that today he would recommend us to read them in our helplessness before the events that are unfolding.

The best-known of the saints of Syria is St Ephrem who wrote poems and sermons in verse to encourage his people in times of trouble, and particularly during the invasion by the Persians. Here are a few extracts from his Nisibene hymns. (I don't know Syriac so I have to rely on the translations at New Advent.)

A prayer for peace:
To whom on any side, shall I look for comfort, for my plantations that are laid low, and my possessions that are laid waste? Let the message of the voice of peace, drive away my sadness from me! (6.21)
A programme for peace:
In these two things is profit; that neither should the just be weary in supplication, nor should the rebellious multiply transgression. (9.2)
A lamentation in war:
After the manner of wax, that melts before the fire—thus melted and dissolved, the bodies, of my sons before the heat— and the drought of my strongholds.

And instead of streams, of milk that used to flow—for my sons and my little ones, milk fails the sucklings, and water the weaned children.

The suckling falls, from its mother and gasps,— because it cannot suck, nor can she give suck:— they breathe out their spirit and die.

How is it possible, that Your grace can refrain— the welling of its stream, when it is not possible to restrain— the abundance of its flow?

And why has Your grace, shut up its mercies—and withheld its streams, from the people that cry—for one to moisten their tongue? (10.3-7)
At this time, let us pray earnestly to St Ephrem and the Syrian Saints for their intercession.
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