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Ephrem the Syrian Classical Syriac: His feast day is celebrated on 28 January and on the Saturday of the Venerable Fathers.

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He was declared a Doctor of the Church in the Catholic Church in Ephrem wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems, and sermons in verse, as well as prose exegesis. These were works of practical theology for the edification of the Church in troubled times. So popular were his works, that, for centuries after his death, Christian authors wrote hundreds of pseudepigraphal works in his name. He has been called the most significant of all of the fathers of the Syriac-speaking church tradition.

Ephrem was born around the year in the city of Nisibis now Nusaybin in Turkeyin the contested border region between Sassanid Assyria and Roman Mesopotamiathen-recently acquired by Rome. Internal evidence from Ephrem’s hymnody suggests that both his parents were part of the growing Christian community siful the city, although later hagiographers wrote that his father was a pagan priest.

The Christian community siurl the Syriac dialect.

The culture included pagan religions, Judaism and early Christian sects. Jacobthe second bishop of Nisibis, [7] was appointed inand Ephrem grew up under his leadership of the community. Jacob of Nisibis is recorded as a signatory at the First Council of Nicea in Ephrem was baptized as a youth and almost certainly became a son of the covenantan unusual form of syriac proto- monasticism.

He was ordained as a deacon either at his baptism or later. Ephrem is popularly credited as the founder of the School of Nisibiswhich, in later centuries, was the centre of learning of the Syriac Orthodox Church. InEmperor Constantine Iwho had legalised and promoted the practice of Christianity in the Roman Empire, died.

Nisibis was besieged inand During the first siege, Ephrem credits Bishop Jacob as defending the city with his prayers. In the third siege, ofShapur rerouted the River Mygdonius to undermine the walls of Nisibis. The Nisibenes quickly repaired the walls while the Persian elephant cavalry became bogged down in the wet ground.

Ephrem celebrated what he saw as the miraculous salvation of the city in a hymn that portrayed Nisibis as being like Noah’s Arkfloating to safety on the flood. One important physical link to Ephrem’s lifetime is the baptistery of Nisibis. The inscription tells that it was constructed under Bishop Vologeses in In that year, Shapur attacked again. The cities around Nisibis were destroyed one by one, and their citizens killed or deported.

Constantius II was unable to respond; the campaign of Julian in ended with his death in battle. His army elected Jovian as the new emperor, and to rescue his army, he was forced to surrender Nisibis to Persia [6] also in and to permit the expulsion of the entire Christian population. Ephrem, in his late fifties, applied himself to ministry in his new church and seems to have continued his work as a teacher, perhaps in the School of Edessa.


Edessa had always been at the heart of the Syriac-speaking world, and the city was full of rival philosophies and religions. Ephrem comments that orthodox Nicene Christians were simply called “Palutians” in Edessa, after a effem bishop. AriansMarcionitesManicheesBardaisanites and various gnostic sects proclaimed themselves as the true church.

In this confusion, Ephrem wrote a great number of hymns defending Nicene orthodoxy. A later Syriac writer, Jacob of Serughwrote that Ephrem rehearsed all-female choirs to sing his hymns set to Syriac folk tunes in the forum of Edessa. After a ten-year residency in Edessa, in his sixties, Ephrem succumbed to the plague as he ministered to its victims. The most reliable date for his death is 9 June Over four hundred hymns composed by Ephrem still eftem.

Granted that some have been lost, Ephrem’s productivity is not in doubt. The church historian Sozomen credits Ephrem with having written over three million lines. Ephrem combines in his writing a threefold heritage: These hymns are full of rich, poetic imagery drawn from biblical sources, folk tradition, and other religions and philosophies.

Each group has a title — Carmina NisibenaOn FaithOn ParadiseOn VirginityAgainst Heresies — but some of these titles do not do justice to the entirety of the collection for instance, only the first half of the Carmina Nisibena is about Nisibis. Particularly influential were his Hymns Against Heresies. He lamented that the faithful were “tossed to and fro and carried around with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness and deceitful wiles.

The Hymns Against Heresies employ colourful metaphors to describe the Incarnation of Christ as fully human and divine. Ephrem asserts that Christ’s unity of humanity and divinity represents peace, perfection and salvation; in contrast, docetism and other heresies sought to divide or efrrm Christ’s nature and, in doing so, rend eftem devalue Christ’s followers with their false teachings.

The third category of Ephrem’s writings is his prose work. He wrote a biblical commentary on the Diatessaron the single gospel harmony of the early Syriac churchthe Syriac original of which was found in Some fragments exist in Armenian of his commentaries on the Acts of the Apostles and Pauline Epistles. He also wrote refutations against BardaisanMani, Marcion and others. Ephrem is attributed with writing hagiographies such as The Life of Saint Mary the Harlotthough this credit is called into question.

Ephrem wrote exclusively in the Syriac languagebut translations of his writings exist in Classical Armenian ssirul, CopticOld GeorgianKoine Greek and other languages.

Some of his works are only extant in translation particularly in Armenian. Syriac churches still efrme many of Ephrem’s hymns as part of the annual cycle of worship. However, most of these liturgical hymns are edited and conflated versions of the originals. Ephrem’s writings contain a rich variety of symbols and metaphors.

Ephrem’s artful meditations on the symbols of Christian faith and his stand against heresy made him a popular source of inspiration throughout the church. This occurred to the extent that there is a huge corpus of Ephrem pseudepigraphy and legendary hagiography. Some of these compositions are in verse, often a version of Ephrem’s heptosyllabic couplets. Most of these works are considerably later compositions in Greek. Students of Ephrem often refer to this corpus as having a single author called “Greek Ephrem”, or Ephraem Graecus as opposed to the real Ephrem the Syrian.


This is not to say that all texts ascribed to Ephrem in Greek are by others, skrul many are.

Although Greek compositions are the main source of pseudepigraphal material, there are also works in LatinSlavonic and Arabic. There has been very little critical examination of these works, and many are still treasured by some churches as authentic. The best known of these writings is the Prayer of Saint Ephremwhich is recited at every service during Great Lent and other fasting periods in Eastern Christianity.

Soon after Ephrem’s death, legendary accounts of his life began to circulate. One of the earlier “modifications” is the statement that Ephrem’s father was a pagan priest of Abnil or Abizal. However, internal evidence from his authentic writings suggest that he was raised by Christian parents. The second legend attached to Ephrem is that he was a situl. In Ephrem’s day, monasticism was in its infancy in Egypt. He seems to have been a part of the members of the covenanta close-knit, sieul community of Christians that had “covenanted” themselves to service and had refrained from sexual activity.

Ephrem is venerated as an example of monastic discipline in Eastern Christianity. Ephrem is popularly believed to have taken legendary journeys.

Efrem Sirul | Editura Doxologia

This links the Syrian Ephrem with the Cappadocian Fathers and is an important theological bridge between the spiritual view of the two, who held much in common. Ephrem is also supposed to have visited Saint Pishoy in the monasteries of Scetes in Egypt. The most popular title for Ephrem is Harp of the Spirit Syriac: His Roman Catholic feast day of 9 June conforms to his date of death.

For 48 years —it was on 18 June, and this date is still observed in the Zirul Form. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other etrem with the name, see Ephrem name.

Mosaic in Nea Moni of Chios 11th century. Mosaic of Christ PantocratorHagia Sophia. Paschal cycle 12 Great Feasts Other feasts: Feast of Orthodoxy Intercession of sriul Theotokos. Symbols of the cross in the writings of the early Syriac Fathers. Retrieved 8 June Evidence of Greek philosophical concepts in the writings of Ephrem the Syrian. Images of women in antiquity.

Robert Appleton Company, Archived from the original on The See of Nisibis was founded in by Babu d. His successor, the celebrated St. James, defended the city by his prayers during the siege of Sapor II. Holy Women of the Syrian Orient. University of California Press. Eastern Christian traditions that employ Syriac language in their liturgical ecrem with active years in brackets.

Syriac Orthodox Church Syriac Christianity Saint Thomas Christians. Chaldean Catholic Church .