On June 9, the Roman Church celebrated a champion of the faith, St. Ephrem (306-373). However, he did not fight in the polemic or rhetorical spheres, St. Ephrem fought the adversaries of the faith through poetry, prayers, and hymns. He was a Syriac-speaking deacon and theologian in the region of Assyria. It is unusual that a Deacon would be recognized and elevated to sainthood.
St. Ephrem contemplated on the Incarnation, the Word made flesh, and the complex of interactions around it. Because of his loving comprehension of the mystery of the Incarnation, St. Ephrem was prompt in recognizing the unique honor which pertains to Mary as the Mother of God. With great tenderness and delicacy, he dramatized, in dialogues which foreshadow the mystery plays of the Middle Ages, the beautiful role played by Our Lady in the joyous events at Bethlehem and later at the foot of the Cross on Calvary. He would observe with what gracious humility, in one of these dramas, Mary addresses the Magi who have come from the East to adore the Son of God: “My son has no armies,” she says, “not legions, nor cohorts. He lies there in his mother’s poverty, and you call him King!” To which the Magi reply, with a magnificent profession of faith, “The armies of your son are on high. His knights move about the heavens as stars of fire.”
In view of St. Ephrem’s surpassing devotion to the Blessed Virgin, it is not surprising that he should have affirmed more explicitly than any of the other Christian Fathers, including St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. “Thou alone, O Lord,” he declares, “and Thy mother are they who in every respect are wholly beautiful; for there is no spot in Thee, O Lord, nor any stain in Thy mother.” Mary, then, is an exception to the universal rule whereby all the children of Eve are conceived in the state of original sin. In this respect she is the only woman who can be compared to Eve, the mother of all mankind according to the flesh, as constituted in the state of original innocence: “Two women were pure and the two were simple: Mary and Eve; they stood on a level. But one was the cause of our death, the other of our life.” In consequence of her exemption from the effects of original sin Mary was, as St. Ephrem affirms in another passage, spared from the pains of labor in bearing the Christ-child. In his appreciation of the place of Mary in the economy of our salvation, St. Ephrem represents an early form of the tradition of the early Syrian churches — a tradition which did not come into its own until the definition in l854 of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Perhaps, the most celebrated prayer composed by St. Ephrem is addressed to the Virgin Mary;
"Most holy Lady, Mother of God, the only one who is very pure in soul and body, the only one who is beyond all purity, chastity and virginity, the only one who dwells in the grace of the Holy Spirit, who surpasses even the spiritual powers in purity and holiness of soul and body, look upon me, guilty, impure, and stained in my soul and body with the defects of my passionate and voluptuous life.
Purify my spirit from its passions; sanctify and straighten my wandering and blind thoughts; regulate and direct my senses; deliver me from the detestable and infamous tyranny of impure inclinations and passions; abolish in me the empire of sin; give wisdom and discernment to my stubborn, wretched mind, for the correction of my faults and falls, so that, delivered from the darkness of sin, I may be found worthy to glorify you, to sing freely to you, the only true mother of the true light- Christ our God."
On June 9, the Roman Catholic Church honors Saint Ephrem of Syria, a deacon, hermit, and Doctor of the Church who made important contributions to the spirituality and theology of the Christian East during the fourth century. Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christian celebrate his feast on January 28. Ephrem is especially beloved in the Syriac Orthodox Church, and counted as a Venerable Father (i.e., a sainted Monk) in the Eastern Orthodox Church. His feast day is celebrated on 28 January and on the Saturday of the Venerable Fathers (te Saturday on or after September 22).
In a 2007 General Audience on St. Ephrem’s life, Pope Benedict XVI noted that St. Ephrem became known as the “Harp of the Holy Spirit,” for the hymns and writings that sang the praises of God “in an unparalleled way” and “with rare skill.” He was declared a Doctor of the Church in the Catholic Church in 1920 when he was canonized. St. Ephrem was one of the rare figures in Christianity whose influence spans both the Roman and Eastern Church. St, Ephrem is also revered in the Church of England and the American Episcopal Church. He is considered the patron of spiritual directors and spiritual leaders. He is, sometimes, hard to find but for those who become inspired by powerful hymns and poetry St. Ephrem may be a fine personal friend and patron.