Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
Feast day: June 9
Ephrem was born around the year 306, in the city of Nisibis (the modern
Turkish town of Nusaybin, on the border with Syria). Both his parents
were part of the growing Christian community in the city. It was a time
of great religious and political tension. The Roman Emperor Diocletian
had signed a treaty with his Persian counterpart, Nerses in 298 that
transferred Nisibis into Roman hands. The savage persecution and
martyrdom of Christians under Diocletian were an important part of
Nisibene church heritage as Ephrem grew up.
Ephrem grew up under the leadership of St. James, the first bishop of
Nisibis. Ephrem was baptized as a youth, and James appointed him as a
teacher. He was ordained as a deacon either at this time or later.
Ephrem's beloved bishop died In the second siege. He began to compose
hymns and write biblical commentaries as part of his educational office.
Ephrem is popularly credited as the founder of the School of Nisibis,
which in later centuries was the centre of learning of the Assyrian
Church of the East.
Ephrem found himself among a large group of refugees that fled west,
first to Amida (Diyarbakir), and eventually settling in Edessa in 363.
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). Ephrem wrote a great number of hymns defending
Orthodoxy. A later Syriac writer, Jacob of Serugh, wrote 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 reposed in
peace, according to some in the year 373, according to others, 379.