Saint Brigid Religious Education
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St. Ephrem

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.

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