Saint Ephrem the Syrian

The harp of the Holy Spirit.

Saint Ephrem the Syrian

Ephrem was a Syrian poet and hymnist of the 4th century who, after becoming ordained a deacon, feigned madness to avoid becoming a priest. Instead, he worked as the harp of the Holy Spirit, writing songs of orthodox doctrine over melodies by popular heretical musicians. Which begs the question: is Christian emo rap, in fact, a return to tradition?

Here’s a particularly evocative example of Ephrem’s verse:

Let everyone chase away his boredom
because it was not boring for that Majesty
to be in the womb nine months for our sake
and to be thirty years in Sodom among madmen

Beyond having a timeless command of emotion, he is renowned for the coherence of his symbolic codes. If you’ve got an hour to spare, Jonathan Pageau has an interesting lecture where, for example, he uses the saint’s description of the Garden of Eden to extrapolate a fractal map of the cosmos.