Malankara World

Church Fathers

St. Ephrem, Harp of the Holy Spirit

by George Aramath

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Part 3

This icon, known as "St. Ephrem as a Deacon" partially depicts this viewpoint. An original type of this icon adorns the wall of St. Mary's Syriac Orthodox Church in Diyarbekõr, Turkey today. St. Ephrem is depicted in liturgical vestments holding a thurifer in his hand. One sees here his public service as a deacon of the church.

This next icon is called "Harp of the Holy Spirit". This modern icon of St. Ephrem came from the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus, Syria. Several aspects of the saint are shown in this beautiful imagery. It is said that when St. Ephrem was a young monk, another revered old monk saw a dream about him:

One of the holy fathers saw in a dream a band of holy angels come down from heaven at God's behest. One of them was holding in his hands a scroll written both on the inside and outside. They were asking each other, 'To whom should this be entrusted?' Some of them said to one particular person, and others to another; yet others, however said 'All these people are indeed saints and upright, but they are not capable of being entrusted with it'. Having mentioned the names of many other saints, they finally said, 'No one can be entrusted with this apart from Ephrem'. Whereupon they gave it to him. When the father arose in the morning he heard people saying 'Ephrem teaches as if a fountain was flowing from his mouth.' Then the elder who had seen the dream recognized that what issued from his lips were from the Holy Spirit. (6)

The above icon alludes to this story with the angels on both side of St. Ephrem holding the scrolls.

Another account speaks of St. Ephrem seeing a dream or vision in which grapes sprang up from his tongue; it grew, filling everywhere under the heaven. All the birds of the sky came and ate of its fruits; the more they ate, the more the bunches multiplied and grew. (7) The above icon beautifully illustrates these many grapes on the tree that overshadows St. Ephrem.

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