Saint Ephrem of Nisibis (306-373)

St Ephrem of Nisibis

St Ephrem the Syrian (...) was born into a Christian family in Nisibis in about 306 A.D. He was Christianity's most important Syriac-speaking representative and uniquely succeeded in reconciling the vocations of theologian and poet.

In Nisibis [today's Turkey]

He was educated and grew up beside James, Bishop of Nisibis (303-338), and with him founded the theological school in his city.

He was ordained a deacon and was intensely active in local Christian community life until 363, the year when Nisibis fell into Persian hands.

In Edessa [today's Turkey]

Ephrem then emigrated to Edessa, where he continued his activity as a preacher

He died in this city in 373, a victim of the disease he contracted while caring for those infected with the plague.

Poor, chaste, full of faith and charity

It is not known for certain whether he was a monk, but we can be sure in any case that he remained a deacon throughout his life and embraced virginity and poverty.


Thus, the common and fundamental Christian identity appears in the specificity of his own cultural expression: faith, hope - the hope which makes it possible to live poor and chaste in this world, placing every expectation in the Lord - and lastly, charity, to the point of giving his life through nursing those sick with the plague.

Poet and liturgist

Poetry enabled him to deepen his theological reflection through paradoxes and images. At the same time, his theology became liturgy, became music; indeed, he was a great composer, a musician.


Theology, reflection on the faith, poetry, song and praise of God go together.


Benedict XVI,

General Audience, Wednesday, November 28, 2007 (Excerpt).