"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ephraim's Devotion to the Mother of God

Saint Ephraim the Syrian, "harp of the Holy Spirit" and glory of Syriac Christianity, has been well studied over the years in Oxford's Sebastian Brock's many books

Brock continues this wonderful contribution to Oriental scholarship and liturgics with a new book, of which he is the translator and in which Ephraim figures prominently:

Bride of Light: Hymns on Mary from the Syriac Churches (Gorgias Press, 2010), 206pp.

About this book, Gorgias Press tells us:
Syriac is particularly rich in poetry on Mary. Not only is some of this of great tenderness and beauty, but much is also highly imaginative and dramatic. Three different genres are represented in the present selection, lyric, dialogue and narrative poems; almost all are likely to date from the fourth or fifth century. First come five poems by St Ephrem himself, followed by a series of 15 Hymns on Mary attributed to him, but which must date from somewhat later. The section on lyric poems ends with nine charming short poems on the Nativity by Simeon the Potter, a contemporary of St Jacob of Serugh, and a lament put in the voice of Mary at the Crucifixion. Of the five dialogue poems, the first three are based on moments in the opening chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke—Mary and the angel at the Annunciation, Mary and Joseph at the moment when Joseph discovers his betrothed is pregnant, and Mary and the Magi. By contrast, the last two are set on the morning of the Resurrection, where the Mary of chapter 20 of the Gospel of John is identified as Mary, the mother of Jesus, following an early tradition, and not as Mary Magdalene. The collection concludes with three narrative poems, of which the longest, on Mary and Jacob, makes use of themes in the Protogospel of James. A series of indexes includes ones listing the titles of Christ and of Mary that occur, as well as biblical references.

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