Wednesday, January 29, 2003

A Story about St. Ephrem the Syrian from Palladius' Historia Lausiaca

Surely you have heard about Ephrem, the deacon of the church at Edessa. He happens to be one of those worthy to be commemorated by holy men. He had accomplished the journey of the Spirit in a right and worthy manner, never deviating from the straight path, and he was deemed worthy of the gift of natural knowledge. The knowledge of God followed this, and finally blessedness. He always practiced the quiet life and edified those whom he met for many years, but finally he left his cell for the following reason:

When a great famine befell the city of Edessa, he had compassion for the whole countryside which was being ravaged, and he went to those who were well-to-do and spoke to them, "Why do you not have pity on the people who are perishing, instead of letting your wealth rot for the condemnation of your own souls?"

They looked about and said, "We have no one whom we should trust to care for those suffering from famine, for all of them make it into a business."

He asked, "How do I seem to you?" For he had a great reputation among them, not for evil, but for good.

They said, "We know that you are a man of God."

"Why not then trust me?" he asked. "Look, I will appoint myself as your guestmaster."

And he took the money and divided up the porticoes, and he put up about three hundred beds, and cared for the famished ones. The dead he buried, and he took care of those who had hope of life, and as a matter of fact he daily provided refreshment and help to all those who came to him each day because of the famine. And this he did with the money allotted to him.

When the year was over and prosperity followed and they had all gone back home, he had no more to do. He went back to his cell and died within the month. God had given him this chance for a crown at the very end. He left some writings too, most of which are worthy of attention.


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