When one thinks of the saints of the Armenian Church, it is not very likely that St. Ephrem the Syrian (Soorp Yeprem Asori) will come quickly to mind. He was not a native Armenian. As his name indicates, he was from Syria, which lay along the southwestern border of Armenia.
Yet this fourth-century theologian and composer of hymns was so influential in early Armenia that a great many of his writings were among the first works after the Bible to be rendered into Armenian by the holy Translators, Sts. Sahag and Mesrob.
The great scholar (and former President of the Republic of Armenia), Levon Der Petrosyan has written that the ancient Armenian translations of the works of Ephrem represent "the greatest Armenian contributions to the field of patristics."
This Spring St. Nersess Seminary has organized a series of three events dedicated to the life and thought of St. Ephrem and his impact on the theology, music, liturgy and art of the Armenian Church.
Images of Saint Ephrem
On Monday, April 3, 2006 Professor Richard Schneider, Professor of Art History at York University (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) will present an illustrated lecture entitled, "Images of St. Ephrem." Prof. Schneider is a renowned expert in sacred art of the Christian East and West. He will present and discuss a number of icons of St. Ephrem in the Armenian, Byzantine, Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian and Western traditions. Comparing the images in this way, Prof. Schneider will draw out of the icons insights into each church's particular perspective on this great saint of the universal church.
Dr. Edward G. Mathews, Jr. will speak on the topic, "Saint Ephrem on the Holy Cross" on Monday, May 8, 2006. Dr. Mathews is currently Scholar-in-Residence at St. Nersess for the Spring 2006 semester.
An acclaimed specialist in Armenian and Syriac languages and literature, Dr. Mathews has also translated several works of St. Ephrem from Syriac and Armenian into English. St. Ephrem wrote exclusively in Syriac, a dialect of the language Jesus spoke. Yet many of St. Ephrem's works survive only in fifth-century Armenian translations. Dr. Mathews is an authority on this Ephrem literature preserved only in Armenian. He is currently teaching courses in New Testament, Armenian Church Fathers and Syriac at St. Nersess.
The two Monday night lectures are free of charge, open to all, and will take place at the Seminary at 7:30PM. A reception will follow each lecture.
To crown the Spring St. Ephrem Series, St. Nersess will has organized an all-day conference dedicated to St. Ephrem on Saturday May 13, 2006. Co-sponsoring the conference is the Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church for the Eastern United States. Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim will host the conference at St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Cathedral, 260 Elm Avenue, Teaneck, New Jersey.
"St. Ephrem is a pillar of both the Armenian and the Syrian Orthodox Churches," said Fr. Daniel Findikyan, St. Nersess Dean. "Our hope is to introduce our people to this majestic saint, whose beautiful hymns and poignant Christian vision have left a lasting mark on our sister churches." Fr. Daniel added, "St. Ephrem is too great a figure to be left to the scholars--he belongs to us."
Speaking at the conference will be Dr. Roberta Ervine and Dr. Edward G. Mathews, Jr. (St. Nersess Seminary); Fr. Augen Aydin (Princeton University and Monastery of St. Gabriel, Tur-Abdin); and Dr. Thomas Buchan (Drew University and Gorgias Press).
Interspersed throughout the interactive lectures will be live performances of St. Ephrem's hymns in Armenian and Syriac by clergy and musicians of the Armenian and Syrian Orthodox Churches. The day will begin with Morning Prayers in the Armenian tradition, and will close with Evening Prayer officiated by the Syrian Orthodox clergy and faithful. Lunch will be served at midday.
"Our St. Ephrem Day will be of great interest and great fun to all the faithful of our two sister churches," said Dr. Roberta Ervine, who has been involved in the organization and planning of the event. "We hope that many of our Sunday School and Armenian School students and teachers, as well as choir members, deacons, clergy, and other interested members of the community will come and enjoy this innovative day of learning and prayer."
Further details on the St. Ephrem Conference, including schedule and registration, will be posted shortly on this website.
For additional information, contact the Seminary at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone: (914) 636-2003.