St Ephrem the Syrian c 306-373, deacon and doctor of the Church,
‘Cry out with joy to God, all the earth: serve the Lord with gladness.’ (Invitatory antiphon).
In celebrating the lives of the saints, the Church provides a history of the goodness of God’s people who lived through the centuries. Remembering a saint from a particular geographical area allows the faithful to remember his/her place of origin and the connection with the place today. The Church invites God’s people to intercede for God’s people through the lives of these saints.
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St Ephrem the Syrian. He was born at Nisibis, which is today in eastern Turkey near its border with Syria. He was impetuous as a young boy but learned the errors of his ways. He willingly transformed his life through prayer and efforts he made to discipline himself. He became a teacher; wrote hymns and biblical commentaries.
His liturgical music is still in use in the Orthodox Church. In his composition of hymns, St Ephrem defended the true Nicene doctrine; that Jesus was at once both human and divine. He was ordained a deacon.
Ephrem is credited for awakening the Church to the importance of music in spreading and strengthening the faith.
On one occasion Ephrem heard about a famine in Edessa in 372. He was horrified to hear that some people hoarded food while others starved. Those who hoarded the food said there was no fair way to distribute it. Ephrem volunteered himself to take up the challenge and with his helpers, they provided food for those in need.
Today’s reading from the first Book of Kings (1 Kings 18:20-39) and the Gospel (Mt 5:17-19) are proclaimed at Mass via the webcam or read from the Old and New Testament.
The sacrifice on Mount Carmel showed the people the difference between Baal and God. Some people named Baal as the true God and others named God as the one true God. Elijah declared himself as God’s only prophet while Baal had 450 prophets.
Elijah ordered the people to get two bulls Then Baal’s prophets had to choose one bull and Elijah got the other bull. Both bulls were prepared for sacrifice but not set alight. Elijah told them to call on the name of their god and he would call on his God. The one who answers by fire said Elijah was the ‘true God’. All agreed this was good to do.
The people called on the name of Baal all day long. Nothing happened.
Then Elijah prepared the bull, the altar and surrounding area for the sacrifice with his people. At the time of sacrifice, Elijah prayed to God and said, ‘let them know today that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, that I have done all these things at your command’. Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned the sacrifice. When the people saw this happen they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord is God! The Lord is God!’
God listened to Elijah’s prayer. God wanted to reawaken the people to his life and presence. On Mount Carmel the people were transformed and God’s victory came through the prophet Elijah.
Today God calls God’s people to transformation and conversion. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. In these immediate times, God’s people are called to an ecological conversion in the world. God’s people are unable to ‘hear the cry of the earth and the poor’ because of the worlds’ distractions. Jesus gently continues to call his disciples to the way of love. God speaks in the silence of our hearts.
In the Gospel, Jesus encourages the disciples to obey the commandments and to teach others to do the same. What Jesus taught by words he witnessed to in his life.
SEEK GOD’S LOVE IN THE GROW IN LOVE RELIGIOUS EDUCATION PROGRAMME
Today, children might revise some of the lives of the saints in the Grow in Love programme. They may research the life of St Ephrem as he is not included in the Grow in Love programme.
Children experience love through being loved. As they grow and mature, they come to know the one true God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They express their belief in God as they recite the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.
As St Ephrem was born on the border of Syria it may be opportune to look at the difficult and challenging life the Christians live in Syria today. There is a story of hope, in the context of the Resurrection in the Sixth Class programme of a Syrian family who came to live in Ireland. Resources on the VERITAS website include an interview with the Syrian family members.
As St Ephrem was renowned for writing liturgical music, children might be encouraged to listen to some hymns and Bernard Sexton’s Mass Setting in Grow in Love.
Some of St Ephrem’s liturgical music remains popular in Orthodox Churches. Children might revise the theme on ‘Church’, in Grow in Love, Fourth Class/P6 and watch the video (s) of children from five Christian churches sharing their faith experiences.
Transformation and conversion are important in the lives of God’s people. Pope Francis calls the people of the world to an ‘ecological conversion’. Families might be prompted to examine the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ system in use at home, in school and in the parish community.
St Ephrem followed the teachings of Jesus. Children might revise the teachings of Jesus on love, sharing, prayer and forgiveness. They might read some of the parables of Jesus appropriate to their class level, available in the Grow in Love e-book or Bible.
St Ephrem was a deacon of the Church. Children are introduced to the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the ministry of the deacon in the Fifth Class/P7 programme. Children might be encouraged to pray for Pope Francis and the Church throughout the world. Families might also pray for Christians who are suffering because of their efforts to uphold their faith.
The Gospel of the day might prompt a look at the Commandments and the symbols of the Holy Spirit, one being fire. Children might revise the story of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit and the action of the Holy Spirit in their personal lives. Children might thank God for the gift of faith.
READ from Grow in Love/I nGrá Dé
‘The Coming of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 1: 1-13),
‘The Summons’, ‘The Servant Song’, ‘Go Tell Everyone’, ‘Mass setting, Bernard Sexton’,
PRAY with Grow in Love/I nGrá Dé
PRAYER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
Holy Spirit, I want to do what is right. Help me.
Holy Spirt, I want to live like Jesus.
Holy Spirit, I want to pray like Jesus.
PAIDIR CHUIG AN SPIORAD NAOMH
A Spioraid Naoimh, ba mhaith liom an rud ceart a dhéanamh.
A Spioraid Naoimh, ba mhaith liom maireachtáil mar a mhair Íosa.
A Spioraid Naoimh, ba mhaith liom
guí mar a ghuigh Íosa. Múin dom é.
‘Let us serve the Lord in holiness all our days.’ (Benedictus antiphon).
‘Show the power of your arm Lord, put down the proud and exalt the lowly.’ (Magnificat antiphon).
‘Save me Lord, I take refuge in you.’ (Psalm 15:1).
An ecological conversion ‘calls for a number of attitudes, which together foster a spirit of generous care, full of tenderness. First, it entails gratitude and gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift…it also entails a loving awareness that we are disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion. ’ (Laudato Si’, no.220).
St Ephrem, please pray for us.
‘O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.’
Sr Anne Neylon