Although much of his early history is lost, we know he was born about the year 306 in Nisibis in Mesopotamia. A Deacon, he is reputed to have headed the Catechetical School there until Nisibis was captured by the Persians. He removed to Edessa and became a monk there. A gifted poet and theologian, he was disturbed by the success of the Gnostic, Bardesanes, who cleverly tuned his heretical views to popular songs of the day. In turn, Ephraem wrote hymns in common Syriac to the same tunes, refuting both Gnostic theology and Arianism. These became extremely popular with the people and earned him the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit.”
He spent most of his long life writing theological treatises, many of which are extant today. His Mariological hymns provided an important contribution to Catholic dogma. A few years before his death in 373, he became active in organizing relief for the starving populace during a great famine. He was known as a helper for the sick as well. He died in his monastic cell and is revered by both the East and the West. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV declared him a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church. His feast in the West is celebrated on June 9th.
Blessed is he who like a fire is ablaze with love and has burned up in himself all impure thoughts and corruption of the soul. –St. Ephraem the Syrian