Poetic Hymna of Saint Ephrem the Syrian: A Study in the Religious Use of Poetry in Fourth-Century Christianity

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Ephrem’s thought is revealed to us through the language of symbols and allusions, and his legacy as a theologian lies in his commitment to the Scriptural narrative. Ephrem’s theological approach is also a representative demonstration of the tradition of Syriac Christian theology and symbolic poetry at the time. This thesis explores Ephrem’s Eucharistic theology as it is expressed in his poetic Hymns. The aim of the study is to look into various definitions of Eucharist that Ephrem offers in his writings.
This study looks at the way Ephrem describes the physicality of the sacraments. It presents an analysis of specific Hymns of Ephrem, which are selected for their affiliation to the Eucharist. This exercise allows us to gather enough textual evidence to identify the main aspects of Ephrem’s Eucharistic theology, while giving credit to his unique way of expressing his theology. As an outcome of the research there is an attempt to present the reasons behind Ephrem’s theological understanding and appropriation of the myster of the Eucharist by means of highly poetic and symbolic language.


“St. Ephrem is justly renowned for his striking, rich, and profound use of the Syriac language, which finds its fullest expression in his remarkable and evocative poetry. His hymns in particular bring to his expositions of the Christian mysteries a depth and beauty all their own.”
Prof. Robert Hayward,
Durham University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Robert Hayward
Introduction to the Study
Eucharistic Theology in Ephrem
Chapter One – The Eucharist and Healing
Introducing the Eucharist as the reality of Christ
Eucharist vs. Passover: Some thoughts on Similarities and differences in Jewish and Christian practices, according to Ephrem
The Eucharist as the Medicine of Life: Physicality of the Sacrament, a unique feature in Ephrem’s theological approach
Christ=Medicine of Life, Treasury of Healing
Physicality of Redemption (and the Incarnation)
The Medicine of Life vs. Death
Chapter Two – The Eucharist and Scripture: The Eucharist as an accumulation of the Old and New Testament types
OT types in Ephrem
Joseph’s bones, the Tabernacle, Noah’s Art, Asher as Ephrem’s types for the Eucharist
NT types in Ephrem
The Eucharist and the Last Supper
The Last Supper: the dipping of bread recollection
Eyes of Faith matter
Eyes of Faith: Free will and Faith in the realm of God’s revelation and in collaboration with it
Eucharistic Theology and Praxis: Perception of the Eucharist through the ‘Eyes of Faith’
Christ on the Cross as a prototype of the Eucharist
Christ and Adam, Church and Eden: Types or antitypes?
Chapter Three – Defining the Eucharist by association
The concepts of Fire and Spirit in Ephrem’s Hymns: Types for the Eucharist = Presence of Christ / Fire and Spirit: Ephrem’s sacramental theology and attributes / types for the Eucharist
Chapter Four – Ephrem’s Eucharistic narrative in the Tenth Hymn in Faith
Chapter Five – Christology and Ecclesiology in relation to the Eucharist
Conclusion of the Study

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