Recently, a lot of attention has rightly been paid to the female doctors of the Church – Sts. Teresa of Ávila, Catherine of Siena, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Hildegaard of Bingen – great mystical sisters who wrote profound works of theology, but did you know there’s an even smaller minority among the Doctors of the Church? There’s only one Doctor of the Church who was clergy, but received higher orders than deacon: St. Ephrem the Syrian.
You may never have heard of him, but I bet you’ll wish you had. Why? What was his contribution?
St. Ephrem the Syrian wrote more than 400 extant hymns, many of which are still in use among Eastern Christians. They included deep mystical imagery, philosophical observations, and theological commentaries, including an entire branch of hymnody known as the Hymns Against Heresies. It’s unknown whether setting arguments against Arianism to music was terribly effective, but I’m betting it’s still a good read.
Music has a way of influencing our thoughts and actions. St. Ephrem knew this. We can always use more hymns that expound theological truths especially relevant to our own times. St. Ephrem, pray for us!