Wednesday, November 28, 2007

on the Church's roots and on Ephraim the Syrian on women

Dedicating the Pope Paul VI hall to the memory of St. Ephraim the Syriac today, Benedict called the saint "the most important representative of Syriac Christianity, and succeeded in a unique way to reconcile the vocation of the theologian with that of the poet."

The saint's writing says something about women: "To Ephrem the role of the woman is a relevant one. The way he wrote about women was always prompted by sensibility and respect: The fact that Jesus dwelt in the womb of Mary has enormously raised the woman's dignity," Benedict says.

Benedict reminded the General Audience that the Church's roots are not European. Said Benedict: "According to general opinion, Christianity is a European religion that has exported the culture of this Continent to other countries. The reality, though, is a lot more complex, as the root of the Christian religion is found in the Old Testament, and therefore in Jerusalem and the Semitic world....Its expansion during the first centuries was both westward -- toward the Greek-Latin world, where it then inspired the European culture -- and eastward to Persia and India, thus contributing to stimulate a specific culture, in Semitic languages, with its own identity."

Here is a portion from Ephraim's work. The scene is Mary, greeted by the princes of Persia bearing gifts for her infant child:

They entered and found Him as a child--
as He dwelt in the house of the lowly woman;
and they drew near and worshipped with gladness,
and brought near before Him their treasures.

Mary said, "For whom are these and for what purpose?
And what is the cause that has called you
to come from your country
to the Child with your treasures?"

They said, "Thy Son is a King and He binds crowns
and is King of all,
and great is His power over the world,
and to His Kingdom shall all be obedient."

At what time did this come to pass,
that a lowly woman should bring forth a King?"

Mary said: "I who am in need and in want,
how then could a king come forth from me?"

[The princes said]: "In thee alone
has this come to pass
that a mighty King from thee should appear;
thee in whom poverty shall be magnified,
and to thy Son shall crowns be made subject."

Ephraim the Syrian

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