St Ephraim’s Prophetic Prayer and Why It Helped Me on Christmas Day

“And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville, they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!” –How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

I thought this would be an encouraging end to my posts on Mary and the birth of Jesus. My whole family, minus my frail mom, attended the lovely Christmas eve service at my Lutheran church. When we returned home, we couldn’t find Holly, whom we had adopted one year ago. Sadly, when we did find her, it appeared she had choked on something she found, had a seizure, and passed away. I was distraught. My Boston son-in-law let me cry on him while my husband and daughter made arrangements with the vet. Then, I called the rest of the family to alert them to be prepared for the next day. They all were coming to our house for our annual Christmas feast. One family member asked me if I wanted to cancel our gathering to recuperate. He is an avid dog lover like me. I said something like, “No, Christmas must continue.” Strangely, this quote from Dr. Seuss’s brilliant “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” came to mind, and I tried to quote it.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

The next day, amid the bustle of cooking (my pierogis were awesome,) I kept trying to quote this to everyone. So finally, I looked it up and read it to everyone.

But the Spirit of Christmas wasn’t finished with me. I finally finished up the late EChurch@Wartburg. As I looked up some ancient Advent prayers, I came across this one by St Ephraim (aka spelled Ephrem), the Syrian who lived from 306-373 AD. The guy was a bit of a character, as outlined in this history on the Orthodox Church in America website.

Saint Ephraim, accounting himself as the least and worst of all, went to Egypt at the end of his life to see the efforts of the great ascetics. He was accepted there as a welcome guest and received great solace from conversing with them. On his return journey he visited at Caesarea in Cappadocia with Saint Basil the Great (January 1), who wanted to ordain him a priest, but he considered himself unworthy of the priesthood. At the insistence of Saint Basil, he consented only to be ordained as a deacon, in which rank he remained until his death. Later on, Saint Basil invited Saint Ephraim to accept a bishop’s throne, but the saint feigned madness in order to avoid this honor, humbly regarding himself as unworthy of it.

After his return to his own Edessa wilderness, Saint Ephraim hoped to spend the rest of his life in solitude, but divine Providence again summoned him to serve his neighbor. The inhabitants of Edessa were suffering from a devastating famine. By the influence of his word, the saint persuaded the wealthy to render aid to those in need. From the offerings of believers he built a poor-house for the poor and sick. Saint Ephraim then withdrew to a cave near Edessa, where he remained to the end of his days.

Wikipedia states:

He is especially revered in Syriac Christianity, both in East Syriac tradition and West Syriac tradition, and also counted as a Venerable Father (i.e., a sainted Monk) in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in the Roman Catholic Church in 1920. Ephrem is also credited as the founder of the School of Nisibis, which, in later centuries, was the centre of learning of the Church of the East.

Ephrem wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems, and sermons in verse, as well as prose exegesis. These were works of practical theology for the edification of the Church in troubled times. So popular were his works, that, for centuries after his death, Christian authors wrote hundreds of pseudepigraphal works in his name. He has been called the most significant of all of the fathers of the Syriac-speaking church tradition.[4] In Syriac Christian tradition, he is considered patron of the Syriac people.[1]

Remember that Ephraim wrote to @1800 years ago as you read this prayer. His predictive prowess is seen in the first part of the prayer. I liked this so much that after I posted it in EChurch, I sent it to my family.

The feast day of your birth resembles You, Lord Because it brings joy to all humanity.
Old people and infants alike enjoy your day. Your day is celebrated from generation to generation.
Kings and emperors may pass away, And the festivals to commemorate them soon lapse.
But your festival will be remembered until the end of time.
Your day is a means and a pledge of peace. At Your birth heaven and earth were reconciled,
Since you came from heaven to earth on that day You forgave our sins and wiped away our guilt.
You gave us so many gifts on the day of your birth: A treasure chest of spiritual medicines for the sick;
Spiritual light for the blind; The cup of salvation for the thirsty; The bread of life for the hungry.
In the winter when trees are bare, You give us the most succulent spiritual fruit.
In the frost when the earth is barren, You bring new hope to our souls.
In December when seeds are hidden in the soil, The staff of life springs forth from the virgin womb.

So we celebrated and enjoyed the day. Yes, there was a bit of sadness, but we remembered that a Savior was born who conquered the grave. And, yes, I believe that all dogs go to heaven. 🙂

PS_Regular programing to return Wednesday! 🙂


St Ephraim’s Prophetic Prayer and Why It Helped Me on Christmas Day — 29 Comments

  1. So sorry for your loss, Dee.

    I find the eastern fathers are a great comfort, and there’s a quiet, deep glory in the Syriac tradition. An OCA bishop has said that Ephrem’s “Hymns on Paradise” is as good a catechism as one can have. St Isaac of Nineveh’s writings are on the same level, from a couple hundred years later.

  2. I’ve heard that in a dog’s life, 1 year = 7 years. Holly had 7 wonderful years with you, Dee.

  3. It must be true that all the love dogs give doesn’t just die and fade away: love is eternal. It goes someplace special, you bet. Yes, I sense that all dogs go to heaven, too. So much love!

    Dee I don’t know if this story will come through all the ads to show how a sweet mama dog cared for a little child with Down syndrome,
    but that video helped me when our dog died:

  4. Chuckp: humble leaders

    Leaders, in the Hebrews 11 tradition, live by faith: literally, practically, and vividly. As Simon Sinek says, leaders are the first to charge (frontline) and the last to eat. A person may have authority and a title without being a leader.

    Over the holidays, our family has noted contemporary examples on screen and from the page:

    -Schindler’s List (film)
    -The Hiding Place with the ten Boom Family (audiobook)
    -The Scarlet & the Black with Monseigneur Hugh O’Flaherty (film)

    Christa Brown is recently honored as 1 of 10 most important & influential religious leaders of 2022. She is certainly on the frontlines and asking nothing for herself.

    Dee is also on the frontlines while asking nothing for herself.

    God bless these two humble women leaders.

    It is said that when we die our Maker will ask us to show Him our wounds. If we have no wounds to show, our Lord will then ask, “Was there nothing worth fighting for?”

  5. Dee, please accept my condolences on Holly’s passing. I still miss my little black dog from decades ago, and anticipate that I’ll see her in heaven. May God grant you comfort.

  6. Old Timer: I still miss my little black dog from decades ago, and anticipate that I’ll see her in heaven.

    I too believe that all dogs go to heaven.

  7. Dee,
    I remember you telling us about Holly when you first gave her a home.
    This past year was the best year, the only good year, of her life. You and your family gave her a year of happiness and peace in this life that she may never have had without you. You are the best thing that ever happened to her.

  8. Muff Pottter: I too believe that all dogs go to heaven.

    In this life, I’ve had dogs treat me like a friend … and “friends” treat me like a dog. In heaven, I figure the dogs I’ve loved will be in line to come and greet me ahead of friends … they can run faster.

  9. Nancy2(aka Kevlar),

    Thank you for saying this. I love these pugs I have taken in. That is what makes it so difficult. I know I should be able to take a step back and say I did something good, but it ends up that their love does more for me than I could have imagined. I know I will go on to adopt another sooner rather than later, but my stomach still hurts today. She had a good life even though Buttercup was quite jealous of her and tried to get me to pay her more attention than the new kid.

  10. Thanks Max. Given how fast my little dog ran to greet me, she will be racing far ahead of some of my “friends” when I get to heaven.

  11. Old Timer,

    Old Timer, when I was a kid, we raised beagles to hunt rabbits with. There was a long line of them that licked my hands “clean” before dinner 🙂

    There was one I was particularly fond of named Ole Joe. He had a long and wonderful dog’s life. We played and hunted together, and sat on the porch and “talked” for hours. That beagle lived to hunt. In fact, I was with Ole Joe on a hunt when he died doing what he loved, chasing a rabbit. I suppose he had a heart attack due to all the excitement of the hunt, howling and running through the brush. That was a sad day, but I still have happy memories of him … hunting with him was heaven on earth for a season.

  12. I know there are several animal lovers that comment on TWW, and I reckon we are all old enough to have experienced losses that hit close to our hearts. But, our hearts grow, if we allow…… and , usually we do allow. We always have a special place in our hearts for each person or special animal that we have lost ………. and our hearts grow and make room for more………more love, more stories to share, more things to treasure, and more reason to be thankful for the beautiful experiences we have had.

    Now, that being said…… I hope all dogs —-and a few other critters—- go to Heaven. I have had some dogs with whom I’d like to share Heaven. But, there was a Shetland pony, a red mule ……..

    I had this red mule that my bay mare foaled when I was 13 years old. I raised and trained the mule myself, with no influence or interference from the adults in my life.
    When I would go down to the barn, as soon as I walked through the lot gate, my mule would come at me at a dead run! She would go stiff legged and come to a screeching halt, nose to nose with me (almost gave my grandma a heart attack the first time she witnessed our greeting!).
    Now, Old Timer….. If you think your dog is going to come racing at you, just wait until you see my mule!

    (Hey, do y’all believe there’s RC cola in Heaven? On Fridays —-grocery shopping day—- I would take a 16 oz. RC to the barn…. I’d drink half of it, and my mule would drink the other half, right out of the bottle.)

    Y’all go ahead and laugh, but it’s true. There are still some witnesses around.
    We need a laugh today, anyway.

  13. Dee, I’m sorry to read about Holly. That was rough.

    I’m glad you didn’t cancel Christmas and I hope you had a great family time in spite of that.

  14. Nancy2(aka Kevlar),

    He cited Psalm 14:3 (there is none good, no not one…)
    (which I see as hyperbole)


    Romans chap. 3, that God cannot be satisfied with anything but perfection…

    What do you mean by projection?

  15. Muff Potter:

    What do you mean by projection?

    Maybe he’s not “good people”……… maybe he was experiencing a little subconscious self-evaluation…… since he’s not “good people”, no one else can be.
    ……Just a thought.

  16. Dee, I’m sorry about Holly. Our furbabies take residence in our hearts forever and your pugs have a special place here on the blog. Whenever I see pugs, I think of you and your pugs.
    Thank you for introducing us to St Ephraim.

  17. Nancy2(aka Kevlar),

    Muff Potter,

    Yes and then they have the smugness to point out Jesus said this very thing (only He wasn’t projecting). Ugh!

    Two of my old pastors on different occasions succeeded in inducing part of groups of us to copy their salacious way of talking, just to prove this very point. (An exchange position was later found for one of them in beach preaching.)

  18. Dee, I’m so sorry for your loss. And I’ve never forgotten the support you gave to me one Christmas, when my rabbit, Nibbles, passed. I had never had an animal friend before, and the bond between us was very close. Losing her was very, very hard, even though I’d known it was coming for some time.

    I fully believe that animals – not just “pets,” either – are part of the life of the World to Come. When I look out at the mountains and dense forests here, I can’t help thinking that great, vast cycles of life, lived by creatures who aren’t part of our lives, hint at how much larger our world is than we could ever imagine. All of those lives, I believe, matter to God.

    That you share your home and love with rescued animals (as do i) is a very good and – to my mind – important thing. And while I know you’re hurting – understandably so – I also expect that you’ll be with her again, in time. I expect the same, for all of the animals I’ve had here and whom I’ll never stop loving. (I had to have my 2nd bunny pts in late July, and welcomed my new bun, Lili, home not quite 2 months later. Love doesn’t end.)

    Thinking of you, sending virtual hugs and a few prayers your way.

  19. Muff Potter: I was told by a fundagelical firebrand that there’s no such thing as good people.

    Let me guess…

    — Radio preachers when I was listening to Christianese AM radio back in the Seventies

    — A tract (“The Calvary Road”?) that really messed up my had back then