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    Church s Roots Aren t European, Says Pope Comments on Syriac Poet-Theologian VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Christianity didn t originate in Europe,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2007
      Church's Roots Aren't European, Says Pope

      Comments on Syriac Poet-Theologian

      VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Christianity didn't
      originate in Europe, but rather has its roots in the Middle Eastern
      world of the Old Testament, says Benedict XVI.

      The Pope said this today during the general audience in Paul VI
      Hall, which he dedicated to the figure of St. Ephrem the Syrian, a
      fourth-century theologian, poet and musician.

      He said the reflection continued along the lines of his commentary
      last week on the fourth-century Syriac Christian Aphraates, which
      also showed the cultural diversity of the early Christians.

      "According to general opinion," said the Pontiff, "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."

      The Holy Father continued: "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."

      St. Ephrem, said Benedict XIV, "was 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."

      A deacon

      Ephram was born in 306 in Nisibis, in what is modern-day Turkey, and
      died of the plague in 373 in Edessa, in what is modern-day Greece.
      The Pope said that while not much is known of his life, it is
      commonly held that he was a deacon and lived a life of celibacy and

      The Holy Father said the deacon, "a rich and captivating author,"
      also "left us a large written theological inheritance."

      "The specific character of his work is that theology meets poetry,"
      continued the Pontiff. "If we want to get closer to his doctrine, we
      need to acknowledge that he studied theology through poetry.

      "Poetry allowed him to deepen his theological reflections through
      paradoxes and images. His theology became both liturgy and music at
      the same time: He was indeed a great composer and musician."

      Benedict XVI quoted several of Ephrem's hymns, as examples of the
      saint's "poetic theology."

      In his hymn "On Christ's Nativity," Ephrem reflected on the figure
      of the Virgin Mary: "The Lord came to her to make himself a servant.
      The Word came to her to keep silence in her womb. The lightning came
      to her to not make any noise."

      Pearl of faith

      In another hymn, "On the Pearl," St. Ephrem talks of faith: "My
      brothers, I put (the pearl) in the palm of my hand, to be able to
      look at it closely.

      "I observed it from one side and then the other: It had only one
      appearance from all sides.

      "(Such) is the search for the Son, inscrutable, for he is luminous."

      Commenting on the hymns of the fourth-century poet-theologian,
      Benedict XVI said, "His theological reflection is expressed with
      images and symbols taken from nature, from daily life and from the

      The Pope also noted the deacon's writings on 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.

      "For Ephrem there is no redemption without Jesus, just as there
      could be no incarnation without Mary."


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