|previous article in this issue||next article in this issue|
Document Details :
Title: Spreken over God bij Efrem de Syriër
Author(s): DEN BIESEN, Kees
Journal: Journal of Eastern Christian Studies
Volume: 47 Issue: 1-2 Date: 1995
An analysis of the theological language in the works of St Ephrem the Syrian is offered in this article. The author pays attention particularly to his ninth 'Hymn on the Church', of which he also presents a translation in Dutch. This hymn is a very good example of Ephrem's perception of the relationship between theology and language. The paradox of transcendence and immanence of God make thinking and speaking about Him - this means theology - both possible and impossible. How can one speak about God when his essence is mysterious and hidden from human understanding? On the other hand, since God reveals himself in creation and in history we may speak about Him, but how can we speak about a mystery? This traditional problem of every theologian is also a personal dilemma in the life of St Ephrem. In his ninth 'Hymn on the Church' his heart and his mind are in conflict whether to worship God in silence or to praise Him in words. But finally love (=heart) prevails. God first spoke to men in images, symbols and analogies. Therefore man may speak about God using the same words if he realizes that no word or image can ever fully describe Him. Lack of a clearly defined terminology could be considered a point of weakness in Ephrem's theology. However, it is also his strength if we perceive theology not so much as an academic and rational discipline, but more in the patristic way as the human expression of mystical experience.