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Academic Periodical

The Quarterly Journal of St. Philaret’s Institute

Beauty in the Christian Life according to St Ephraim the Syrian

Sebastian Paul Brock, Ph.D., Emeritus Fellow, Syriac Studies, Wolfson College (Oxford)
pp. 12–24
DOI: 10.25803/SFI.2021.37.1.001
The article examines the concept of beauty in Christian anthropology using the writings of Ephrem the Syrian. The interpretation of the biblical verse about the creation of man in God’s image is analysed using the hymns of a fourth-century Syriac poet as an example. Metaphors are revealed, with the help of which Ephrem develops the idea of the original beauty of man in Paradise, the fall into sin and the loss of beauty by Adam and Eve. The beauty of the image of God in man has been obscured by sin, and human effort and ascesis are needed to restore it. In doing so, God retains the gift of free will and does not resort to coercion. The creation and fall of man, the incarnation of Christ, and man’s return to God through baptism are described by Ephrem using the metaphors of the garment and mirror. The image of a clean and unclouded mirror is revealed in Christ. One who has been baptized must constantly purify his inner eye in order to imitate Christ in this purity. The images of being clothed in the “garments of glory”, the purification of the mirror and the return to original beauty help not only to reveal the specificity of the concepts inherent in early Syriac Christian literature, but also to shed light on the possible understanding of F. M. Dostoevsky’s words “beauty will save the world”.
Keywords: Christian anthropology, the image of God, early Syriac literature, Ephrem the Syrian, the Fall, beauty.
For citation: Brock S.P. Beauty in the Christian life according to the works of St. Ephraim the Syrian // Bulletin of the St. Philaret Institute. 2021. Issue. 37, pp. 12–24. DOI: 10.25803/SFI.2021.37.1.001

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