28 January 2018

Venerable Efrem the Wonderworker of Novotorzhsk

Venerable Efrem of Novotorzhsk

The twenty-eighth of January, as well as being the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee this year, is also the feast day of Venerable Efrem, Abbot of the Monastery of Saints Boris and Gleb in the town of Torzhok, now in the Tver Oblast’. Saint Efrem was a ‘Hungarian’ (which, in those days, might have meant either a Magyar or a Rusin), one of three saintly brothers born in the Carpathian Mountains. Baptised Orthodox, Efrem left his home alongside his two brothers Moses and Yuri to serve under the meek Martyr-Prince Boris of Rostov, until the innocent last was murdered by his wicked brother Svyatopolk. Efrem’s brother Yuri was among the retainers who was martyred alongside Saints Boris and Gleb, and beheaded so that his body could be plundered by Svyatopolk’s men. His other brother Moses was kidnapped by the Polish king Bolesław, and sold into slavery in that country.

In the wake of the bloody fratricide on the Al’ta, Efrem found his brother’s remains and buried them, though he kept his brother’s head. He withdrew from the world and began a life of monastic contemplation. He settled down on the road between Kiev and Novgorod, on the Tvertsa River. There, he, with several other monks, founded a monastery in memory of his fallen lord and his brother; he was freely chosen by the monks there to lead them. In those early days of the monastery, he oversaw the construction of a way-house on the road to Novgorod, where the poor could stay for free and the hungry could be fed.

Venerable Efrem lived to an old age and died; according to his wishes, he was buried alongside the head of his brother Yuri in a stone casket inside the monastery. His relics were uncovered in 1572.

Unfortunately, this was all of the hagiographical information I could find in English on Venerable Efrem, as provided by Holy Trinity Orthodox Church and the OCA website; however, I did also discover that Venerable Efrem is also remembered in the Synaxis of the Carpatho-Rusin Saints alongside his brothers, and thus, beneficent to the poor in death as in life, does he give some part of the glory that Our Lord Christ bestowed upon him upon his long-suffering people.

Holy Efrem, overflowing with brotherly love and pity for the poor, pray to God for us sinners!
Brothers, let us not pray like the Pharisee:
He who exalts himself will be humbled!
Let us prepare to abase ourselves by fasting;
Let us cry aloud with the voice of the Publican:
O God, forgive us sinners!

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