Memory 31st of January
Today, our knowledge of the life of the venerable Eprem the Lesser, the esteemed 11th-century writer, translator, philosopher, and defender of the Georgian Church, is limited. However, through his work titled “Reminiscences” and other sources, we can speculate about the significant periods of his life and his dedicated efforts.
In 1027, when King Bagrat IV (1027–1072) ascended the throne of Georgia, numerous noblemen from the Tao region in southern Georgia migrated to Greece. Among them was the honorable Vache, son of Karichi, believed to be Eprem’s father according to scholars.
After receiving a Greek education in Constantinople, Eprem settled in the Black Mountains near Antioch, where he dedicated himself to his labors.
Eprem’s contributions to Georgian theological and philosophical writing are immeasurable. He authored nearly one hundred works, encompassing various branches of theological inquiry. Eprem even formulated his own theory of translation, which later served as the foundation for written composition in the Georgian language.
His translation theory consists of three fundamental principles: Firstly, a composition should be translated from its original language, the language in which it was initially written. Secondly, the translation must convey the same literal meaning as the original while respecting the nature of the target language. Thirdly, the translated text should be accompanied by a commentary section that delves into the relevant historical, grammatical, and literary aspects.
Eprem translated several significant works, including five writings of St. Dionysius the Areopagite, The Ascetic Rules of St. Basil the Great, the writings of St. Ephraim the Syrian, commentaries on the Epistles and Psalms, and numerous other valuable patristic texts.
Among Eprem the Lesser’s original works, his most notable is “An Explanation of the Reasons for the Conversion of Georgia.” This compilation comprises existing essays along with Eprem’s own commentaries on the conversion of the nation.
In the latter half of the 11th century, certain monks in Antioch and the Black Mountains began disputing the independence of the Georgian Church. They claimed that none of the Apostles had preached the Christian Faith in Georgia. To settle this matter and establish the autocephalous nature of the Georgian Church, Eprem was called upon by the nation’s elite.
Eprem extensively studied patristic writings in the original Greek, gathered ancient sources, and successfully confirmed the independent existence of the Georgian Church.
Regarding the preaching of the Apostles, St. Eprem wrote: “Know that from the time the Apostles were preaching, according to the Prophet David: ‘Their voice was heard through all the earth, and their words resounded in every village’ (Psalm 18:4). In Georgia, Andrew the First-called preached the Gospel in Avazgia (now Abkhazeti), and from there he journeyed to Ossetia (now Shida Kartli). Bartholomew also preached in Georgia, specifically in the Kartli region.”
St. Eprem never departed from the Black Mountains, and in 1091, he was enthroned as the abbot of Kastana Monastery. The precise location of Kastana remains unknown, but it is believed to have been situated in the Black Mountains.
Around the year 1101, our holy father Eprem peacefully reposed in the Lord. His passing is documented in a list of the departed compiled by the Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi in 1103, allowing us to approximate the year of his death.
Due to his God-pleasing life and commendable works on behalf of the Church and his nation, Eprem was canonized by the Orthodox Church of Georgia.
O bright star, all-honorable Father Eprem the Lesser, we beseech thee to cease not thy prayers on behalf of those who commemorate thy holy memory!