Alcuin vs. Ephrem of Edessa

In the first and only Saturday match-up of Lent Madness, we get Dueling Deacons! Alcuin of York vs. Ephrem of Edessa. With the emphasis on diaconal service we can only imagine these two standing around saying “After you.” “No, after you.” Nonetheless, you must decide which of these holy men will move on and which will be left to wallow in the lavabo bowl of defeat.

Yesterday Julia Chester Emery trounced Charles Henry Brent 73% to 27% in the Six-Name Showdown and will go on to face the winner of David of Wales vs. F.D Maurice. Speaking of the bracket, you may not know this but Lent Madness Bracket Czar, Adam Thomas, updates the bracket after each victory. Be sure to click the link, print it out, and/or post it on your living room wall and adore it for 24 hours before tearing it down and putting up the new one. [Please note: The Supreme Executive Committee does not generally condone the killing of trees].

You’ll also notice that underneath the bracket but above the match-up calendar, Adam posts the results and a link to each completed battle. This will come in especially handy in subsequent rounds as saints advance and you want a quick biographical refresher before casting your next vote.

After today’s vote is concluded, the next pairing will be posted on Monday morning as Joseph of Arimathea faces Anna Cooper. Even with a single day off, you may experience a phenomenon known as LMW (Lent Madness Withdrawal). Please stay calm; help is on the way. The “good news” is that we lose an hour of sleep this weekend so Lent Madness will return even sooner than anticipated!


Alcuin of York (735 – 804), deacon and later Abbot of Tours, was a Renaissance man. The Carolingian Renaissance of learning in eighth-century Europe was greatly influenced by him.

Born in Northumbria (England) and educated by a disciple of the Venerable Bede at the cathedral school at York, he became master there, expanding the school into an international center of learning, complete with a fantastic classical library. Charlemagne invited Alcuin to join his Frankish court in 781 and put him in charge of implementing widespread, radical educational reform. Schooling for everyone came under the purview of the church, and Alcuin created a liberal arts curriculum consisting of the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy) primarily to educate clergy, who were then required to establish free schools in their parishes. Alcuin wrote many textbooks for these schools, including a math book of river-crossing problems. Charlemagne, his wife, and sons were among Alcuin’s students.

Alcuin also established scriptoria (places for writing) throughout the empire to copy ancient manuscripts using Carolingian miniscule, a new kind of cursive writing that facilitated faster copying and standardization of letters. He may have developed new punctuation symbols too, including the previously unknown question mark. Given more time, he might have invented the emoticon. Using his techniques, much of ancient Roman literature and Greek mathematical works were thus preserved in a world threatened with destruction from repeated “barbarian” invasions. His significant moral influence over Charlemagne inspired the emperor to eventually abolish his law requiring everyone to be baptized or face execution, reasoning that forcing people into baptism wouldn’t make them Christians.

Alcuin was also a liturgical reformer, revising the lectionary and adapting the Gregorian (Roman/Italian) Sacramentary to include and preserve Gelasian (French/German) liturgies and ancient prayers. This effort expanded official liturgical resources to include saints’ feasts, the blessing of the Easter font, and other prayers, including the Collect for Purity still used today. He also standardized the text of the Vulgate (St. Jerome’s Latin Bible), which had accumulated many scribal errors over 400 years of copying. He continued developing plainchant for use in worship and re-introduced singing the Creed.

Among his theological writings is a celebrated treatise against the heresy of Adoptionism, the belief that Jesus was merely human until his baptism. Alcuin’s many extant letters are important historical sources, and his (admittedly mediocre) poems include a poignant and rather graphic lament on the Viking destruction of the holy monastery at Lindisfarne.

Collect for Alcuin
Almighty God, who in a rude and barbarous age raised up your deacon Alcuin to rekindle the light of learning: Illumine our minds, we pray, that amid the uncertainties and confusions of our own time we may show forth your eternal truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Penny Nash

ephremEphrem of Edessa

Ephrem of Edessa was a deacon, teacher, prolific poet, and defender of orthodoxy in the fourth-century church of Syria.

He was baptized as a young man and joined a covenanted Christian community in Nisibis. This community was a forerunner to monasticism. The community was a small, urban group committed to service and abstinence. At some point following his baptism, Ephrem was ordained deacon and also formally appointed to the office of teacher, which still holds great distinction for Syriac Christians.

Ephrem is thought to have attended the Council of Nicea with his bishop. He is beloved for his defense of orthodox Christianity through his composition of popular songs, a tactic he learned from the Gnostic opposition, which employed it with great success. These teaching hymns, called madrašê in Syriac, were possibly sung by all-women folk choirs and accompanied by the lyre. We do not know if there was liturgical dance to go with these hymns, but if so, the choreography is thankfully lost in the dustbin of history.

Ephrem’s writings were practical theology intended to instruct Christians during a tumultuous time of conflicting doctrine. He skillfully drew on a multitude of influences, including early Rabbinic Judaism, Greek science and philosophy, and the Persian mystical tradition. Ephrem was so admired and his writings considered so authoritative that Christian authors wrote works in his name for centuries after his death. The best known of these works is the Prayer of Saint Ephrem, still recited during fasting periods in Eastern Christianity today.

In 363, the Roman Emperor was forced to surrender his home city of Nisibis to Persia, and the entire Christian population was expelled. Ephrem moved to Edessa, where he lived for ten years. In his sixties, he succumbed to an epidemic as he ministered to its victims.

Ephrem is often called “The Harp of the Spirit.”

Collect for Ephrem of Edessa
Pour out on us, O Lord, that same Spirit by which your deacon Ephrem rejoiced to proclaim in sacred song the mysteries of faith; and so gladden our hearts that we, like him, may be devoted to you alone; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Amber Belldene


Alcuin vs. Ephrem of Edessa

  • Alcuin (77%, 4,139 Votes)
  • Ephrem of Edessa (23%, 1,218 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,355

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199 Comments to "Alcuin vs. Ephrem of Edessa"

  1. Cori Olson's Gravatar Cori Olson
    March 8, 2014 - 8:17 am | Permalink

    Gotta love a churchman who writes math books and helps priests educate their people! Go Alcuin!!

    • March 8, 2014 - 9:15 am | Permalink

      Aren`t you loving this, Cori. The Supreme Whatever? What a hoot.

    • Bob Nelson's Gravatar Bob Nelson
      March 8, 2014 - 11:12 am | Permalink

      Begging the pardon of the SEC, but a deacon wouldn’t have said “after your.” A deacon would have said, “let’s go, we have the gospel to spread.”

      • Barbara Mays-Stock's Gravatar Barbara Mays-Stock
        March 8, 2014 - 3:16 pm | Permalink


    • Mary Jane's Gravatar Mary Jane
      March 8, 2014 - 11:17 am | Permalink

      Reformer vs. Traditionalist forever connected by an invisible thread tug and pull the spiritual mind between what has been and what will be. Our parish school partnership with St. Cyprien in Haiti inspires allegiance to those of a Renaissance nature: Alcuin, be our example while working in Haiti.

      Comment in French Creole: Formés vs tradisyonalist pou tout tan konekte ak yon Tug moso twal kamwazi envizib e ki rale tèt ou nan espirityèl ant sa ki te epi li ki sa yo pral. Ant lekòl pawas nou yo ak St Cyprien an Ayiti enspire fidelite bay moun nan yon nati Renesans: Alcuin dwe egzanp nou an pandan l ap travay an Ayiti.

    • Jayne's Gravatar Jayne
      March 8, 2014 - 11:59 am | Permalink

      So glad I finally one. Glad Alcuin was about the whole being…go teachers!

      • Jayne's Gravatar Jayne
        March 8, 2014 - 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Or I meant to say…I am finally in the lead!

  2. PhilEsq's Gravatar PhilEsq
    March 8, 2014 - 8:17 am | Permalink

    Congrats to the celebrity bloggers for making this such a tough choice! Both are clearly direct descendants of both of today’s saints!

    • March 8, 2014 - 9:36 am | Permalink

      Gosh, thanks, Phil!

    • Sandrita's Gravatar Sandrita
      March 8, 2014 - 9:57 am | Permalink

      My thoughts exactly, Philesq

  3. Ann's Gravatar Ann
    March 8, 2014 - 8:20 am | Permalink

    But teaching people through songs — can’t be beat.

    • Day Pritchartt's Gravatar Day Pritchartt
      March 8, 2014 - 10:57 am | Permalink

      Exactly! Especially popular songs. We all learn theology through singing hymns; singing them is at least as formative as listening to good preaching, IMHO.

      • Brigid Courtney's Gravatar Brigid Courtney
        March 8, 2014 - 3:13 pm | Permalink

        Can;’t help but love learning by singing… I can forget what I ate for breakfast, but never a song

  4. Ann's Gravatar Ann
    March 8, 2014 - 8:22 am | Permalink

    But as a calligrapher – one should vote for Alcuin

    • Melissa's Gravatar Melissa
      March 8, 2014 - 10:12 am | Permalink

      My thought as well 🙂 Go Alcuin!

  5. Heidi Haverkamp's Gravatar Heidi Haverkamp
    March 8, 2014 - 8:26 am | Permalink

    A vote for Ephrem, in honor of our fellow Christians in Syria.

  6. Pat Henderson's Gravatar Pat Henderson
    March 8, 2014 - 8:27 am | Permalink

    I not only have two deacons to chose from, but gained some clarity to my own call. I have found that writing and teaching have become a large part of what I am doing. Since I walked into the diaconate with open hands, it was a surprise. As a harpist and composer, I have to go with Ephrem even though I am most grateful for Alcuin’s contributions.

  7. Rayelenn Sparks Casey's Gravatar Rayelenn Sparks Casey
    March 8, 2014 - 8:27 am | Permalink

    Those Northumbrians are the best! Love Alcuin, Bede, Cuthbert, and all those northern saints.

    • MaurineRuby's Gravatar MaurineRuby
      March 8, 2014 - 9:37 am | Permalink

      Have you ever read Michael Wood’s In Search of England? Fabulous book that focuses on these early English church ancestors and the history of England. I absolutely fell in love (agape, of course!) with Bede while reading it!

  8. Debs Voorhees's Gravatar Debs Voorhees
    March 8, 2014 - 8:29 am | Permalink

    Oh, sometimes it’s better not to read about the one you don’t know. A deacon from the North of England, an early Syrian monastic during this time of such violence and pain in modern day Syria….this is one of those days when Nature and Nurture do mighty battle-when Instinct and New Knowledge are wrestling for domination!

  9. March 8, 2014 - 8:30 am | Permalink

    Oh my gosh, invented the question mark?

    • linda's Gravatar linda
      March 8, 2014 - 8:40 am | Permalink

      it says he possibly invented the question mark…yes-i think that’s a great reason to vote for him! i did! will we remember him tomorrow?

      • Victor of Sturbridge's Gravatar Victor of Sturbridge
        March 8, 2014 - 11:07 am | Permalink

        The question mark may be due to Isidore of Seville. See “Shady Characters” (which is about the history of punctuation, not about persons of dubious character) by Keith Houston (Norton, 2013), page 11.

        • March 8, 2014 - 9:47 pm | Permalink

          Makes sense that the Spanish would have something to do with the question mark, since they still use two with every question.

  10. Jerrie's Gravatar Jerrie
    March 8, 2014 - 8:30 am | Permalink

    .”His significant moral influence over Charlemagne inspired the emperor to eventually abolish his law requiring everyone to be baptized or face execution, reasoning that forcing people into baptism wouldn’t make them Christians.” Think how many wars prevented if his influence had lasted.

    • Harlie Youngblood's Gravatar Harlie Youngblood
      March 8, 2014 - 8:45 am | Permalink

      A tough choice for me, but Alcuin’s support of freedom of conscience won my vote.

    • Anne's Gravatar Anne
      March 8, 2014 - 8:29 pm | Permalink

      Anyone who could slow down the overenthusiastic Charlemagne gets my vote.

  11. March 8, 2014 - 8:31 am | Permalink

    I don`t know how to vote. Can someone explain? I`m new to Lent Madness.

    • March 8, 2014 - 8:33 am | Permalink

      There’s a video in the upper-right corner of this website, and it will explain how to vote. Enjoy!

      • Molly Reingruber's Gravatar Molly Reingruber
        March 8, 2014 - 8:37 am | Permalink

        Scott, surely you taking a sabbath day from this Lent Madness madness??? (extra question marks in honor of Alcuin)

      • March 8, 2014 - 9:16 am | Permalink

        Thanks, I found it. I think I tried to do this too early. The thing was right there. Duh!

      • Barbara's Gravatar Barbara
        March 8, 2014 - 9:29 am | Permalink

        Oops! I must turn myself in. Somehow I did what I didn’t know was possible: I voted twice. I think both times for Alcuin. I’m not sure of that because I didn’t know my cat could actually vote by walking across my keyboard. I’m not even certain a vote recorded. I just know the cat danced and the page changed. Mea culpa.

    • Molly Reingruber's Gravatar Molly Reingruber
      March 8, 2014 - 8:35 am | Permalink

      At the end of the second biography, you will see it say “Vote! Alcuin of York vs. Ephrem of Edessa” and below that title you will see two “buttons,” one for Alcuin and one for Ephrem. Click on the one you want. You can read comments or view results before voting, if that helps you decide. There are no wrong choices!

    • Sharon Kilpatrick's Gravatar Sharon Kilpatrick
      March 8, 2014 - 11:30 am | Permalink

      right above all these comments and below the brief biographies of the “Saints” are the names with litle circles by them. Click on the one you want, and then click on vote. If it works, you should shortly see vote totals with percentages for both candidaes.

  12. Molly Reingruber's Gravatar Molly Reingruber
    March 8, 2014 - 8:32 am | Permalink

    O the agony of conflicting feelings! These deacons are both wonderful, in both senses of the word. It’s time for prayer to clear the spirit and heart…and maybe a run to clear the head (if the icy roads have thawed). Who will move on to the Saintly Sixteen?

  13. Jocelyn Bell's Gravatar Jocelyn Bell
    March 8, 2014 - 8:34 am | Permalink

    A math textbook containing river crossing problems – would probably help me with my 10 year old grandson’s math homework!

  14. Beth Ann's Gravatar Beth Ann
    March 8, 2014 - 8:34 am | Permalink

    I decided that I better look up the Prayer of Ephrem before I voted. (These teachers obviously wanted us to do our homework.)

    O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust for power and idle talk.
    But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity (integrity), humility, patience and love.
    Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

    Nice! but I decided to cast my vote for the preservation of the Collect for Purity instead.

    • Irene's Gravatar Irene
      March 8, 2014 - 10:09 am | Permalink

      Thanks! Now I can be lazy.

    • Alan C's Gravatar Alan C
      March 8, 2014 - 10:26 am | Permalink

      Is the word “integrity” in parentheses meant as an alternative wording for those of us who would rather not be chaste? (Thanks, Alcuin, for that question mark!)

      Ephrem’s story is certainly inspiring, but I’m voting for Alcuin because I can’t imagine what the state of learning would have been in the Middle Ages (and subsequent eras) without Alcuin and scholars like him.

      • Sharon Monroe's Gravatar Sharon Monroe
        March 8, 2014 - 12:13 pm | Permalink

        My ? exactly!

        • March 8, 2014 - 2:47 pm | Permalink

          After reading an explication of this prayer by Fr Schmemann a couple years ago, I wrote my own paraphrase and it has become my Lenten prayer:

          O Holy Spirit!
          Take from me the spirit of
          sloth, faint-heartedness, lust for power, and idle talk.
          But give rather the spirit of
          whole-heartedness, humility, patience, and love.
          Grant me to see my own errors,
          and not to judge my sisters and brothers;
          For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages.

      • March 8, 2014 - 1:39 pm | Permalink

        I found another translation that used purity instead of chastity or integrity. Perhaps the original language indicates a chaste life – as in simple or plain or pure, rather than what we moderns tend to obsess on.

    • Molly's Gravatar Molly
      March 8, 2014 - 11:29 am | Permalink

      Beth Ann, I also looked up the prayer, and it was just what I needed today. So, my heart and mind may go with Alcuin, but my spirit is with Ephrem.

  15. Nancy's Gravatar Nancy
    March 8, 2014 - 8:38 am | Permalink

    I had to vote for Alcuin for all of his educational contributions. Didn’t know he invented the question mark, though, till now.

    • March 8, 2014 - 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Apparently his invention of the question mark is questionable.

      • Ed Adcock's Gravatar Ed Adcock
        March 8, 2014 - 6:42 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, but I was wondering, somebody had to do it. Right. 😉

  16. Diane Wick's Gravatar Diane Wick
    March 8, 2014 - 8:38 am | Permalink

    As much as I love music and song, as a member of a family of teachers I must vote for Alcuin. Tough choice.

  17. Peggy's Gravatar Peggy
    March 8, 2014 - 8:38 am | Permalink

    As someone who can still sing the preamble to the US Constitution 40 years later, I vote for the one who wrote songs to teach!

    • March 8, 2014 - 10:28 am | Permalink

      Long live Schoolhouse Rock! My husband and I still sing several of them. Lolly, lolly, lolly get your adverbs here. 🙂

    • March 8, 2014 - 3:55 pm | Permalink

      As someone who writes about the Constitution for a living, I’m glad! I waited to read the comments this time before voting. Although initially predisposed toward Alcuin (questions, freedom of conscience, education), I must vote for that beautiful Lenten prayer of Ephrem’s. And his wisdom to use music to teach.

  18. Michele Quinn's Gravatar Michele Quinn
    March 8, 2014 - 8:43 am | Permalink

    The collect of purity gets my vote.

  19. Peg's Gravatar Peg
    March 8, 2014 - 8:43 am | Permalink

    Alcuin won me the minute I learned he invented the question mark. Plus he set up Proto-Kinkos for holy writings and preserved saints’ feasts (building the legacy that would one day become Lent Madness). As a poet who aspires to mediocrity, I admire a kindred spirit. But the slam dunk was the Collect for Purity, that beautiful prayer that has opened so many services and so many hearts. A great match up of great men today, but for me it’s all Al.

  20. Susaan's Gravatar Susaan
    March 8, 2014 - 8:44 am | Permalink

    Penny Nash – I LOVE YOUR WRITING! “Given more ime, (Alcuin) might have invented the emoticon”. Too funny. Love the reverence, and tongue in cheek. Is there an emoticon for that? 😉

    • March 8, 2014 - 9:02 am | Permalink

      Aww, thanks, Susaan! And just think, without Alcuin and his contributions, we might not have had that great 60’s band ? and the Mysterians who gave us such hits at “96 Tears.”

  21. Judy Hoover's Gravatar Judy Hoover
    March 8, 2014 - 8:44 am | Permalink

    Although I appreciate the better poetry by Ephrem, I just cannot pass up voting for Alcuin who had such an impact on the education of priests. We priests need all the help we can get.

  22. Madeleine baier's Gravatar Madeleine baier
    March 8, 2014 - 8:45 am | Permalink

    Wow, the SEC is demonstrating its proclivity for difficult choices .. ok. In the absence of Fred Rogers, my vote goes to Alcuin.

  23. Mike Hadaway's Gravatar Mike Hadaway
    March 8, 2014 - 8:45 am | Permalink

    It is a sin to know and not to teach – Alcuin of York. St. Alcuin all the way

  24. March 8, 2014 - 8:49 am | Permalink

    Definitely Alcuin. No contest for me!

    • Lisa's Gravatar Lisa
      March 8, 2014 - 9:43 am | Permalink

      Agreed! Alcuin is the

  25. Rich Wisniewski, Deacon's Gravatar Rich Wisniewski, Deacon
    March 8, 2014 - 8:49 am | Permalink

    As a Deacon and teacher myself, I had to support Alcuin of York.

  26. Patsy's Gravatar Patsy
    March 8, 2014 - 8:50 am | Permalink

    The comments of modern day saints are every bit as edifying and enchanting as are the Lent Madness Saints of yore. I’m all for the river crossing math problems and the question mark.

  27. Denise's Gravatar Denise
    March 8, 2014 - 8:58 am | Permalink

    My vote has to be for Alcuin. My daughter has spent lots of time on river-crossing-problems and she is excellent at math! We are also great at questioning things??? Here is a vote for learning!

  28. Barbara's Gravatar Barbara
    March 8, 2014 - 8:59 am | Permalink

    Of Course Alcuin. The ? is one of the truely great symbols of faith and Episcopalians would never be understood without it.

    • Adrian Cook's Gravatar Adrian Cook
      March 8, 2014 - 10:28 am | Permalink

      Thats an excellent insight which as a member of the chirch of England i value!

    • Adrian Cook's Gravatar Adrian Cook
      March 8, 2014 - 10:36 am | Permalink

      Living in Yorkshire and in York today, marveling as I always do at the beauty of York Minster which presumably Alcuin knew, though not in its current form its seems natural to vote for Alcuin. I particularly like the fact that he invented the ? – that quintessentisally mark of the Church of England…

      But whats taken me the other way is the poetry thats been posted in the comments – the Madrashe posted by Fr Tony and the Prayer of Eprem…so its Ephrem (also as a Brit I am conditioned by nature and nurture to vote for the underdog)

  29. Emily Agnew's Gravatar Emily Agnew
    March 8, 2014 - 8:59 am | Permalink

    I’m a musician myself so regret not voting for Ephrem. But Alcuin’s influence of Charlemagne towards compassion, his extraordinary educational vision, and the beautiful Collect for Purity, leave this a much clearer vote for me than yesterday’s. Above all, as one who also practices Buddhism and has been deeply moved by Ramana Maharshi’s penetrating inquiry, “Who am I?”, I honor Alcuin for his invention of the question mark. To me, the ability to question one’s beliefs is at the root of compassion and is essential to discernment.

  30. Linda M's Gravatar Linda M
    March 8, 2014 - 9:00 am | Permalink

    This was a difficult choice, as I wanted to vote for Ephrem because of the music and Alcuin because of his work with curriculum and schools. As a former teacher, he has my vote, but I love music and singing so I am sorry to Ephrem.

  31. Donna's Gravatar Donna
    March 8, 2014 - 9:01 am | Permalink

    Why do we have two deacons battling each other? I am a deacon-in-training, and we don’t battle each other 🙂 I want both deacons to advance. Oh well, gotta pick one.

  32. Meredyth's Gravatar Meredyth
    March 8, 2014 - 9:04 am | Permalink

    Collect for Purity, question marks, math problems and bad poetry. I have found my patron saint…

    • Molly's Gravatar Molly
      March 8, 2014 - 11:33 am | Permalink

      Agreed 🙂

    • Johannas Jordan's Gravatar Johannas Jordan
      March 8, 2014 - 1:04 pm | Permalink

      I’d write some bad poetry to tell you he is my Patron Saint too, but that would be over the top! Alcuin it is.

  33. Jim Harrison's Gravatar Jim Harrison
    March 8, 2014 - 9:05 am | Permalink

    My genealogical roots in Yorkshire influence me greatly as I decide between two outstanding servants of God and God’s people. Alcuin of York shone brightly in an age of darkness. His devotion to learning – especially his quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy (did you see what I did there? Adding the ‘Oxford comma’ out of rspect?) and his liturgical reforms won me over. The nepotismic (can nepotism be rearward looking?)tipping point being his preservation of Gelasian liturgies from what is the modern-day Swiss homeland of maternal grandmother – my only roots outside of Yorkshire!

    • Barbara Hammond's Gravatar Barbara Hammond
      March 8, 2014 - 9:52 am | Permalink

      We may be cousins, Jim. Most of my roots are in Yorkshire too. That’s why I chose Alcuin.

    • MJK's Gravatar MJK
      March 8, 2014 - 9:59 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, just can not resist….the spelling of “rspect” learned from our President and not Aretha apparently.

  34. Ken Brannon's Gravatar Ken Brannon
    March 8, 2014 - 9:07 am | Permalink

    Voted for Alcuin, but love the phrase for Ephrem: “Harp of the Spirit”.

  35. JoAnn's Gravatar JoAnn
    March 8, 2014 - 9:07 am | Permalink

    Alcuin, you had me at “free schools for everyone”.

  36. Kathleen's Gravatar Kathleen
    March 8, 2014 - 9:15 am | Permalink

    Dear SEC,
    I understand why voting more than once is prohibited, but what if I vote just once for each candidate?
    In saintly ambivalence,
    Kathleen #hardchoice

  37. Suz Cate's Gravatar Suz Cate
    March 8, 2014 - 9:22 am | Permalink

    Obviously a bunch of left-brains here. How can you not vote for “The Harp of the Spirit”?

  38. Susan Fiore's Gravatar Susan Fiore
    March 8, 2014 - 9:29 am | Permalink

    Alcuin, for passing along the awareness that music is in the ‘arithmetic, geometry and astronomy’ category: It’s a branch of physics, the science of sound passing through time and space. Maybe just one of those people who think it should be cut from school curricula is now a little smarter for playing Lent Madness.

  39. March 8, 2014 - 9:35 am | Permalink

    Although Alcuin was the creator of the beautiful minuscule script that allowed the preservation of almost all of the West’s literature, I voted Efrem. Here is one of Efrem’s exquisite madrashes on the Eucharist, translated from Syriac in a way that captures its astounding beauty:

    Lord, your robe’s the well from which our healing flows.
    Just behind this outer layer hides your power.
    Spittle from your mouth creates a miracle of light within its clay.

    In your bread there blows what no mouth can devour.
    In your wine there smoulders what no lips can drink.
    Gale and Blaze in bread and wine: unparalleled the miracle we taste.

    Coming down to earth, where human beings die,
    God created these anew, like Wide-eyed Ones,
    mingling Blaze and Gale and making these the mystic content of their dust.

    Did the Seraph’s fingers touch the white-hot coal?
    Did the Prophet’s mouth do more than touch the same?
    No, they grasped it not and he consumed it not. To us are granted both.

    Abram offered body-food to spirit-guests.
    Angels swallowed meat. The newest proof of power
    is that bodies eat and drink the Fire and Wind provided by our Lord.
    (tr. Geoffrey Rowell)

    • March 8, 2014 - 11:48 am | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing this! It will become part of an upcoming class for Messiah Lutheran and All Souls Episcopal (Mechanicsville, VA). I’ll be sure to note “help received.” 😉

    • March 8, 2014 - 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Stunning. Loved the oxymoron of bread/blows and wine/smoulders.

    • Mollie Douglas Turner's Gravatar Mollie Douglas Turner
      March 8, 2014 - 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Beautiful, beautiful! I love Ephrem’s poetry and its intense imagery…but I voted for Alcuin. Terrible choice. Thanks, Fr. Tony, for posting this.

  40. Gillian B's Gravatar Gillian B
    March 8, 2014 - 9:39 am | Permalink

    I have to go for Alcuin. My dad was from Yorkshire, and I love York, teaching and learning, calligraphy, the collect for purity, bad and good poetry. Great write-ups for both!

  41. Chris humphrey's Gravatar Chris humphrey
    March 8, 2014 - 9:41 am | Permalink

    Have to go with Alcuin. The collect for purity is my favorite of all. Also as a former teacher I have to stand with the one who promoted education.

  42. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    March 8, 2014 - 9:41 am | Permalink

    This was a hard choice, and I was leaning to Alcuin, what with his educational reforms, the collect for prity, and the question mark. Then I checked the vote total, and decided it was important to honor Ephrem and the harp of the spirit. We still depend on the link between music and learning.

  43. Kevin's Gravatar Kevin
    March 8, 2014 - 9:43 am | Permalink

    Alcuin invented the question mark. Where would we be without that (see!!)

  44. Nancy Strong's Gravatar Nancy Strong
    March 8, 2014 - 9:46 am | Permalink

    Very tough choice: love everything about Alcuin (except river-crossing math problems!), but remember the first the first time I encountered one of Ephrem’s hymns — blew my socks off! Since Ephrem is clearly the underdog today, he’s got my vote.

  45. Geri Swanson, deacon's Gravatar Geri Swanson, deacon
    March 8, 2014 - 9:49 am | Permalink

    This is tough one. I’m going for Ephraim, although I know he’s the under dog here.

  46. MaurineRuby's Gravatar MaurineRuby
    March 8, 2014 - 9:53 am | Permalink

    Oh, it’s Alcuin all the way! Ephrem wasn’t the only one of the two with musical interests, as Alcuin restored the singing of the Creed. An intellectual and liturgical reformer, an association with dear old Bede, cleaning up the lectionary, AND the Collect for Purity. *sigh* What a guy! (And, my dear Amber, please don’t insult those of us who dance! “[C]horeography… thankfully lost in the dustbin of history”? I’d loved to have seen those Syrian worshippers’ dance moves!

  47. March 8, 2014 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    Penny, thanks for giving Alcuin such a good write-up. He’s a hero of mine for his love of learning and liturgy and he’s British to boot. 🙂

    • March 8, 2014 - 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Hi Perpetua! So glad you liked the writeup. I’m a big fan of Alcuin myself!

  48. ellen campbell's Gravatar ellen campbell
    March 8, 2014 - 10:00 am | Permalink

    The development of plainchant and re introducing of the singing of the Creed did it for me – Alcuin.

  49. John Anderson's Gravatar John Anderson
    March 8, 2014 - 10:01 am | Permalink

    So Alcuin blessed the Easter font. Great……better that than Helvetica.

    • Fr Bill Loring's Gravatar Fr Bill Loring
      March 8, 2014 - 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Great play on words, John, bur Alcuin also blessed the Carolingian miniscule font, and that’s way better than Helvetica — I even have it on my computer.

    • Greta's Gravatar Greta
      March 8, 2014 - 1:29 pm | Permalink

      LOL, as I love and long to actually do a good job someday of writing in the Carolingian hand.

  50. Mary Alcuin Kelly's Gravatar Mary Alcuin Kelly
    March 8, 2014 - 10:02 am | Permalink

    With my middle name of Alcuin I am clearly biased in favor of the deacon from York! MAK

  51. Mary's Gravatar Mary
    March 8, 2014 - 10:03 am | Permalink

    Had to vote for someone called ” The Harp of the Spirit”!

  52. Ellen Roemer's Gravatar Ellen Roemer
    March 8, 2014 - 10:12 am | Permalink

    Both deacons are a blessing on our faith. That said, I am inclined to music as it draws us together. Oh well, I have voted for the underdog but I will hold my head high, not the first time I chose the less popular.

  53. Birdbike's Gravatar Birdbike
    March 8, 2014 - 10:14 am | Permalink

    Such a hard choice today…

  54. glenda's Gravatar glenda
    March 8, 2014 - 10:16 am | Permalink

    Ephrom died a hard death in service to the people. He gets my vote !

    • Sandra Mueller's Gravatar Sandra Mueller
      March 8, 2014 - 10:42 am | Permalink

      Yes, and service is what deacons are all about. Exquisite poetry. Definitely right-brained vote.

  55. March 8, 2014 - 10:21 am | Permalink

    As an author, theologian, and scholar who’s married to a mathematician, I had to vote for Alcuin. I also had to vote for him because of the Yorkshire college kid I “adopted” at church a few years ago. He’d never forgive his American mom for not voting for another Yorkshire man. 🙂

  56. Deborah Sampson's Gravatar Deborah Sampson
    March 8, 2014 - 10:26 am | Permalink

    I’m astonished at how lopsided the vote is so far today. Other days, I’ve found it quite easy to choose, but today’s vote was extremely difficult. Each was a wonderful candidate to progress to the next round. What did I miss that I found the choice so close when the voting is not?

    • JenniferThomasina's Gravatar JenniferThomasina
      March 8, 2014 - 11:29 am | Permalink

      I agree – quite a lopsided result for two such amazing fellows – so I’m going to spittle in the Wind and vote for current underdog Ephrem.

  57. Margaret Moran's Gravatar Margaret Moran
    March 8, 2014 - 10:30 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know either one, and now I’m dazzled by their achievements. Love to sing, but appreciate Alcuin’s great accomplishments.

  58. Millie Ericson's Gravatar Millie Ericson
    March 8, 2014 - 10:33 am | Permalink

    What beautiful men and well written biographies today! Definitely a hard choice! A lovely title “Harp of the Spirit”, one that touches my choir member heart (we need such a “Harp” in our age in the embattled Middle East). And a teacher’s teacher with so much innovation and extension of education across the renaissance world. His work and labor echoes to our day! I must ponder a bit longer before voting.

  59. March 8, 2014 - 10:36 am | Permalink

    I pray this prayer of Alcuin often from his Mass of Wisdom: “Holy Wisdom, in your loving kindness you created and restored us when we were lost: Inspire us with your truth, that we may love you with our whole minds and run to you with open hearts; through Christ our Savior. Amen” (The Saint Helena Breviary).

    Another reason to vote for Alcuin (in case you needed one).

  60. Lyn's Gravatar Lyn
    March 8, 2014 - 10:50 am | Permalink

    Song AND alliteration! Ephrem all the way! I would love to see the choreography.

  61. Millie Ericson's Gravatar Millie Ericson
    March 8, 2014 - 10:51 am | Permalink

    Fr. Tony: thank you for sharing the astonishingly beautiful madrasah!

  62. Marty Garwood's Gravatar Marty Garwood
    March 8, 2014 - 10:56 am | Permalink

    Could we say that Alcuin’s efforts in preserving saints’ feasts helped lay the basis for Lent Madness?????

  63. Susan B's Gravatar Susan B
    March 8, 2014 - 11:00 am | Permalink

    Singing vs. Mathematics? Well, the question mark almost got me, since the asking of questions is such an important part of my life. But so is my harp and my heart when singing. So I vote for Syria, and music, and risking one’s life (and losing it) while caring for others.

  64. March 8, 2014 - 11:02 am | Permalink

    I think it is very sad that Ephrem’s dance moves were lost. We need more dancing to practical theology!

    • Jennifer's Gravatar Jennifer
      March 8, 2014 - 12:06 pm | Permalink

      “We do not know if there was liturgical dance to go with these hymns, but if so, the choreography is thankfully lost in the dustbin of history.”
      A feeble attempt at humor? I’m with you-its sad.

  65. Dr. DIx's Gravatar Dr. DIx
    March 8, 2014 - 11:03 am | Permalink

    Perhaps several factors are contributing to the “trouncing ” today, e.g., Alcuin has longer write up. I wonder also if our greater familiarity with England, Europe, and the western church isn’t also a factor.

  66. Becki Dean's Gravatar Becki Dean
    March 8, 2014 - 11:03 am | Permalink

    Oh my gosh; developing curriculum, free schooling AND punctuation marks! I’m impressed.

  67. deacon georgia's Gravatar deacon georgia
    March 8, 2014 - 11:05 am | Permalink

    Not sure Tim has deacons serving with him as he probably wouldn’t have put two deacons opposed to each other up front, otherwise. My CPE supervisor once told me that a liberal arts degree was invaluable in ministry, which I agree I have used effectively. However, my vote goes to Ephrem for his “practical theology”, teaching songs, and servant ministry to the end.

  68. Donna's Gravatar Donna
    March 8, 2014 - 11:07 am | Permalink

    Why can’t there occasionally be an EASY choice! Must we divide between the saintly and the saintly?

  69. CC the SoWo's Gravatar CC the SoWo
    March 8, 2014 - 11:07 am | Permalink

    I am impressed by the extensive and illuminating write-ups of all the saints we have voted upon so far. Thank you.
    Just one tiny concern. The mild putdown of liturgical dance. Yes, I know it is not always in everyone’s taste, but for some it is an expressive and creative way to worship. And, no, I don’t. At least when anyone is watching.

    • Millie Ericson's Gravatar Millie Ericson
      March 8, 2014 - 11:20 am | Permalink

      Agree about liturgical dance. Wish we could use it more often. It has powerfully enriched my worship the few times I have experienced it.

      • Sharon Monroe's Gravatar Sharon Monroe
        March 8, 2014 - 12:26 pm | Permalink

        I’ve only seen liturgical dance once, at the funeral of a man who was a member of a black Baptist church. Extremely powerful!

      • March 8, 2014 - 4:17 pm | Permalink

        Here, here! All dance began as liturgical dance, and more’s the pity that the church has abandoned that tradition.

  70. mary w's Gravatar mary w
    March 8, 2014 - 11:08 am | Permalink

    Education in the dark ages, the question mark, and, most importantly, would have got to emoticons if only he’d had more time? Sorry, Ephrem, I would have liked to got to know you better, but it’s Alcuin all the way. Besides, I was irritated with your celebrity blogger for not giving a hint of the time period you were from until the very end.

  71. Laurie Atwater's Gravatar Laurie Atwater
    March 8, 2014 - 11:17 am | Permalink

    Alcuin all the way. The Collect for Purity sends it over the top, but as a member of St. Martin of Tours in Kalamazoo, I have to go with the Abbot of Tours.

    (PS – Dear SEC- still can’t vote. Did you guys block my IP address? I get an error popup every day that says, “Your last request is still being processed. Please wait a while…” Help!

  72. Donna Wessel Walker's Gravatar Donna Wessel Walker
    March 8, 2014 - 11:29 am | Permalink

    TOUGH choice! Love them both so much I tried to figure out how I could get my cat to vote, too. He’s not cooperating. Went with Alcuin: inventor of the liberal arts! the question mark? and one of the great saints of northern Britain! I venerate them both. Great comments today: thanks to all.

  73. Wendy Gus's Gravatar Wendy Gus
    March 8, 2014 - 11:30 am | Permalink

    “Hey!” I said to my husband,”one of the guys running today invented the question mark!”
    “Ha!” he said, “I thought you did that.”

  74. Tim Murray's Gravatar Tim Murray
    March 8, 2014 - 11:34 am | Permalink

    Felt drawn to the “Harp of the Spirit,” then captured by the Eucharist madrash, thank you Fr. Tony. A hard choice for me, for my heart resonates for all the educators in my extended family who were clearly influenced by Alcuin’s gifts and his ministry.

  75. Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski's Gravatar Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski
    March 8, 2014 - 11:36 am | Permalink

    I really appreciate the image selected for Alcuin. I use this when teaching on Alcuin. The image is from a work that Rabanus Maurus, a disciple of Alcuin and a great theologian in his own right, wrote for Archbishop Otgar of Mainz. On the right is Otgar, on the left is Rabanus Maurus, in the middle is Alcuin. What is touching is that by the time this work was completed, Alcuin was dead. And yet Rabanus depicts himself as relying upon the support of his great teacher. It really speaks to the massive influence of Alcuin and the esteem in which he was held.

    • March 8, 2014 - 12:16 pm | Permalink

      Wow, Dan, thanks for schooling us on the image!

      • Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski's Gravatar Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski
        March 8, 2014 - 3:31 pm | Permalink

        You are welcome! It is one of my favorites.

  76. Lala's Gravatar Lala
    March 8, 2014 - 11:48 am | Permalink

    With a song in my my heart I voted for you
    Ephram my Deacon dear,
    I wish I could vote again and again
    Because you will lose I fear

  77. Johnna's Gravatar Johnna
    March 8, 2014 - 12:11 pm | Permalink

    This was a tough choice! But I’m going to go for Alcuin.

  78. Martha H. Fournier's Gravatar Martha H. Fournier
    March 8, 2014 - 12:16 pm | Permalink

    VERY tough choice today. Sigh. Have to go with the underdog. I learned soooo much from various hymns and songs. Great teaching aids, and easy to remember. Often I reference a hymn in response to a problem, my own and others.
    Pax vobiscum.

  79. Deacon Ben's Gravatar Deacon Ben
    March 8, 2014 - 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Although, I firmly believe math books to be evil in book form, I believe Alcuin had good intentions. Besides that one indiscretion was largely over shadowed by all of his other work. Either way you vote, you are voting for a Deacon, and what could possibly be more important than that?

  80. March 8, 2014 - 12:21 pm | Permalink

    No one can question (yes, yes, I know) the value of Alcuin’s contributions particularly in the Western world (nor that he has an astounding lead), but I understand better now why Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic persons of East and West see Ephrem as a notable saint and/or Doctor of the Church. He was a “practical theologian” during a time of controversy, helping people be better aware of God’s presence in their lives. He did so beautifully using numerous pieces of poetry and hymns touching people’s hearts as well as minds. When I read some of his work posted here and elsewhere, all I could say is “Wow!” and rest in wonder. Thanks to Lent Madness for lifting him up, even if he proves to go down in the vote. I feel like I’ve made a new friend, and I want to get to know him better i n the years ahead.

    • Millie Ericson's Gravatar Millie Ericson
      March 8, 2014 - 12:45 pm | Permalink

      I agree, Lou. I have been so blessed by the posts that point to and quote his work. The Harp of the Spirit has brought music to my heart today. I voted for Alcuin but after all the posts am feeling sad I could not vote for Ephrem , too.

      • Ellen's Gravatar Ellen
        March 8, 2014 - 4:38 pm | Permalink

        No need for sadness Millie. I was torn between the 2 and read your post. I realized I could vote for Ephrem for him and for you! Hope that’s OK.
        Yours in madness and music

        • Millie Ericson's Gravatar Millie Ericson
          March 8, 2014 - 4:48 pm | Permalink

          Thank you, Ellen. That lifts my spirit:-)

  81. Christianne McKee's Gravatar Christianne McKee
    March 8, 2014 - 12:22 pm | Permalink

    It is hard to vote against Alcuin, great Anglican saint that he is, but my heart belongs to Ephrem. A mystic and poet, he used hymnody to fight heresy. And poetry and song are ever so much more interesting that dry theological debates. Besides, his feast day is my birthday.

  82. March 8, 2014 - 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I had to vote for Alcuin (question marks?!?!?) even though our music minister has us singing a hymn written by Ephrem of Edessa tomorrow. (She’s including a hymn by one of the lent madness saints each week).

    • March 8, 2014 - 12:27 pm | Permalink

      OMG, Jeunee, that is so cool that y’all are doing a hymn by a Lent Madness saint each week. Get ready for the publicity storm! Or maybe I should put that in the form of a question?

    • March 8, 2014 - 12:30 pm | Permalink

      That’s an awesome idea which I will need to steal…Kudos to your music minister.

    • Millie Ericson's Gravatar Millie Ericson
      March 8, 2014 - 12:48 pm | Permalink

      I looked up Ephrem’s hymn referred to in one of the comments. It has beautiful, powerful words. I’m going to commend it to our choir director tomorrow!

  83. Laura's Gravatar Laura
    March 8, 2014 - 12:28 pm | Permalink

    So many great comments! But just the mention of Alcuin being from my ancestral home leads me to vote for him. His influence on education seals the deal.

  84. Karen Hoyer's Gravatar Karen Hoyer
    March 8, 2014 - 12:32 pm | Permalink

    A clue to the origin of much ridiculed story problems in my daughter’s math classes: “including a math book of river-crossing problems” — prompted my interest. Alcuin seems like an amazingly industrious and influential person, I admire his ethics and practical works. Ephram’s bio was not nearly so captivating — thank you for the comments section that provided more insight.

  85. Kathleen's Gravatar Kathleen
    March 8, 2014 - 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Delving deeper into lent madness ,
    I took down the A book from our 1970 set of World Book to check on Alcuin. There he is. ..”see Charlesmagne (the Man)”. C book. Page 323. There’s the Deacon I voted for. Who knew he was known way back in the 70’s.

  86. Deb's Gravatar Deb
    March 8, 2014 - 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Had to go with Alcuin. Teacher, musician and protector of spiritual choice. And since my dad’s family is from Yorkshire, how could I choose otherwise?

  87. Tyler's Gravatar Tyler
    March 8, 2014 - 12:57 pm | Permalink

    What a great match up! I just want to make a point of clarification regarding Alcuin as liturgist. It is generally accepted now that Benedict of Aniane was Charlemagne’s chief liturgical reformer, not Alcuin. It was Benedict who put together the synthesized “Roman” sacramentary. Alcuin did, however, compose some votive Masses for his monastery.

    • Fr Bill Loring's Gravatar Fr Bill Loring
      March 8, 2014 - 3:26 pm | Permalink

      I studied these sacramentaries with Boone Porter at General (so that is obviously a while ago, when Alcuin’s role was generally accepte) without ever hearing of this Benedict. I have just spent about 2 hours on the web without finding any mention of Benedict of Aniane as Charlemagne’s liturgical reformer, though he was certainly the leading monastic reformer of the empire.
      Tyler, can you point me to any sources I might have missed — you have really aroused my curiosity.
      An interesting bit of trivia is that a recent biography of Benedict of Aniane on Amazon is shown with a cover illustration of the scene shown in Alcuin’s blog of Rabanus, Alcuin, and the Abp. of Mainz

      • Tyler's Gravatar Tyler
        March 8, 2014 - 4:34 pm | Permalink

        The initial work was done by Deshusses who edited the Gregorian sacramentaries. In English, it is discussed in the revised edition of Vogel’s “Medieval Liturgy” and by Frederick Paxton in “Christianizing Death”. I’m sure Eric Palazzo (“A History of Liturgical Books”) and Yitzhak Hen (“The Royal Patronage of the Liturgy…”) must also discuss Benedict. Isn’t medieval liturgy fun?!

  88. Johannas Jordan's Gravatar Johannas Jordan
    March 8, 2014 - 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I am reluctant to take one of the wonderful celebrity blogers to task, however, Amber as a liturgical dancer I take offense at “the choreography is thankfully lost in the dustbin of history.” I would love to have some of the choreography just as others love the music and liturgy handed down to us. I can only hope that it was a error of omission, however, given the phrasing I doubt it.

    • Sharon Monroe's Gravatar Sharon Monroe
      March 8, 2014 - 4:18 pm | Permalink

      go to youtube and type in liturgical dance oh ye who thinks it should be lost in the dustbin of history. Watch the videos and then come back with a new opinion of liturgical dance.

    • March 8, 2014 - 4:26 pm | Permalink

      OK, SEC, here’s the controversy for today. I side with the liturgical dancers, although I’m sure the remark in the bio wasn’t intended to be mean-spirited.

  89. Jim Jaworski's Gravatar Jim Jaworski
    March 8, 2014 - 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Charlemagne was a tough employer with steep consequences for marginal contributions so the question mark, the Trivium, Quadrivium and as Peg
    noted, the blueprint for Kinko’s all suggest a truly motivated and quintessential church man worthy of any vestry. One has to vote Alcuin to advance to the 2nd round. Note: the mediocre poem came late in his career when Charlie started to mello,

  90. Diann Nickelsburg's Gravatar Diann Nickelsburg
    March 8, 2014 - 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Alcuin helped to abolish forced baptism — slam dunk!! That and his contributions to education make Alcuin the easy choice. Thanks to saints like him, we know what “trivium” and “quadrivium” mean without looking them up in the dictionary; so why did we need a definition of “scriptoria” in parentheses? The additional achievement of proofreading and standardizing the Vulgate should also give Alcuin bonus points.

    • JenniferThomasina's Gravatar JenniferThomasina
      March 8, 2014 - 11:45 pm | Permalink

      Is a “slam dunk” the same thing as a forced baptism?
      ; )

  91. Mary Wueste's Gravatar Mary Wueste
    March 8, 2014 - 1:20 pm | Permalink

    As a lifelong choir member, I feel my connection to God most through music. But when I read that Alcuin’s influence made Charlemagne stop requiring baptism under pain of death, I had to vote for him! Tough choice though (as usual).

  92. aleathia (dolores)nicholson's Gravatar aleathia (dolores)nicholson
    March 8, 2014 - 1:26 pm | Permalink

    As a deacon of 24 years, hard choices have become the norm, beginning with “Why do you need the collar?” and “Now, when will you become a real priest?”, both to be answered with a smile, gritted teeth, and LOVE. So, thanks, Penny Nash, for the hard choice today, and now, for you, when will you make Madeleine happy and get the SEC to make Fred Rogers one of the 32? Suz Cate, where ya been? Penny, also thanks for the reminder of 96 TEARS and the Mysterians..I vaguely remember them… I think…Hmmm ?????

    • March 8, 2014 - 3:16 pm | Permalink

      I’m telling ya, I have absolutely no influence over the SEC. Just ask them!

  93. Anne E.B.'s Gravatar Anne E.B.
    March 8, 2014 - 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Alcuin spoke to me. He gets my vote.

  94. Deb's Gravatar Deb
    March 8, 2014 - 1:52 pm | Permalink

    As a college professor who sings in the choir, I found this a terribly difficult choice…but ultimately cast my vote for a man who educated using music. Harp of the spirit, indeed!

  95. Jo Meachem's Gravatar Jo Meachem
    March 8, 2014 - 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Oh, my! Two saintly deacons previously unknown to me… embodying my two passions, education and music – I spent the entire morning agonizing before finally choosing Alcuin. In truth, it was the bracketing of music with the sciences, as that frequently comes into conversations with my students, who are studying to become engineers. Today has also reaffirmed my decision to not read the comments until after I cast my vote. It surely would have had me dithering into the wee hours, had I not done it that way. And, yes, I am very much surprised at how lop-sided to voting is, along with being bemused at having chosen the leader for once!

  96. Deborah's Gravatar Deborah
    March 8, 2014 - 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Ephrem was tempting, but what finally swayed me to Alcuin was that he was able to persuade Charlemagne to stop executing those who refused baptism. And then, of course, that he developed and instituted an incredible educational curriculum (I liked that music and astronomy were paired with geometry), ensured that ancient texts were preserved and amassed an incredible library. Way to go, Alcuin!

  97. March 8, 2014 - 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Way to display the institutionalized systemic hold of Anglican eurocentrism, 78-22 in favour of the white guy over the swarthy Mesopotamian… 🙂

  98. Heidi Frantz-Dale's Gravatar Heidi Frantz-Dale
    March 8, 2014 - 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Having been ordained as a deacon on Ephrem’s Day (June 10) I feel something of an obligation to support him. and teaching through singing … well, you can’t beat that!

  99. March 8, 2014 - 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Wow – two overworked deacons in the fray. This overworked deacon went with Alcuin of York.

  100. Kari's Gravatar Kari
    March 8, 2014 - 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m still marveling at the fact that someone, in their comment, recommended a book on the history of punctuation. How great is that?!?!?! I love it!

  101. Sandy's Gravatar Sandy
    March 8, 2014 - 2:53 pm | Permalink

    The educator in me was beginning to root for Alcuin, but I’m a historian of the 4th century, so I had to go with Ephrem. His hymns are beautiful, and his influence on the church remarkable. Also, Syriac Christianity and its complexity and rich history deserves more attention. Go, Ephrem!

  102. March 8, 2014 - 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I was impressed to learn of Alcuin’s contributions, but this was a slam-dunk for me. Ephrem was a musician, a poet, delighted in and poetically praised the paradoxes of the faith, had a special devotion to the Holy Spirit, and was one of the great voices of the Syriac church, which worshiped and theologized in a cognate language to the Aramaic Jesus spoke and was in its day as influential a church as the Greek Eastern and the Latin Western traditions.

    St Ephrem, pray for us!

  103. March 8, 2014 - 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I always like the Northumbrian saints!

  104. Kay Flores's Gravatar Kay Flores
    March 8, 2014 - 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe I read all the comments AFTER I had already voted for Alcuin – and yes, it was a hard choice.

  105. Deacon Lisa's Gravatar Deacon Lisa
    March 8, 2014 - 3:27 pm | Permalink

    My vote will have to go to Alcuin. Since 2 of my children are graduates of Literature. I myself am not a grammarian. Never the less I’m constantly corrected, I mean reminded of how important it all is. (LOL)

  106. Fr Bill Loring's Gravatar Fr Bill Loring
    March 8, 2014 - 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Alcuin (and his forebear Bede) have been very early entries in my list of favored saints, and while I came to know of Ephrem not too long after he did not come that high on my personal list. So, I started with Alcuin and after reading all these comments Ephrem has certainly risen for me, but the breadth of his accomplishments still wins my vote for the proto-Anglican Alcuin.

  107. Mike's Gravatar Mike
    March 8, 2014 - 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Without giving away for whom I cast my ballot, the impact Alcuin had on higher education lasted well into the 19th Century. The trivium and quadrivium remained the standard collegiate curriculum until Mr. Jefferson established the University of Virginia (otherwise known as that experimental university over in Charlottesville) in 1826. It took the rest of the century for an elective approach to emerge in American and European universities. I’d say 1100 years is a pretty good run.

  108. Judith's Gravatar Judith
    March 8, 2014 - 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who, by moral influence alone, can convince an emperor to change a law has my vote! Go Alcuin!

  109. Katrina Soto's Gravatar Katrina Soto
    March 8, 2014 - 4:45 pm | Permalink

    When I filled out my bracket for our church competition, I chose Efrem based on my research. Didn’t have the handbook to guide me. I regret that now, but feel bound to follow my bracket choices.

  110. J's Gravatar J
    March 8, 2014 - 5:07 pm | Permalink

    I want to know how to nominate a saint for the brackets. Obviously it is too late for this year. My enthusiastic vote is for Jonathan Myrick Daniels, martyr. His feast day is one I always honor.

    • Catherine Schiesz's Gravatar Catherine Schiesz
      March 8, 2014 - 10:12 pm | Permalink

      Jonathan Daniels was in last year’s Lent Madness

  111. Doreen G's Gravatar Doreen G
    March 8, 2014 - 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Believe it or not today’s competition brings me back several decades ago to second grade when my teacher was Sister Mary Alcuin. I can’t help wonder why she chose his name to be hers….

  112. Shana Abraham's Gravatar Shana Abraham
    March 8, 2014 - 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Question mark inventor….gets my vote!

  113. Ginny Rodriguez's Gravatar Ginny Rodriguez
    March 8, 2014 - 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Voting for Ephrem. Of all the attibutes of these two wonderful saints, I chose the hymn writer. From the 1982 Hymnal #442, I found only one Ephrem hymn, though I thought there were others.
    I chose the hymn writer since both my husband & I sing in the choir.
    Tenuous logic, perhaps. Since both Ephrem & Alcuin are HUGE saints, I searched for a small thread to connect with one of them. Madness, of course, since each left a giant tapistry for suceeding generations!

    • pj's Gravatar pj
      March 8, 2014 - 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Correction, 443.

  114. March 8, 2014 - 7:07 pm | Permalink

    voting Alcuin all the way. Gotta love the Collect for Purity author…and the inventor of the ?question mark?

  115. Krista Vingelis's Gravatar Krista Vingelis
    March 8, 2014 - 7:27 pm | Permalink

    This was a hard one. I wanted to go with Alcuin for my sister and all my friends and parishioners that are teachers and educators. Add to that his work for worship reform…BUT, Ephrem was also a teacher and educator AND he appears to have been a bit of an artist. Certainly had the strand of creativity running through him. Once I saw he was the underdog at only 22% of the voting, I knew I had to go with Ephrem. Almost always have to root for the underdog.

  116. Laurie's Gravatar Laurie
    March 8, 2014 - 7:47 pm | Permalink

    I’ll support a poet any day. Especially one called, ‘The Harp of the Spirit.’

  117. Leigh Hollis-Caruso's Gravatar Leigh Hollis-Caruso
    March 8, 2014 - 8:28 pm | Permalink

    As a lay person who loves lifelong learning and music, I got to vote for Acuin!

  118. Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
    March 8, 2014 - 8:43 pm | Permalink

    “Thankfully lost”? Of course Ephrem’s biographer’s comment is meant to be light-hearted, but what a treasure it would be if there really had been dances and someone still knew who they were done! Rejoicing at a loss is seldom a good idea . . . .

  119. Julie McCord's Gravatar Julie McCord
    March 8, 2014 - 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Oh, this one was *hard.* You mean, mean people. Ultimately I voted for Alcuin for preserving the knowledge of the ages and for being against the Convert or Die model of evangelism, but I have many feels for Ephrem too. And if I’d seen how big a lead Alcuin already had, I would have cast for Ephrem’s dignity.

  120. Cathy's Gravatar Cathy
    March 8, 2014 - 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Let’s give a cheer for Alcuin for his work to further education. And where would we be without the question mark. All teachers unite!

  121. Lauren Stanley's Gravatar Lauren Stanley
    March 8, 2014 - 10:03 pm | Permalink

    The collect for purity grabbed me the first time I set foot in an Episcopal Church. And the fact the Alcuin got Charlemagne to end his murderous ways vis-a-vis baptism or your life cinched my vote for the Northumbrian.

  122. Catherine Schiesz's Gravatar Catherine Schiesz
    March 8, 2014 - 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Collect for Purity won me over…dueling deacons, indeed! we’re troublemakers, not fighters

  123. Elizabeth's Gravatar Elizabeth
    March 8, 2014 - 10:41 pm | Permalink

    It was clearly Alcuin for me, feeling like he was clearly “the people’s choice” over Ephrem of the rarified stratum, until I learned that Ephrem perished ministering to the sick. Ephrem, I misjudged you. But my vote still went to the Renaissance cleric. Tough choice for me, in the end.

  124. Irene Cowley's Gravatar Irene Cowley
    March 9, 2014 - 1:03 am | Permalink

    I am trying to use this as a Lenten observance. So I read the entries in the morning, weigh them throughout the day and vote in the evening. This morning I was very attracted to Alcuin for many of the same reasons mentioned in yourall’s comments, even though I taught preschool for 20 years and appreciated the act of teaching through music. But this evening as I reread about Ephrem, I was struck by the fact that, in a time of strong belief and denouncement of ‘different’ ideas, he acknowledged and wove ideas from others into his writings. I know I am ‘throwing away my vote’ but this is a Lenten observance for me and I need to pray that the spirit of listening to and trying to understand others ideas and opinions grows around today’s world.

  125. Martha Frances's Gravatar Martha Frances
    March 9, 2014 - 3:05 am | Permalink

    I had to vote for Alcuin since I’ve been to Durham & Lindesfarne & seen the graves of all those early Northumbrian saints & realize how they had to endure that cold & wet & storminess. And they had to decide whether they needed to be on the Island or the Inland twice a day before the tides came in. Totally illogical logic, but it’s late & I just had to set my clocks forward. I’d rather be in Northumbria!

  126. Daniel Berry, NYC's Gravatar Daniel Berry, NYC
    March 9, 2014 - 8:36 am | Permalink

    It seems a little unfair considering the paucity of information presented about Ephrem. Perhaps this is because the remembrance of Alcuin could benefit from the record-keeping of literati in both Imperial and in monastic establishments. Ephrem seems not to have moved in such circles.

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