Being given the task of picking one’s heavenly intercessor is without question one of the most beautiful aspects of conversion to the Holy Orthodox faith. For some it can be extremely difficult and then for others, to put it plainly, quite easy. As for me, it was by the cooperation of two saints, over a long period of time, that I received with a loving embrace my patron saint. How does one pick, when the “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) continually intercedes for our souls?
For months I would read from the synaxarion, the Greek Orthodox Daily readings online application and from Holy Scripture. I was stressed by the notion of the Great and Holy Saturday approaching and not yet having a set patron saint. This caused great unrest for me. During this time I had a minimal amount of Orthodox literature and spiritual texts. But the one book I did have, which had been given to me by my spiritual father, was The Art of Prayer. It is a compilation of writings primarily from Sts Theophan the Recluse and Ignatiev Brianchannov. I subsequently immersed myself in the writings of St. Theophan, reading all of his books, my favourite being his Spiritual Psalter, a compilation of 150 prayers from St. Ephraim the Syrian. I loved him so much and I asked his intercessions to reveal to me who my patron saint should be, thinking it would be him. And he most certainly did reveal to me who my patron should be, thanks be to God! The aforementioned saint whose writings St. Theophan adored.
The more and more I read the spiritual psalter, I developed a love for St. Ephraim. He struggled with the very sins I drown in every day. It was as if I met my best friend through the introduction of St. Theophan the Recluse who I lovingly call “Uncle”.
And what’s even more interesting is that I can say with great thanksgiving and a big grin that God allowed St. Ephraim to be subconsciously revealed to me as a child before I had even heard of the Orthodox Church. But through what means? By a video game I cherished greatly known as “Fire Emblem: the Sacred Stones” on Gameboy. The protagonist Ephraim inspired me so much as a kid by his courage and valiance that I vowed to name my first son after him. So, the name stuck with me, through early childhood to adolescence. It finally just clicked: I was supposed to be named after St. Ephraim. God works in really neat ways and he is ever so wondrous in his saints. Oh holy saints of God Ephraim the Syrian and Theophan the Recluse, pray unto to God for us sinners!
P.S. My Godfather’s godfather’s namesake is St. Theophan the Recluse. Pretty neat that he inspired the one who inspired the one who helped receive me into the Church.