These two holy men were both great writers of the Church. St. John was a courtier and lived in Damascus under the rule of the Sultan, and so was outside of the reach of the Iconoclastic Emperor Leo who wished to destroy St. John, because he was writing eloquently in the defense of the veneration of icons. By intrigue from the Emperor, St. John’s right hand was cut off, but the Virgin Mary, through the icon of the Theotokos of Three Hands, miraculously put it back on and healed him. St. John wrote brilliantly in the true theological understanding of the proper icon veneration. St. John went to live with Christ in Heaven in a.d. 749.
St. Ephraim the Syrian lived a tempestuous youth, but underwent a profound change from a spiritual crisis in his life. At Edessa, he met and came under the influence and spiritual guidance of St. James of Nisibis, and was always found then in prayer or teaching or writing. He is considered the great apostle of repentance, and went to the Lord in a.d. 373. His wonderful prayer of repentance is often said in Great Lent, and brings the heart close to God in the state of the returning Prodigal Son to His Father.