St. Ephraim was born in Nisibus (modern day Turkey) in a.d. 306 of pious Christians. He came under the spiritual guidance of St. James of Nisibus, and entered deeply into study, writing, teaching, and prayer. He was ordained a reader and then a deacon in the Church under St. James. There were savage persecutions of Christians under Diocletian, which were also felt in Nisibus. After the Edict of Milan in a.d. 313 and St. Constantine I became the emperor, there was a time of peace. When Constantine died, the Persian King Shapur II attacked Mesopotamia, of which Nisibus was a part. The city finally fell to the Persians when the Emperor Julian was killed, and the Christians were driven out.
St. Ephraim moved to Edessa where he composed hymns, sacred poetry and various writings, championing the correct Nicean doctrine of the Holy Trinity. He lived like a monk in celibacy and poverty but without formal monastic training, and after a full life, he died at age 66 in a.d. 373. This icon depicts his death and burial, which drew many great ascetics and saints of his day, who gathered together for his holy repose in Christ Whom he loved.