Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fr. Ephrem Lash, 1930-2016

PRIEST AND PHILOLOGIST: Fr Ephrem Lash - obituary. Popular Orthodox priest-monk who was a prolific translator and spoke at the General Synod (The Telegraph).
Fr Ephrem Lash, Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne, who has died aged 85, was a compelling but eccentric figure in the world of English Orthodoxy, a world by no means devoid of eccentricity.

He was a lucid and precise translator and a priest-monk of humble simplicity in his daily life, with a mischievous wit. His medieval appearance – black cassock, black monastic hat (latterly a Georgian hat replete with crosses), with a beard resembling, it was once said, a rampant clematis – cloaked his enthusiasm for the latest electronic devices. On his smartphone he had downloaded the Old Testament in Hebrew and Greek, and the Greek New Testament.

Lash had many friends, but he could seem formidable. He devoted himself to translating the beautiful texts of the Byzantine liturgy, because, he would say, “not all the old ladies in my parish know classical Greek”. ...

Coming down from Oxford in 1954 he taught classics at the Oratory School in London, and later at the Hardye School, Dorchester. Having decided to seek ordination, he was sent by his bishop to train at the Saint-Sulpice Seminary in Paris. There he was taught by the Syriac scholar, Fr Graffin – who was delighted to find that his English student had a genuine interest in Syriac – and worked on the Syriac version of the Cathedral Homilies of Severus, a sixth-century patriarch of Antioch.

Lash acquired a thorough knowledge of French, and the syllabus at St-Sulpice included Hebrew. He also learnt Coptic, Ethiopic and Armenian and gained familiarity with Church Slavonic. While in Paris he was ordained deacon, but never advanced to the priesthood in the Catholic Church, perhaps because he and his bishop in Britain did not see eye to eye about Lash’s future.

In 1974 Lash returned to Oxford to work (as a “harmless drudge”, he said) with Professor James Barr on the Oxford Hebrew Dictionary. He found himself ill at ease with post-Vatican II English Catholicism, though he had lived happily enough through the changes in France, and began to worship at the Orthodox church in Canterbury Road, Oxford.

Requiescat in pace.