Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Selections from the Hymns and Homilies of Ephraim the Syrian and from the Demonstrations of Aphrahat the Persian Sage.: Hymn XIV.
p. 182 Hymn XIV.
1. Under the three pastors,—there were manifold shepherds;—the one mother that was in the city,—had daughters in all regions.—Since Wrath has destroyed her dwellings,—Peace shall build up her churches. R. Blessed be He who chose out those three!
2. The kindly labour of the first,—bound up the land in her affliction:—the bread and wine of the next,—healed the city when site was broken:—the sweet speech of the last,—sweetened our bitterness in affliction.
3. The first tilled the land with his labour,—he rooted out of her the briars and thorns:—the next fenced her round about,—he made a hedge for her of them that were saved:—the last opened the garner of his Lord,—and sowed in her the words of her Lord.
4. The first priest by means of a fast,—closed up the doors of mens mouths:—the second priest for the captives,—opened the mouths of the purse:—but the last pierced through the ears,—and fastened in them the ornament of life.
5. Aaron stripped off from the ears,—the earrings and made a calf.—That lifeless calf in secret,—pierced and slaughtered the camp:—those who had fashioned his horns, —he ripped them up with his horns.
6. But our priest who was the third,—pierced through the ears of the heart:—and fastened there the earrings he had fashioned,—of the nails that were fixed in the cross, —whereon his Lord was crucified,—and gave life to His fellow-men.
7. A son unto death the fire brought forth;—Death feeds upon all bodies:—the son of Death who surpassed Death,—upon the souls of men he fed.—The calf forsook his provender,—for mens minds were the food for him.
8. To the first Tree that which killed,—to it grace brought forth a son.—O Cross offspring of the Tree,—that didst fight against thy sire!—The Tree was the fount of death;—the Cross was the fount of life.
9. The son that was born to Death,—all mouths were opened to curse him.—He devoured bodies and souls,—and multiplied the disgrace of his father.—But the Cross caused to pass away the rebuke,—of its father that first Tree.
10. The two sons were even as were—the two mothers that bare them.—The calf which the fire brought forth,—the fire consumed in the midst of the people:—the Cross the offspring of grace,—divided good gifts to all creation.
11. O my tongue hold thy peace and be silent of the histories of the Cross that press to be told!—for my mind of a sudden has conceived,—and lo! pangs of travail smite it:—it has conceived these among the last,—and they strive to become the firstborn.
12. The babes struggled in the womb;—the elder made haste to come forth:—the younger desiring the birthright,—laid his hand upon his heel;—that which he obtained not by birth,—he obtained by the mess of pottage.
13. After the like sort these later histories,—lo! they make light of the former ones,—that themselves may come forth and take the birthright.—Let us bring forth the history of our fathers,—for lo! the histories of the Cross—are the firstborn of all creatures.
14. For if that which has no beginning—is the first of all created things,—its histories also are the firstborn,—for they are elder than all creatures.—Let the histories of Thee, O my Lord, yield place,—that we may tell of Thy ministers!
15. The first in degree of doctrine,—His eloquence was like as was his degree;—the next who was second in degree,—his interpretation mounted to the height of his degree;—the last who was third in degree,—his eloquence was great as he was.
p. 183 16. The first in his simple words,—gave milk unto his infants;—the next in his plain sayings,—gave victual to his children;—the third in his perfect sayings,—gave meat to his that were of perfect age.
17. She too the daughter of instruction,—mounted from degree to degree,—along with her teachers and fathers.—A young child she was with the first; a simple maid was she with the next;—she came to perfect age in the third.
18. The first dealing with her as a child,—loved her and taught her to fear;—the next as with a damsel, rebuked her and make her glad;—the third as with one fully instructed,—was to her a solace of pleasantness.
19. Even the Most High with the daughter of Jacob,—gave blandishment and the rod to her childhood;—and in her frowardness and full age,—gave part in the sword and the Law;—and according to her discipline and instruction,—He came to her in mildness and pleasantness.
20. The first that begat the flock,—his bosom bare her infancy;—the next of glad-some countenance,—cheered with song and made glad her childhood;—the last grave of countenance,—lo! he guards her chastity in her youth.
21. The first priest who begat her,—gave milk to her infancy;—the next priest interpreted,—and gave victual to her childhood;—the third priest nourished her, and gave meat to her perfect age.
22. The wealthy father who was first,—laid up treasures for her childhood;—the next for her maturity—multiplied provision for her journey;—the third the goodly olive tree,—multiplied oil in her vessels.
23. When she comes before Him who is rich,—she will show the treasure of the first;—when she comes before the Saviour, she will show the saved ones of the next;—when she goes forth to meet the Bridegroom,—she will show the oil of her lamps.
24. Before Him who rewards the weary toilworn,—she will offer the labour of the first;—before Him who loves cheerful givers,—she will show the almsgiving of the next;—before Him who judges doctrines,—she will offer the discourse of the last.
25. And I the sinner who have striven to be—the disciple of these three,—when they shall see Him of the Third Day,—that he has closed the door of His chamber,—may these three pray Him for me, that He keep the door open a little while for me!
26. May the sinner press into and enter—rejoicing and fearing to behold!—May the three masters call in—the one disciple in their grace!—May he gather up under the table—the crumbs that are full of life!
Next: Hymn XV.
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