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 VII
1. As in a race saw I the disputers, the children of strife, [trying] to taste fire, to see the air, to handle the light: they were troubled at the gleaming, and struggled to make divisions.
The Son, Who is too subtle for the mind, did they seek to feel: and the Holy Ghost Who cannot be explored, they thought to explore with their questionings. The Father, Who never at any time was searched out, have they explained and disputed of.
The sound form of our faith is from Abraham, and our repentance is from Nineveh and the house of Rahab, 548 and ours are the expectations of the Prophets, 549 ours of the Apostles.
2. And envy is from Satan: the evil usage of the evil calf is from the Egyptians. 550 The hateful sight of the hateful image of four faces is from the Hittites. 551 Accursed disputation, that hidden moth, is from the Greeks.
The bitter [enemy] read and saw orthodox teachings, and subverted them; he saw hateful things, and sowed them; and he saw hope, and he turned it upside down and cut it off. The disputation that he planted, lo! it has yielded a fruit bitter to the tooth.
3. Satan saw that the Truth strangled him, and united himself to the tares, and p. 300 secreted his frauds, and spread his snares for the faith, and cast upon the priests the darts of the love of pre-eminence.
They made contests for the throne, to see which should first obtain it. There was that meditated in secret and kept it close: there was that openly combated for it: and there was that with a bribe crept up to it: and there was that with fraud dealt wisely to obtain it.
The paths differed, the scope was one, and they were alike. Him that was young, and could not even think of it, because it was not time for him; and him that was hoary and shaped out dreams for time beyond; all of them by his craftiness did the wicked one persuade and subdue. Old men, youths, and even striplings, aim at rank!
4. His former books did Satan put aside, and put on others: the People who was grown old had the moth and the worm devoured and eaten and left and deserted: the moth came into the new garment of the new peoples:
He saw the crucifiers who were rejected and cast forth as strangers: he made of those of the household, pryers; and of worshippers, they became disputants. From that garment the moth gendered and wound it up and deposited it.
The worm gendered in the storehouse of wheat, and sat and looked on: and lo! the pure wheat was mildewed, and devoured were the garments of glory! He made a mockery of us, and we of ourselves, since we were besotted!
He showed tares, and the bramble shot up in the pure vineyard! He infected the flock, and the leprosy broke out, and the sheep became hired servants of his! He began in the People, and came unto the Gentiles, that he might finish.
5. Instead of the reed which the former people made the Son hold, others have dared with their reed 552 to write in their tracts that He is only a Son of man. Reed for reed does the wicked one exchange against our Redeemer, and instead of the coat of many colours, 553 wherewith they clothed Him, titles has he dyed craftily. With diversity of names he clothed Him; either that of a creature or of a thing made, when He was the Maker.
And as he plaited for Him by silent men speechless thorns that cry out, thorns from the mind has he plaited [now] by the voice, as hymns; and concealed the spikes amid melodies that they might not be perceived. 554
6. When Satan saw that he was detected in his former [frauds]; that the spitting was discovered, and vinegar, and thorns, nails and wood, garments and reed and spear, which smote him, and were hated and openly known; he changed his frauds.
Instead of the blow with the hand, by which our Lord was overcome, he brought in distractions; and instead of the spitting, cavilling entered in; and instead of garments, secret divisions; and instead of the reed, came in strife to smite us on the face.
Haughtiness called for rage its sister, and there answered and came envy, and wrath, and pride, and fraud. They have taken counsel against our Redeemer as on that day when they took counsels at His Passion.
And instead of the cross, a hidden wood hath strife become; and instead of the nails, questionings have come in; and instead of hell, apostasy: the pattern of both Satan would renew again.
Instead of the sponge which was cankered with vinegar and wormwood, he gave p. 301 prying, the whole of which is cankered with death. The gall which they gave Him did our Lord put away from Him; the subtle questioning, which the rebellious one hath given, to fools is sweet.
7. And at that time there were judges against them, 555 lo, the judges are, as it were, against us, and instead of a handwriting are their commands. Priests that consecrate crowns, set snares for kings.
Instead of the priesthood praying for royalty that wars may cease from among men, they teach wars of overthrow, which set kings to combat with those round about.
O Lord, make the priests and kings peaceful; that in one Church priests may pray for their kings, and kings spare those round about them; and may the peace which is within Thee become ours, Lord, Thou that art within and without all things! 556
On Josh. ii. 9, For I know that God hath delivered unto you the land, etc., St. E. makes Rahab say, “This forty years is this land yours; and now it is that we might repent, that we have continued in it up to this day.”299:549
Gen. xv. 6.299:550
The calf might be at once intended for a symbol of God, and also a copy from the worship of Apis.299:551
Elsewhere (Opp. Syr. II. 384) St. E. calls the Teraphim of Micah (Judg. 18:2, 14) “the idol with four faces.”300:552
Reeds are used all over the East to write with.300:553
St. E. assumes that the type of Joseph was fulfilled in Christ to the letter.300:554
This alludes probably to Bardesanes, the existence of whose rhythmical compositions induced St. E. to try and counteract them by orthodox ones of the same kind.301:555
Luke 23:14, 15.301:556
I.e. Omnipresent in space, but not limited by space.
Next: Ephraim Syrus: Three Homilies.
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