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 XXXV
Concerning Our Lord, and Concerning Death and Satan.
1. The Voice made proclamation: and they gathered and came; the hosts of the Evil One, together with his ministers. The army of the tares was gathered altogether, for they saw that Jesus had triumphed, to the grief of all them on the left hand, for there was none of them but had been tormented. They began one by one to relate all whatsoever they had endured. Sin and Hell were terrified: Death trembled and the dead rebelled; and Satan because sinners rebelled against him. R., To Thee be glory because the Evil One saw Thee and was troubled!
2. Sin cried aloud; she gave counsel to her sons, to the demons and the devils, and unto them she said, Legion the head of your ranks is not, the sea has swallowed him and his company; and likewise ye my sons if ye despise, this Jesus will destroy you. Ye who in a snare took Solomon, it is therefore a reproach to you, that ye should be overcome by his disciples, takers of fish and ignorant men; for lo! they have taken the draught of men, which had been taken by us.
3. This is great, above all evils (saith the Evil One, concerning our Saviour); for this suffices Him not that He has spoiled us, but likewise on us He has begun retribution for Jonah son of Amittai. On Legion therefore He was avenging him when He seized and cast him into the sea. Jonah emerged, after three days and came up; but Legion yea not after a long season, for the depth of the sea closed upon him at the command.
4. I tempted Him, after his past, with pleasant bread, but He desired it not. To my grief I strove to learn a psalm, that by His psalm I might take Him as a prey: I paused and learned it a second time, but He made my second trial to be vain. I brought Him up to a mountain and showed Him all possessions; I gave them to Him p. 194 and He was not moved. Better was it for me in the days of Adam, who gave me no great trouble in teaching him.
5. The Evil One ceased, from his activity and said, A cause of idleness to me, is this Jesus; for lo! the publicans and harlots take refuge in Him. What work shall I seek for myself? I who was master to all men, to whom shall I be a disciple? Sin again said, It must be, that I forsake, therefore, and change from that which I am; for this Son of Mary who is come, as a new creation, has created mankind.
6. Gluttonous Death, lamented and said, I have learned fasting, which I used not to know; lo! Jesus gathers multitudes, but as to me, in His feast a fast is proclaimed for me. One man has closed my mouth, mine who have closed the mouths of many. Hell said I will restrain my greed; hunger, therefore, is mine: this Man triumphs as at the marriage, when He changed the water into wine, so He changes the vesture of the dead into life.
7. And moreover, God made a flood, and washed the earth, and purged her crimes; fire and brimstone again He sent on her, that He might make white her stains. By fire He gave me the Sodomites, and by flood the Giants. He closed the mouth of the hosts of Sennacherib, and opened the mouth of Hell. These things and such as these, I loved. But now, in place of deadly visitations of justice, He has wrought in His Son, the quickening of the dead by grace.
8. Prophets and righteous men, said the Evil One, unto his companions, have been seen by me; and though their strength was exceeding mighty, there was in them a savour of that which is mine; for the stuff whereof the sons of man are made, is near akin to our heaven. This man has clothed Himself with the body of Adam, and is troubling us, for our leaven has no power on Him. He is man, therefore, and God; for His manhood in His Godhead is intermingled.
9. Adam was seen by me, that fountain from whence flowed all races of men; his children has been sought out by me, and proved one by one. Yet have I not seen from the beginning a man, of whom one part was of God, and the other half, man. Moses, who shone in his splendour, I tempted again, and in his tongue I made him to err; but this man, yea, not in His mind, for pure exceedingly is the fountain of His thoughts.
10. The lust of the body, is in all bodies; for even while they sleep, it wakes in them. Him, who in his waking hours keeps himself pure, by means of a dream, I disturb. The dregs of the body are stirred in him, by a shaking movement in secret inwardly. The sleeping and the waking besides, I trouble alike. This is He Who alone keeps Himself pure, Whom not even in a dream can I disturb, Who even in His sleep is pure and holy.
11. But separate was even His childhood, from that of the children who have been seen by me; for I have not seen in Him any part of that which is of me. I was afraid of His childhood; therefore, I stirred up Herod, that among the infants He might be slain. Because of this also that He escaped, I was greatly afraid, for our mystery how did He find out! He received the offerings of the Wise Men; He scorned us and departed and escaped from our sword.
12. Children have been seen by me, sons of righteous men; yea, also youths, sons of chaste women; and I have moved them from the womb, one by one, and I have seen in them our leaven. For they were wrathful men and revilers, yea, also furious and gluttonous; fruits were they that by instruction were to be ripened and sweetened. But this man from His first planting, was a good fruit that possessed sweetness, wherewith sinners were made sweet.
13. Even while He was an infant, He was a teacher of the sons of men, by the splendour that was upon Him. Even the priest as he carried Him was amazed at Him. In the prudence of old men was He clad. Joseph stood aloof from Him: His mother p. 195 gloried in His presence. He was a help in His childhood, to every one that saw Him; He was a profit to them that knew Him from the day when He entered into the world, He was a helper of mankind by His excellencies.
14. From whence has it sprung up before me, this fruit of Mary, the grape whereof the wine is not according to nature? For lo! I stand between doubts. To turn away and leave Him, I am afraid, lest by His teaching, they should be sweetened, they, who have acquired by bitterness. But again to tread on Him and crush Him, is a terror to me, lest haply He turn and become new wine unto sinners, and when they are drunken therewith, lo! they forget their idols.
15. Lo! I am afraid of both things, as well His death, as also His life. Then unto the Evil One His ministers made answer and counselled Him. Though both these things be grievous, somewhat lighter to us is the trouble, that we should choose His death rather than his life. Let Death tell us whether any one from among the righteous, has ever from the first been aroused again. The sons of the Giants and the renowned ones, there is none that has issued forth from her, even Hell, the Devourer.
16. The blowing of the wind, a man may feel after; but the Son of Mary, who shall search him out? for when He wept, by His tears He robbed me; and again when I bid Him cast Himself, from the holy Temple, I thought, that it was through fear He cast Himself not: yet when they threw Him from the hill-top, He flew through the air. On the well again when He was weary He sat. His variableness I understand not, for on the dry land alike and on the water He walks.
17. I have seen Him that He hungered, as a Son of man; yet this was done away by the bread which He multiplied. From the beginning I proved Him and I came to Him; He questioned me as though He knew me not; but this, too, was done away, when He showed that He knew our secrets. Again He chose Iscariot, as though He knew him not; then He turned and showed that He knew him, though he was binding and loosing. I was mistaken in Him, for He was baptized and emerged and overwhelmed me.
18. But one token there is which I have seen in Him that heartens me exceedingly above all. For while He was praying I saw Him and was glad, because He changed colour and was afraid: His sweat was as drops of blood, because He felt that His day was come. This is pleasant to me, exceedingly above all, if it be not that deceiving He has deceived me therein. But if beguiling He has beguiled me, this is both for me and for you alike, my ministers.
19. Then shouted the host of devils and said, Hateful is the sign that we see in thee, for never from the beginning has it thus happened to thee. In prompt counsels thou wast excellent: the Son of Mary captures our cities, while thou art prolonging thy discourse. Arise, go forth, let us fight with Him, for this were to us a reproach, that we being many should be overcome by one. And if thou art in pain or fear, give us counsel for the battle and stay thou behind.
20. This Jesus out of His own words it is, that I shall teach Him, and war with Him; for He said that he, even Satan, is divided, himself against himself, and that he cannot stand. Though He desires to fight with us, He has given us arms which are against Himself, gage and divide for me His disciples, for if ye divide them, with these you will conquer them, even with Eve and the serpent, the weak powers, whereby I conquered the first Adam.
21. Death unto the Evil One, made answer and said to him, Wherefore tarriest thou not according to thy wont? for lo! it is those that are despised and least, that thou ensnarest after thy custom: Jesus Who is great above all, wherewith hast thou sought to ensnare Him? The experience of His weapons moves thee to fear, which He hurled against thee when he was tempted of thee. Thou and I with thy followers, p. 196 the host of us is too little for the battle with Him, the Son of Mary.
22. I counsel, then, if this our strife permits us to do anything: go thou into that disciple, let thyself loose, that head may speak with heads; and let loose all thy host, let it go and stir up the Pharisees. And beware, lest thou speak contentiously as thou art wont. If thou be a god, descend from hence, with fondness kiss them and betray Him; and, lo! we will bring on Him the envy and the sword of the Levites.
Next: Hymn XXXVI.
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