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 XXXVII.
1. Death was weeping for her, even for Sheol, when he saw her treasury that it was emptied. And he said, Who, then, has plundered thy riches? Gehazi stole and was discovered; I am stealing every day, but theft has not been laid to my charge. I am sent to Kings, in their sicknesses, their guards are set around them, guards are also at their gate. The soul of kings I snatch and I go forth. R., Blessed is He Who has broken the sting of Death by His Cross!
2. All women grieve that are barren; Sheol rejoices because of her barrenness; she is desolate if so be that she brings forth. The all-compelling Power constrained it, even the bosom that was barren and cold, and it rendered back though wont to deny its debts. Rebekah, when the two babes afflicted her, asked for death. How great then the pain of Sheol, when there smote her strange pangs; the dead were roused and brake forth and came out from her bowels.
3. Is this then perchance that saying, which was heard by me from Isaiah? (but I despised it) when he arose and said, “Who hath heard such a thing as this? that the earth should travail in one day, and bring forth a nation in one hour.” Is it this that has come to pass? or else, is it reserved for us hereafter? And if it be this it is a vain shadow that I thought I am a king; I knew not it was but a deposit I was keeping.
4. Two utterances that were different, have I heard from him, even this Isaiah. For he said that a virgin should conceive and bring forth; and he said again that the earth should bring forth. But lo! the Virgin has brought Him forth, and Sheol the barren has brought Him forth; two wombs that contrary to nature, have been changed by Him; the Virgin and Sheol both of them. The Virgin in her bringing forth He made glad; but Sheol He grieved and made sad in His Resurrection.
5. I saw in the valley that Ezekiel, who quickened the dead when he was questioned; and I saw the bones that were in heaps and they moved. There was a tumult of bones in Sheol, bone seeking for his fellow, and joint for her mate. There was there none that questioned, or that was questioned, whether those bones lived. Unquestioned, the voice of Jesus, the Master of all creatures quickened them.
6. Sheol was made sorrowful when she saw them, even the sorrowful dead made to rejoice. She wept for Lazarus when he went forth, “Go in peace thou dead that livest, bewailed by two houses of mourning.” Within and without were lamentations for him; for his sisters wept for him when he came into the grave unto me, and I wept for him as he went forth. In his death there was weeping among the living; likewise in Sheol is great mourning at his resurrection.
7. Now it is that I have tasted the taste of his sorrow, even of him who weeps over his beloved. The dead that are thus beloved of Sheol, how dear were they to their fathers! The limbs which I severed and carried away, lo! they are shorn away and carried off from me. If I thus suffer for the departure of him, the youth who was restored to life, blessed is He Who had compassion on the widow; in her only son He gave peace to her dwelling that had been made desolate.
8. Lo! this suffering which I cause men to suffer in their beloved ones, in the end on me it gathers itself altogether. For when the dead shall have left Sheol, for every p. 199 man there will be resurrection, and for me alone torment. And who is he then that shall bear for me all these things, that I shall see Sheol left alone, because this voice which has rent the graves, makes her desolate and sends forth the dead that were in her midst?
9. If a man reads in the Prophets, he hears there of righteous wars. But if a man meditate in the story of Jesus, he learns of grace and tender mercy. And if a man think of Jesus, that He is a strange God it is a reproach against me. No other strange key into the gate of Sheol could ever be fitted. One is the key of the Creator, that which has opened it, yea, is to open it at His Coming.
10. Who is he that is able to join the bones, save that Power which created them? What is it that shall reunite the shreds of the body, save the hand of the Maker? What is it that shall restore the forms, save the finger of the Creator? He, who created and turned and destroyed, is He that is able also to renew and raise up. Another God is unable to enter in and restore creatures not his own.
11. But were he another Power, I should be very joyful that He is coming to me. Into the bosom of Sheol He would descend and learn that One alone is God. Mortals that have erred and preached that there are Gods many, lo! they are bound for me in Sheol, and their Gods have never grieved because of them. One God do I know, and His Prophets and His Apostles do I acknowledge.
Next: Hymn XXXVIII.
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