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 XXXVIII.
1. My throne was set for me in Sheol: and one arose that was dead, and hurled me from it. Every man feared me alone, and I feared no man. Terror and trouble were among the living, rest and peace among the dead. In a man that was slain lo! there has entered into Sheol He that takes her captive. I used to take all men captive: the Son of Captivity Whom I took captive has taken me captive. He Whom I took captive has led her away and is gone to Paradise. R., Blessed is He Who has quickened the dead of Sheol by His Cross!
2. All men complain much against me; and I against one only have complained. Who is there among men so just as I? Has corruption touched my integrity? I held all men in affection, and whoso hates me knows it; I know not all my days what a bribe is. The person of a king have I not accepted. By me is preached equality, for bondman and his lord in Sheol I make equal.
3. Before God it is that I minister, with Whom is no acceptance of persons. What other is there that endures as I do, I that am cursed when I do good? Perversely are requited to me the benefits I have rendered. Though my deeds are goodly, my name is not goodly. Yet my mind rests in its integrity: in God it is that I comfort myself; for though He is good He is denied every day and endures it.
4. The old I remove from all sufferings, likewise the young from all sins. Secret contention I quell in Sheol; in our land there is no iniquity: it is Sheol and Heaven alone, that are removed from all sins; this earth that lies between, in her iniquity dwells. He therefore that is prudent will either go up into Heaven, or, if that be too hard, will go down to Sheol which is easy.
5. To one man because of one that is dead, every man hastes to comfort him. But for me though many of my dead have come to life, there is none that comes in and comforts me. Satan came in, against Whom, had been proclaimed seven woes even against him; though mightily the Son of Mary had trodden on him, yet uplifted is his spirit; for he is the serpent that strives though bruised. Better is it for me to fall and worship, before this Jesus Who has conquered me by His Cross.
6. When He enters at the gate of Sheol, in place of John who preached before His coming, then will I cry “Lo! He that quickens the dead is come; Thy servant am I from henceforth, Jesu! Because of The Body I p. 200 reviled Thee, for it covered Thy Godhead. Be not angry, O Son of the King, against Thy treasury; at Thy command I have opened and closed. Though my wings be very swift it is at thy nod I haste to every quarter.
7. All that have been raised were not first born; for our Lord is the First-born of Sheol. How can any that is dead go before Him, that power whereby he was raised? There are last that are first, and younger that have become first-born. For though Manasseh was first-born, how could it be that Ephraim should take the birthright? And if the second born was set before him, how much rather shall the Lord and Creator prevent all in His Resurrection!
8. Lo! John as a herald declares that he is later, though he was elder-born; for he said, “Behold a man cometh after me, and yet He was before me.” For how could he be before Him, that Power in Whom he preached? For everything that comes to pass because of another thing, is after that other even though it seem to be before. For the cause which called it into being, is elder than it and before it in all things.
9. The cause of Adam was elder than all creatures, which were made for him, for to him even to Adam He had respect continually, the Creator even while he was creating. Thus though Adam as yet was not, he was elder than all creatures. How much more then, my Lord, must this Thy manhood be elder, which in Thy Godhead is, from eternity with Him that begat Thee! To Thee be praise and through Thee to Thy Father from us all!
10. To Thee be praise for Thou art the first, in Thy Godhead and in Thy manhood! For even though Elijah was first to go up, he was not able to prevent Him, for whose sake he was taken up. For his type depended on Thy verity: and even though the types apparently are before Thy fulfilment, it is before them secretly. Creatures were before Adam; he was before them because for his sake they were made.
11. O my Lord, work for me this resurrection, not of Thy compulsion but of Thy love. For Thy compulsion gives life to sinners also: Iscariot would rather again choose for himself the death of Sheol, than the life of Gehenna. Work for me then the resurrection that is of Thy mercy; and even though Thy justice permits not, let there be occasion for Thy grace. This only let it remember for me, that in it I have sought refuge.
Next: Hymn XXXIX.
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