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 XXXIX.
1. There have come to me ransomers from among the saints, but none has plundered me like the Son of Mary. For lo! Elijah brought a dead man to life; and even though he himself escaped from my hands, yet had I consolation after him, for the dead man whom he quickened, I carried off from him. By Elisha son of Shaphat, I was beaten as with rods, for he brought two dead men to life. By one staff I in turn bore away both the prophet and the dead whom he had raised. R., Blessed is He Who cleft the tombs of Sheol by His voice!
2. I feared him even Gehazi when I saw, him lay the staff upon the youth. The thief took the staff away and returned; Elisha came and bowed himself; laid himself low as the child and raised himself up, and walked hither and thither. I marvelled at the new mysteries which I saw there, which restored but one youth to life. It was well with me then when those were but mysteries, and not now when the dead have rebelled and conquered me.
3. Moses when I saw the mighty splendour upon his face, I feared him: yet not according to what I feared befel it me. Nisan in Sheol he caused to spring for me; for a pasture, a pasture of corpses, of six hundred thousand fell.—This lowly and despised whom I contemned, has healed the sick and the diseased: to others He has multiplied bread, but our bread even ours from our mouths He snatches.
4. A mighty feast there was in Sheol, when I swallowed up Korah and his company. A great delight Satan made for me, when he made strife among the Levites. A p. 201 fount of milk and honey, made he flow for me in a dry place, when the congregation of transgressors went down to Sheol.—Lo! the righteous have lived and come forth: Moses sent down the living thither, but Jesus has revived and brought up the dead.
5. It was well with me then, in the day of the zealous, those in whose swords I had delight. Phinehas the zealous pierced and gave me, on the head of his spear for my delight, Zimri and Cozbi both together; on the head of his lance he presented them to me. To whom then were there ever two fatted oxen, offered on the head of a spear?—But instead of Cozbi, daughter of princes, the daughter of Jairus has Jesus rescued from my hands.
6. The censer of Aaron caused me to fear, for he stood between the dead and the living and conquered me. The Cross causes me to fear more exceedingly, which has rent open the graves of Sheol. The Crucified Whom on it I slew, now by Him am I slain. Not very great is his reproach, who is overcome by a warrior in arms. Worse to me is my reproach than my torment, in that by a crucified man my strength has been overcome.
7. The lance of Phinehas again has caused me to fear, for by the slaughter he wrought with it he hindered the pestilence. The lance guarded the tree of life, it made me glad and made me sad; it hindered Adam from life, and it hindered death from the people. But the lance that pierced Jesus, by it I have suffered; He is pierced and I groan. There came out from Him water and blood; Adam washed and lived and returned to Paradise.
8. The Sadducees were as a mouth for me, and disputed with Him after my mind, that there is no rising of the dead at all. Jesus answered them in a saying, which I alone understood; He spake aloud the hateful word and saddened me, “I am the God of him even of Abraham, and God is not the God of the dead.” It was well with me then these were but words, and He had not yet showed me the life of the dead indeed.
9. Jesus son of Nun, slew thirty kings, and filled the graves and pits for me; he laid waste Jericho and filled Sheol. But this Jesus who is come, has wasted the graves of their dead, and has filled the cities of the upper world. Wherefore thus when lo! they are like in their names, are they unlike in their doings? That gave me the body of Achor, but this snatched from me the body of Lazarus.
10. Moses trod down that Egyptian, with his meekness he mingled justice. Whence has this new law sprung for me, “If one smite thee on thy cheek, turn to him thy other cheek, and see that thou hate him not?” Instead of the strong man of zeal who trod down and slew, a new man of mercy has risen for us. Samuel hewed Agag in pieces, but Jesus healed the paralytic.
11. Tender mercy which had as it were waxed less, lo! in this time has waxed great. And moreover it was then detested, lest through it one should transgress the commandment; for without mercy Saul and Ahab, were slain because they desired, to have mercy on the evil ones, and they were not slain who were deserving of punishment. In my time Jesus has changed this, by giving life to all men and having compassion on His slayers.
12. I remember Samson that lions whelp, who brake and gave me the pillars of Philistia; also that mighty man of valor Abner son of Ner, took for me that fleet wild roe, Asahel son of Zeruiah, and smote him and cast him on the ground. Benaiah in the holy temple slew Jacob, justly as it is written.—Because justice has restrained her sword, henceforth penitents shall rejoice in grace.
13. David measured the Edomites, by line and line and destroyed them. How merciful then art Thou, O Son of David! Davids justice was twofold, when he put to death two lines, and saved one full line alive.—Lo! the Son of David teaches us, “Forgive thy brother even unto seventy times seven.” There justice was measured; but here clemency is without measure.
p. 202 14. Of zeal and strength David was possessed; the lion and the bear he slew together. He left that mighty lion and hasted, to meet the strong giant. With a stone he quenched his light, and his soul left him and he perished. But Jesus cried to the young man that was dead “Young man!” Even the dead to Him are sleepers. That young man He brought to life and rescued from me. The despised swine He drowned for me in the sea.
15. The Levites slew because of the calf, their fathers and their brethren. Jephthah by his own hands was ready to slay his daughter. The King of Moab on the wall, was sacrificing his first-born son: In presence of his sword I rejoice.—By Jesus the sword was blunted; yea the fever was rebuked, the sister of Sheol: the mother-in-law of Simeon was healed, but the fame of her healing smote Sheol with pain.
16. This Jesus though he be the Son of the Just One, all that He preaches is grace. But to me this His grace is torment. Envy is the cause of pleasure to us, for Envy at the beginning mixed for me the first shedding of blood. Why is it guilty in the sight of the Son of Mary Who is come commanding, “Thou shalt not be angry against thy brother?” He has taken away the sword from between brethren; while in the sword of Cain I had pleasure from the beginning.
17. An honeycomb in the midst of the skeleton, Samson found—was it then a mystery? This Jesus has multiplied for us mysteries. Amid billows of mysteries have I fallen, which show me in parable the life of the dead, in all mysteries and in all types. “Out of the eater came forth meat” was Samsons parable. But to me it has befallen contrariwise; for the eater has come forth to me out of the meat, for out of Adam lo! has come the Son of Adam Who has destroyed me.
18. Just men likewise have robbed me manifold, when by them was preached the rising of the dead: but they mingled with my sorrows great consolation. By the prayer of Asa and Hezekiah, I was fed upon the dead, yea I feasted upon corpses. Elijah slew the prophets of Baal and gave them to me, who on the bread of Jezebel had waxed fat. The righteous has constrained me to devour, but Jesus has compelled me to disgorge all that I had eaten.
19. I was afraid because of the sprinkled blood, which Moses sprinkled on every door; for though the blood of the slain, it was that which saved the living. Blood from of old I feared not, save that blood that was on the doors, and this moreover that was on the Tree. The blood of the slain is a delight, and is as sweet perfume: but the blood of Jesus is to me a terror; for whenever I come and smell His blood, the savour of life that lurks therein terrifies me.
20. Priests and pontiffs, anointed men and kings, who foreshow types of the rising of the dead, have never triumphed through their crosses. Crowns and diadems were set on them; and when I engaged in struggles with them, I was smitten sometimes and sometimes also I smote. But this carpenters son with his crown of thorns, has humbled and cast down my pride, in His shame and His dying: Sheol has seen Him, yea, and fled from before Him.
21. When the sea saw Moses and fled, it feared because of his rod, and likewise because of his glory. His splendour and his rod and his power, the rock also saw which was cleft. But Sheol when her graves were rent, what saw she in Him even in Jesus?—Instead of splendour He put on the paleness of the dead and made her tremble. And if His paleness when slain slew her, how shall she be able to endure, when He comes to raise the dead, in His Glory!
Next: Hymn XL.
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