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 XLI.
1. The Evil One said, “I fear Him, even Jesus, lest He destroy my arts. For lo! I am thousands of years old, and never have I had repose. I have seen nothing established, that I have turned from and left. There has come One making the unchaste pure: there is sorrow since He has destroyed all that I had built. Many have been my labours and my teachings, that I might cover all creation with all evils. R., Blessed is He Who came and laid bare the wiles of the Crafty One!
2. I matched my speed with the swift, and I outstripped them: I waged war; the tumult of multitudes was armour to me. In the tumult of the people I rejoiced, because it gave me ready room, for grievous is the p. 204 onslaught of multitudes. By the strength of multitudes I raised a great mountain, a tower I stretched unto heaven. If they waged war with the Height, how much more shall they conquer Him whose warfare is on earth?
3. As time serves and as help offers, I wage war, but cautiously. The people used to hear that God is one; they made for themselves a multitude of gods. And when they saw the Son of God, they made haste to the One God, that as though confessing God they might deny Him, and as though in zeal might flee from Him; so that they in all times perverse shall be found to be without God.
4. Lo! I am ancient of many years, and no infant have I ever rejected. The burden of children have I ofttimes borne, so that from the beginning I might make them acquire habits that are not goodly, that their faults might grow up with them. But there are foolish fathers, who do not crush the seed that I have sown in their sons; and there are some who like good husbandmen, root up faults from the mind of their children.
5. As with a chain I have bound men with sloth, and they sat in idleness. I have drawn away their senses from all good things; their eyes from reading, their mouths from singing praise, their understanding from doctrine. For hurtful and vain fables how eager are they; for empty talk how ready! If the word of life fell among them, they either thrust it from them, or rose and went forth from its presence.
6. How many Satans are there among men! and me even me alone every man curses. For lo! the anger of men—it is a devil that grinds him every day. Demons are like wayfarers, who depart if they are compelled: but against anger though all righteous men adjure, it is not rooted out from its place. Instead of pernicious envy, every one hates a weak and wretched demon.
7. The enchanter is put to shame with the wizard, who every day tames serpents. The viper that is within him is out of his power; for the lust that is within him he tames not. Secret sin like an asp, when it breathes on him he is scorched. Even when he takes the viper through his cunning, delusion smites him secretly. He lulls the snake by his incantations: he wakens against himself mighty wrath by his incantations.
8. I set my stings and I sat and waited: who is long-enduring as I with all? Beside the patient-spirited I sat, and step by step I bewitched him, so that he came unto despair. Him who was ashamed of his transgressions, habits subdued him: little by little I mastered him, till he became under the yoke, till he came in to it and was used to it and did not even wish to go forth.
9. I perceived and saw that the long-enduring is he that can subdue all. At the time when I conquered Adam, he was but one. I left him till he had begotten children, and I sought for myself another task, for idleness is not to my taste. I counted the sands of the sea, that thereby I might make my spirit patient, and might prove my memory whether it would suffice, for the sons of men when they were multiplied. Before they were multiplied, I proved them in many things.
10. The servants of the Evil One disputed with him, and they refuted his words with their rejoinder. “But lo! Elisha brought the dead to life, and conquered death in the upper chamber, and brought to life the widows son. Lo! now is he in bondage in Sheol.” But because the reasoning of the Evil One was very powerful, with their own words he refuted their words. “How has Elisha been overcome? Lo! in Sheol he brought the dead to life by his bones.”
11. “If Elisha, who was of small power, was great in might in the midst of Sheol, and if so be he brought one dead to life therein, how many dead then will be raised therein, by the death of Jesus the mighty! Hence even from this consider ye, how much greater therefore is Jesus, than we my comrades. For lo! by His craftiness He dep. 205 ceived you, and ye sufficed not to determine His greatness when ye compared Him to the prophets.
12. “Your consolations are of small power,” said the Evil One to them of his company. “For He Who brought Lazarus to life though dead, how can Death suffice against Him? And if Death conquers Him, it is that He wills to be subdued unto him; and if so be He wills to be subdued, fear ye greatly, for He dies not in vain. He has wrought in us great terror, lest when dying He may enter in to raise Adam to life.”
13. Death looked forth from within his den, and marvelled when he saw our Lord crucified, and he said “O raiser of the dead to life where art thou! Thou shalt be to me for meat, instead of the sweet Lazarus, whose savour lo! it is still in my mouth. Jairus daughter shall come and see this Thy cross. The widows son gazes on Thee. A tree caught Adam for me: blessed be the Cross which has caught for me the Son of David!”
14. Death opened his mouth and said, “Hast Thou not heard, O Son of Mary, how Moses was great and excellent above all? became a God and wrought the works of God? slew the first-born and saved the first-born? turned aside the pestilence from the living? To the mount I went up with Moses, and He Whose glory be blessed gave him to me from hand to hand. For however great the son of Adam becomes, dust he is and to his dust returns, because he is of the ground.”
15. Satan came with his servants, that he might see our Lord cast into Sheol, and might rejoice with Death his Counsellor; and he saw Him sorrowful and mourning, because of the dead who at the voice of the Firstborn, lived and came forth thence even from Sheol. The Evil One arose to console Death his kinsman. “Thou hast not destroyed as much as thou wast able. Even as Jesus is in thy midst, to thy hand shall come they that have lived and that live.
16. “Open for us to see Him, yea and mock Him: let us answer and say, Where is Thy power? For lo! three days have passed for Him, and let us say to Him, O Thou of three days, Who didst raise Lazarus, when he had lain four days, raise Thine own self.” Death opened the gates of Sheol, and there shone from it the splendour of the face of our Lord; and like the men of Sodom they were smitten; they groped and sought the gate of Sheol, which they had lost.
Next: Hymn XLII.
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