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 VIII.
(Resp.—Happy are ye whose bodies have been made to shine!)
1. God in His mercy stooped and came down,—to mingle His compassion with the water,—and to blend the nature of His majesty—with the wretched bodies of men.—He made occasion by the water—to come down and to dwell in us:—like to the occasion of mercy—when He came down and dwelt in the womb:—O the mercies of God—Who seeks for Himself all occasions to dwell in us!
2. To the cave in Horeb He stooped and came down,—and on Moses He caused His majesty to dwell;—He imparted His glorious splendour to mortals.—There was therein a figure of Baptism:—He Who came down and dwelt in it,—tempers within the water—the might of His majesty,—that He may dwell in the feeble.—On Moses dwelt the Breath,—and on you the Perfecting of Christ.
3. That might then none could endure;—not Moses chief of deliverers,—nor Elijah chief of zealots;—and the Seraphin too vail their faces,—for it is the might that subdues all.—His mercy mingled gentleness—in the water and by the oil;—that mankind in p. 277 its weakness—might be able to stand before Him—when covered by the water and the oil.
4. The captive priests again in the well—hid and concealed the fire of the sanctuary, 514 —a mystery of that glorified fire—which the Highpriest mingles in Baptism.—The priests took up of the mire,—and on the altar they sprinkled it;—for its fire, the fire of that well,—with the mire had been mingled;—a mystery of our bodies which in the water—with the fire of the Holy Spirit have been mingled.
5. The famous Three in Babylon—in the furnace of fire were baptized, and came forth;—they went in and bathed in the flood of flame, they were buffeted by the blazing billows.—There was sprinkled on them there—the dew that fell from heaven;—it loosed from off them there—the bonds of the earthly king.—Lo! the famous Three went in and found a fourth in the furnace.
6. That visible fire that triumphed outwardly,—pointed to the fire of the Holy Ghost,—which is mingled, lo! and hidden in the water.—In the flame Baptism is figured,—in that blaze of the furnace.—Come, enter, be baptized, my brethren,—for lo! it looses the bonds;—for in it there dwells and is hidden—the Daysman of God,—Who in the furnace was the fourth.
7. Two words again our Lord spake—which in one voice agree in unison:—He said, “I am come to send fire,”—and again, “I have a baptism to be baptized with.”—By the fire of Baptism is quenched the fire,—that which the Evil One had kindled:—and the water of Baptism has overcome—those waters of contention—by which he had made trial—of Joseph who conquered and was crowned.
8. Lo! the pure fire of our Redeemer—which he kindled in mankind of His mercy!—Through His fire He quenched that fire—which had been kindled in the defiled and sinful.—This is the fire wherein the thorns—are burnt up and the tares.—But happy are your bodies—that have been baptized in the fire—which has consumed your thickets,—and by it your seeds have sprung up to heaven!
9. Jeremiah in the womb He sanctified and taught.—But if the lowly bosom of wedlock—was sanctified in conceiving and bringing him forth,—how much more shall Baptism sanctify—its conception and its bringing forth—of them that are pure and spiritual!—For there, within the womb—is the conception of all men;—but here, out of the water,—is the birth whereof the spiritual are worthy.
10. For Jeremiah though sanctified in the womb,—they took up nails and cast him into the pit.—Holy was the prophet in his befoulment,—for clean was his heart though he was in the mire.—Be ye afraid, my brethren—for lo! to-day is washed away—your secret befoulment,—and the abomination of your sins.—Turn not again to uncleanness,—for there is but one cleansing of your bodies!
11. The presumptuous who is baptized and again sins,—is as the serpent that casts its slough and again puts it on, that is renewed and made young, and turns again——putting on anew its skin of old;—for the serpent does not—cast off its nature.—Cast ye off the tempter—the corrupter of souls,—even the old man;—let it not make old—the newness ye have put on!
12. Elisha cast the wood into the water, and made the heavy float and the light sink:—their natures were exchanged in the water.—There a new thing came to pass not according to nature.—How much easier then, O Lord,—is this for Thy grace; that in the water should sink—transgression which is heavy,—but that the soul which is light—should be drawn forth and raised up on high!
13. Joshua, son of Nun, on Jericho—laid a curse on its walls and a doom on its p. 278 fountains.—They whom Joshua cursed to their destruction,—again in the mystery of Jesus have been blessed.—There was cast into them salt,—and they were healed and sweetened:—a mystery of this salt,—the sweet salt that came from Mary,—that was mingled in the water,—whereby was healed the noisomeness of our plagues.
14. Lo! quiet waters are before you,—holy and tranquil and pleasant;—for they are not the waters of contention—that cast Joseph into the dungeon;—nor yet are they the waters,—those waters of strife,—beside which the people strove,—and gainsaid in the wilderness.—There are waters whereby—there is reconciliation made with Heaven.
15. Hagar saw the spring of water,—and from it she gave drink to her forward son, him who became as a wild ass in the wilderness.—Instead of that fountain of water is Baptism.—In it are baptized the sons of Hagar,—and are become gentle and peaceful. Who has seen rams 515 like these,—that are yoked, lo! and labour—along with tame bullocks,—and the seed of their tillage is reaped an hundredfold!
16. In the beginning the Spirit that brooded—moved on the waters; they conceived and gave birth—to serpents and fishes and birds.—The Holy Spirit has brooded in Baptism,—and in mystery has given birth to eagles,—Virgins and Prelates;—and in mystery has given birth to fishes,—celibates and intercessors; and in mystery of serpents,—lo! the subtle have become simple as doves!
17. Lo! the sword of our Lord in the waters!—that which divides sons and fathers:—for it is the living sword that makes—division, lo! of the living from the dying.—Lo! they are baptized and they become—Virgins and saints,—who have gone down, been baptized, and put on—the One Only begotten.—Lo! many have come boldly to Him!
18. For whoso have been baptized and put on Him—the Only begotten the Lord of the many,—has filled thereby the place of many,—for to him Christ has become a great treasure:—for He became in the wilderness—a table of good meats,—and He became at the marriage feast—a fountain of choice wines.—He has become such to all in all things,—by helps and healings and promises.
19. Elisha was the equal of the Watchers—in his doings, glorious and holy.—The camp of the Watchers was round about him;—thus let Baptism be unto you,—a camp of guardians,—for by means of it there dwells in the heart—the hope of them that are below—and the Lord of them that are above.—Sanctify for Him your bodies,—for where He abides, corruption comes not near.
20. They are no more, the waters of that sea—which by its billows preserved the People,—and by its billows laid low the peoples.—Of contrary effect are the waters in Baptism.—In them, lo! the people have life;—in them, lo! the People perishes:—for all that are not baptized,—in the waters that give life to all,—they are dead invisibly.
21. They are no more, the waters of that sea—which were tempestuous, and boiled against Jonah,—and plunged into the depths the Son of Amittai.—Though he fled he was bound in the prison-house;—God cast him in and bound him—in dungeon within dungeon;—for he bound him in the sea.—and He bound him in the fish.—For him Grace stood surety,—and she opened the prison and brought forth the preacher.
22. The Prophets have called the Most High a fire,—“a devouring fire,” and “who can dwell with it?” 516 —The People were not able to dwell in it;—its might crushed the peoples and they were confounded.—In it, with the unction ye have been anointed;—ye have put Him on in the water;—in the bread ye have eaten Him;—in the wine ye have drunk Him;—in the voice ye have heard Him;—and in the eye of the mind ye have seen Him!
1 Maccab. i. 19.278:515
Isa. 1:0, Isa. 30:27.
Next: Hymn IX.
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