Hymn 12

Truth can be put to deceptive use: the serpent promised Adam and Eve something that would have been true had they remained obedient to God's commandment, but by presuming to transgress the commandment and to snatch at what was
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promised, all they gained was an awareness and knowledge of what they had lost. Adam's fate thus resembled that of King Uzziah who, by trying to seize the priesthood, lost the kingship as well. Satan tried the same tactics with the second Adam, quoting a psalm which indeed contained truth, but he did so with deceptive intent. This time, however, it is the deceiver who is deceived, and it is his deception that Christ rejects. The demonic Legion, on the other hand, who begs Christ without deception, is granted his request--a precedent which emboldens St Ephrem in making his own request.

Satan's deceptive use of Scripture is then contrasted with Christ's beneficial use of actions which on the surface appear negative or destructive. Indeed, from the very first all that God does is aimed at the enhancement of the glory of humanity, the culmination of His creation: having created Adam and Eve with free will, God wished them to win the crown of immortality through their use of it, and so he hedged the Tree of Knowledge about with the commandment not to eat of its fruit. Failure to use this gift of free will reduces someone to the lower status of the animals--whereas the animals, had they but discernment, would bewail their not having been created human beings!

There sprang up within me a query
that troubled my thoughts;
I wished to make enquiry,
but was afraid of being importunate.
But the moment God perceived
what lay in my thoughts
He enveloped with His wisdom
this question of mine,
and thus I felt assured
that in all that He told me
He had accepted my wish
and encompassed it for me within His own words.

Praise to Your grace that has compassion
on sinners

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For He explained to me
about the serpent,
how the truth concerning hidden things
had reached this deceiver.
It was by listening that he learned
and imagined he had knowledge;
the voice had cried out
to Adam and warned him
of that Tree of knowledge
of what is good and what evil;
the cunning one heard that voice
and seized on its meaning

He deceived the husbandman
so that he plucked prematurely
the fruit which gives forth its sweetness
only in due season
--a fruit that, out of season,
proves bitter to him who plucks it.
Through a ruse did the serpent
reveal the truth,
knowing well that the result
would be the opposite, because of their
for blessing becomes a curse
to him who seizes it in sin

Remember Uzziah,
how he entered the sanctuary;
by seeking to seize the priesthood
he lost his kingdom. [ 2 Chron 26:16-21 ]
Adam, by wishing to enrich himself,
incurred a double loss.
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Recognize in the sanctuary
the Tree,
in the censer the fruit,
and in the leprosy the nakedness.
From these two treasures
there proceeded harm in both cases

Abraham doubted and asked
"How shall I know?" [ Gen 15:8 ]
He uttered what he wanted
but found what he did not want.
God, through a few brief words,
taught him one thing in place of another.
The same happened to Adam
in the Garden:
he lost what he had desired,
and found what he dreaded:
it was disgrace, instead of glory,
that God caused the audacious man to know

There came another Athlete,*
this time not to be beaten;
He put on the same armor
in which Adam had been vanquished.
When the adversary beheld
the armor of conquered Adam,
he rejoiced, not perceiving
that he was being taken by surprise;
He who was within the armor would have terrified him,
but His exterior gave him courage.
The evil one came to conquer,
but he was conquered and could not hold his ground.
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Observe how there too
the evil one revealed the truth:
he recited Scripture there,
he exacted truth there;
he clothed himself* with a psalm, [ Matt 4:6 (quoting Ps 90(91):11) ]
hoping to win by reciting it.
But our Lord would not listen
to him--
not because what he said
was untrue,
but because the evil one
had armed himself with deception

Look too at Legion: [ Mark 5:9 ]
when in anguish he begged,
our Lord permitted and allowed him
to enter into the herd;
respite did he ask for, without deception,
in his anguish,
and our Lord in His kindness
granted this request.
His compassion for demons
is a rebuke to that People,*
showing how much anguish His love suffers
in desiring that men and women should live

Encouraged by the words
I had heard,
I knelt down and wept there,
and spoke before our Lord:
"Legion received his request from You
without any tears;
permit me, with my tears,
to make my request,
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grant me to enter, instead of that herd,
the Garden,
so that in Paradise I may sing
of its Planter's compassion

Because Adam touched the Tree
he had to run to the fig;
he became like the fig tree,
being clothed in its vesture:
Adam, like some tree,
blossomed with leaves.*
Then he came to that glorious
tree of the Cross,
put on glory from it,
acquired radiance from it,
heard from it the truth
that he would return to Eden once more. [ Luke 23:43 ]

Let Job uncover for you
the impudence of Satan: [ cf. Job 1:9-11 ]
how he asks and beseeches
the Just One for permission
to test out your minds
in the furnace of temptation.
This is what
the abominable one said:
"No silver without fire
has ever been assayed;
falsehood will be put to shame,
what is true will receive due praise

It is written, furthermore,
Show no favor to the rich,
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do not even help out
a poor man in court; [ Lev 19:15 ]
let not judgment be blinded
in the eye of the scales
so that truth may be apparent
in all things;
if it is a case of forgiveness,
let us praise His grace,
if of punishment,
let us acknowledge His justice."

Our Lord rebuked the demon
and shut his mouth; [ Mark 1:25 ]
He was angry with the leper, He said "woe" to the scribes [ Mark 1:43, Matt 23:13 ]
along with the rich;
the swine He cast into the sea, [ Luke 6:24, Matt 8:32 ]
He dried up
the fig tree.* [ Matt 21:19 ]
But all these were occasions
for us to receive benefit,
for by their means He opened up
the great gates of His discerning actions.

He did not use threats,
but gave a rebuke in order to save;
even though He said "woe,"
yet His nature is peaceable,
even though He rebuked the demon,
He remains completely serene;
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it was not out of anger
that He bade the swine
be cast into the sea;
nor was it hate which withered up
the fig at His curse,
for He is in all things good

Two Trees did God place
in Paradise,
the Tree of Life
and that of Wisdom, [ Gen 2:9 ]
a pair of blessed fountains,
source of every good;
by means of this
glorious pair
the human person can become
the likeness of God,
endowed with immortal life
and wisdom that does not err

With that manifest knowledge
which God gave to Adam,
whereby he gave names to Eve
and to the animals, [ Gen 2:20, 3:20 ]
God did not reveal the discoveries
of things that were concealed;
but in the case
of that hidden knowledge
from the stars downward,
Adam was able to pursue
enquiry into all
that is within this universe.
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For God would not grant him the crown
without some effort;
He placed two crowns for Adam,
for which he was to strive,
two Trees to provide crowns
if he were victorious.
If only he had conquered
just for a moment,
he would have eaten the one and lived,
eaten the other and gained knowledge;
his life would have been protected from harm
and his wisdom would have been unshakable

The Just One did not wish
to give Adam the crown quite free,
even though He had allowed him
to enjoy Paradise without toil;
God knew that if Adam wanted
he could win the prize.
The Just One ardently wished
to enhance him,
for, although the rank of supernal beings
is great through grace,
the crown for the proper use of free will
is by no means paltry

In His justice He gave
abundant comfort to the animals;
they do not feel shame for adultery,
nor guilt for stealing;
without being ashamed
they pursue every comfort they encounter,
for they are above
care and shame;
the satisfaction of their desires
is sufficient to please them.
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Because they have no resurrection,
neither are they subject to blame

The fool, who is unwilling to realize
his honorable state,
prefers to become just an animal,
rather than a man,
so that, without incurring judgment,
he may serve naught but his lusts.
But had there been sown in animals
just a little
of the sense of discernment,
then long ago would the wild asses have lamented
and wept at their not
Adam was able to
having been human.

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