Hymn 13

Picking up the theme on which Hymn XII ends, St Ephrem compares the fallen Adam to King Nebuchadnezzar, whose rebellion against God (Daniel 4) led to his becoming like a wild animal. The fact that Nebuchadnezzar returned to his kingdom once he had repented gives hope to us and encourages us too to repent in order that we may return to the kingdom from which Adam/humanity had been expelled. But whereas Nebuchadnezzar abhorred his place of exile, we have become so inured to sin that we actually take pleasure in our exile and have to be rescued from it against our perverted wills; in this we are rebuked by the examples of Samson, Jonah and Joseph, who all rejoiced in their deliverance, whereas we lament when any of us pass from this life to the next.

Let me speak what is needful,
teach what may be heard,

Page 169

seek what may be attained,
spurn all that is inquisitive;
may I ask only what is useful for me,
and speak what befits You,
both what is needful
and what is necessary.
May I take what Grace proffers
and give the thanksgiving that is appropriate;
through Your grace may my offering
enter before Your good pleasure.

Through Your grace make me worthy
of that Garden of happiness

In the beginning God created the creation,
the fountainhead of delights;
the house which He constructed
provisions those who live therein,
for upon His gift
innumerable created beings depend;
from a single table
does He provide
every day for each creature
all things in due measure.
Grant that we may acknowledge
Your grace, O Good One

A garden full of glory,
a chaste bridal chamber,
did he give to that king*
fashioned from the dust,
sanctifying and separating him
from the abode of wild animals;
for glorious was Adam
in all things
Page 170

in where he lived and what he ate,
in his radiance and dominion.
Blessed is He who elevated him above all
so that he might give thanks to the Lord of all

The king of Babylon resembled [ Dan 4 ]
Adam king of the universe:
both rose up against the one Lord
and were brought low;
He made them outlaws,
casting them afar.
Who can fail to weep,
seeing that these free-born kings
preferred slavery
and servitude.
Blessed is He who released us
so that His image might no longer be in bondage

David wept for Adam, [ Ps 49:13 ]
at how he fell
from that royal abode
to the abode of wild animals.
Because he went astray through a beast
he became like the beasts:
He ate, together with them
as a result of the curse,
grass and roots,
and he died, becoming their peer.
Blessed is He who set him apart
from the wild animals* again

In that king*
did God depict Adam:
Page 171

since he provoked God by his exercise of kingship, God stripped him of that kingship.
The Just One was angry and cast him out
into the region of wild beasts;
he dwelt there with them
in the wilderness [ Dan 4:32-33 ]
and only when he repented did he return
to his former abode and kingship.
Blessed is He who has thus taught us to repent
so that we too may return to Paradise

Because it was not easy
for us to see our fallen state--
how and whence we had fallen
at the very outset--
He depicted it all together
in that king,
portraying in our fall
his fall,
and portraying our return
in his repentant return.
Praise to Him who delineated
this likeness for the repentant

Although he disliked
the abode of wild beasts
it was necessary
for the king-to remain there;
yet, despite his madness and error,
he recalled that he was a man
and prayed that he might be returned
to his own former abode;
and when the Good One returned him,
he gave thanks to Him for His compassion.
Page 172

Blessed is He who gave us in him
an example of returning

Look at how great is our shame
in comparison:
our very confinement in darkness
has become for us a source of pleasure;
we are proud
of the land of curses; [ Gen 3:17 ]
how we love
our confinement in a pit!
Like the Egyptians
we are drowned in the sea. [ Exod 14:28 ]
Blessed is He who has had pity on us
so that we should not be left in this our state

The Good One in His love
wished to discipline us for doing wrong,
and so we had to leave Paradise
with its bridal chamber of glory;
He made us live with the wild beasts,
which caused us sorrow,
so that we might see how little
our honor had become,
and so would supplicate Him and beg to return
to our inheritance.
Praise be to Him who released
these prisoners who have no wish to be free! [ Isa 61:1 ]

In both his mind and understanding
was the king of Babylon childlike,
but through our Lord, my brethren,
your understanding is complete.
Page 173

He returned to Babylon: [ Dan 4:36 ]
both he and the city have vanished;
but do you, my brothers,
seek your city,*
for both you and it
shall endure forever.
Happy are those who live there,
for in it none ever need to be buried

Satan the tyrant outwitted Samson
with a woman, [ Judges 16 ]
the same tyrant outwitted Adam
with a woman:
Samson had to grind at the mill, [ Judges 16:21 ]
Adam had to labor wearily on the soil;
Samson prayed
to be released,
whereas we pray
to grow old in our misery.
Blessed is He who delivered Samson,
releasing him from the grinding

Samson is a type of the death
of Christ the High Priest:
Samson's death returns prisoners
to their towns, [ Judges 16:23-31 ]
whereas the High Priest's death
has returned us to our heritage.
Let us repeat to each other
the good news in joy,
that the gate is once again open,
and happy is he who enters in quickly.
Page 174

Blessed is He who has not made us
outlaws never to return

Jonah knew into what
the Just One had cast him;
he prayed, and was brought back to land. [ Jonah 2 ]
In him we shall be judged, my brothers,
for we do not even realize
whither we have been driven out.
Jonah came up from the whale and gave thanks:
he was not ungrateful;
but we think it a cause for complaint
when we are released from our yoke.
Yet You, Lord, put up with us,
who complain as we are rescued

Joseph took no delight,
despite all the honor that was paid him,
in remaining in prison; [ Gen 41:14 ]
his example rebukes us, my brothers,
for the more we are in bondage,
the more we are pleased.
He was released, and reached his true stature,
in order to teach us
how, in the Kingdom, our departed ones too
achieve their full stature:
being separated from us for a little,
they have come to their Lord,

This day of separation,
which to us seems to cut off all hope,
only increases their hope,
now that they are returning to their own city:
Page 175

lamentation for those below,
but joy for those above;
the world below sorrows at the loss
of their familiar voices,
but the heaven above is overjoyed
that their song is now intermingled with the
song of the seraphs.
Blessed is the man who weeps over himself,
rather than for the departed.

Prev -- Next