The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Star Shines Forth In Heaven

For the Epiphany

Words: Ephraem Syrus (died 379)
Elizabeth Rundle Charles, Trans.

Music: Not Stated

Source: Elizabeth Rundle Charles, ed., The Voice of Christian Life in Song (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1859), pp. 51-52.

The Star of Bethlehem

A star shines forth in heaven suddenly,
A wondrous orb, less than the sun—yet greater ;—
Less in its outward light, but greater in
Its inward glory, pointing to a mystery.
That morning-star sent forth its beams afar
Into the land of those who had no light,
Led them as blind men, by a way they knew not,
Until they came and saw the Light of men,
Offer'd their gifts, received eternal life,
Worshipp'd—and went their way.
Thus had the Son two heralds, one on high,
And one below. Above—the star rejoiced ;
Below—the Baptist bore Him record :
Two heralds thus, one heavenly, one of earth;
That witnessing the nature of the Son,
The majesty of God, and this His human nature.
mighty wonder ! thus were they the heralds
Both of His Godhead, and His manhood.
Who held Him only for a son of earth,
To such the star proclaim'd His heavenly glory;
Who held Him only for a heavenly spirit,
To such the Baptist spoke of Him as man.
And in the holy temple Simeon held the babe
Fast in his aged arms, and sang to Him—

To me, in Thy mercy,
An old man, Thou art come;
Thou layest my body
In peace in the tomb.
Thou soon wilt awake me,
And bid me arise ;
Wilt lead me transfigured
To paradise.

Then Anna took the babe upon her arms,
And press'd her mouth upon His infant lips;
Then came the Holy Spirit on her lips,
As erst upon Isaiah's, when the coal
Had touch'd his silent lips, and open'd them :
With glowing heart she sang—

O Son of the King !
Though Thy birth-place was mean,
All-hearing, yet silent,
All-seeing, unseen,
Unknown, yet all-knowing,
God, and yet Son of man !
Praise to Thy name.

Editor's Note:

Mrs. Charles introduced this hymn with the following text:

In a hymn on the Nativity, he imagines all creation thronging round the infant Saviour; the shepherds bringing Him offerings from their flocks—"a lamb to the Paschal Lamb, to the First-born a first-born;" the lamb bleating its praises to Him whose coming freed lambs and oxen from sacrifice, since He Himself, the " Lamb of God," has brought us the true perpetual Easter festival. The shepherds praise Him, " the chief Shepherd, who shall gather all in one flock, the Child older than Noah, and younger :"—

Thy father David once
To save a lamb a lion slew ; but Thou,
David's Son, destroyest that fierce wolf,
Invisible, who slew of old Adam,
A spotless lamb, pastured in paradise.

Old men, and gray-haired women, crowd out of the city of David to greet Him; young men, maidens and mothers, gather around Him who came to consecrate every aspect of human life. It is a touching allegory, rising far indeed above the narrow horizon of monasticism. The following lines on the Epiphany must be given in full. It may be called THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM.

Elizabeth Rundle Charles, ed., The Voice of Christian Life in Song (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1859), pp. 50-51.

This hymn was reproduced in full in Bernard Pick, ed., Hymns and Poetry of the Eastern Church (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1908), p. 87-88. Mr. Pick also included this note:

Ephraem Syrus

The greatest of all hymn writers whose works are extant, and whose hymns have been translated into German as well as into English, was Ephraem Syrus. His hymns are regarded by critics as among the finest of the Eastern Church, being characterized by deep devotional feeling, and force and beauty of imagery. "They seem remarkable for childlike simplicity and much tenderness of natural feeling. There is a simple joyousness about his thanksgivings. He seems to have loved to dwell on such themes as the infancy of the Saviour, the hosannas of the children, the happiness of those who died in childhood" (E.R. Charles, “The Voice of Christian Life in Song," p. 46).

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