Blessed Be That Child
Words: Saint Ephream of Syria
Born at Nisibis, then under Roman rule, early in the fourth century; died June, 373.
Translated into Prose by Rev. J. B. (John Brandl) Morris, M. A.
(Late) Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford.
Translated from Thomas Joseph Lamy, S. Ephraemi Syri Opera Syriaca (Rome, 1743)
Music: Not Stated
Source: John Gwynn, ed., Hymns and Homilies of Ephraim The Syrian, Trans. A. Edward Johnston, from Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Second Series, Volume 13, Part 2. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905), pp. 227-229.
The Rhythms of Saint Ephrem the Syrian on the Nativity
Rhythm The Second
1. Blessed be that Child, Who gladdened Bethlehem to-day! Blessed be the Babe Who made manhood young again to-day! Blessed be the Fruit, Who lowered Himself to our famished state! Blessed be the Good One, Who suddenly enriched our necessitousness and supplied our needs! Blessed He Whose tender mercies made Him condescend to visit our infirmities!
2. Praise to the Fountain that was sent1 for our propitiation. Praise be to Him Who made void the Sabbath by fulfilling it! Praise too to Him Who rebuked the leprosy and it remained not, Whom the fever saw and fled! Praise to the Merciful, Who bore our toil! Glory to Thy coming, which quickened the sons of men!
3. Glory to Him, Who came to us by His first-born! Glory to the Silence,2 that spake by His Voice. Glory to the One on high, Who was seen by His Day-spring! Glory to the Spiritual, Who was pleased to have a Body, that in it His virtue might be felt, and He might by that Body show mercy on His household’s bodies!
4. Glory to that Hidden One, Whose Son was made manifest! Glory to that Living One, Whose Son was made to die! Glory to that Great One, Whose Son descended and was small! Glory to the Power Who did straiten His greatness by a form, His unseen nature by a shape! With eye and mind we have beheld Him, yea with both of them.
5. Glory to that Hidden One, Who even with the mind cannot be felt at all by them that pry into Him; but by His graciousness was felt by the hand of man! The Nature that could not be touched, by His hands was bound and tied, by His feet was pierced and lifted up. Himself of His own will He embodied for them that took Him.
6. Blessed be He Whom free will crucified, because He let it: blessed be He Whom the wood also did bear, because He allowed it. Blessed be He Whom the grave bound, that had [thereby] a limit set it. Blessed be He Whose own will brought Him to the Womb and Birth, to arms and to increase [in stature]. Blessed He whose changes purchased life for human nature.3
7. Blessed He Who sealed our soul, and adorned it and espoused it to Himself. Blessed He Who made our Body a tabernacle for His unseen Nature. Blessed He Who by our tongue interpreted His secret things. Let us praise that Voice whose glory is hymned with our lute, and His virtue with our harp. The Gentiles have assembled and have come to hear His strains.
8. Glory to the Son of the Good One, Whom the sons of the evil one rejected! Glory to the Son of the Just One, Whom the sons of wickedness crucified! Glory to Him Who loosed us, and was bound for us all! Glory to Him Who gave the pledge, and redeemed it too! Glory to the Beautiful, Who conformed us to His image! Glory to that Fair One, Who looked not to our foulnesses!
9. Glory to Him Who sowed His Light in the darkness,4 and was reproached in His hidden state, and covered His secret things. He also stripped and took off from us the clothing of our filthiness.5 Glory be to Him on high, Who mixed His salt6 in our minds, His leaven in our souls. His Body became Bread, to quicken our deadness.
10. Praise to the Rich, Who paid for us all, that which He borrowed not;7 and wrote [His bill], and also became our debtor! By His yoke He brake from us the chains of him that led us captive. Glory to the Judge Who was judged, and made His Twelve to sit in judgment on the tribes, and by ignorant men condemned the scribes of that nation!
11. Glory to Him Who could never be measured by us! Our heart is too small for Him, yea our mind is too feeble. He makes foolish our littleness by the riches of His Wisdom. Glory to Him, Who lowered Himself, and asked;8 that He might hear and learn that which He knew; that He might by His questions reveal the treasure of His helpful graces!
12. Let us adore Him Who enlightened with His doctrine our mind, and in our hearing sought a pathway for His words. Praise we Him Who grafted into our tree His fruit. Thanks to Him Who sent His Heir, that by Him He might draw us to Himself, yea make us heirs with Him! Thanks to that Good One, the cause of all goods!
13. Blessed He Who did not chide, because that He was good! Blessed He Who did not spurn, because that He was just also! Blessed He Who was silent, and rebuked; that He might quicken us with both! Severe His silence and reproachful. Mild His severity even When He was accusing; for He rebuked the traitor, and kissed the thief.
14. Glory to the hidden Husbandman of our intellects! His seed fell on to our ground, and made our mind rich. His increase came an hundredfold into the treasury of our souls! Let us adore Him Who sat down and took rest; and walked in the way, so that the Way was in the way, and the Door also for them that go in,9 by which they go in to the kingdom.
15. Blessed the Shepherd Who became a Lamb for our reconcilement! Blessed the Branch Who became the Cup of our Redemption! Blessed also be the Cluster, Fount of medicine of life! Blessed also be the Tiller, Who became Wheat, that He might be sown; and a Sheaf,10 that He might be cut! [Blessed be] the Architect Who became a Tower for our place of safety!11 Blessed He Who so tempered the feelings of our mind,12 that we with our harp should sing that which the winged creatures’ mouth knows not with its strains to sing! Glory to Him, Who beheld how we had pleased to be like to brutes in our rage and our greediness; and came down and was one of us, that we might become heavenly!
16. Glory be to Him, Who never felt the need of our praising Him; yet felt the need as being kind to us, and thirsted13 as loving us, and asks us to give to Him, and longs to give to us. His fruit was mingled with us men, that in Him we might come nigh to Him, Who condescended to us. By the Fruit of His stem He grafted us into His Tree.
17. Let us praise Him, Who prevailed and quickened us by His stripes! Praise we Him, Who took away the curse by His thorns! Praise we Him Who put death to death by His dying! Praise we Him, Who held His peace and justified us! Praise we Him, Who rebuked death that had overcome us! Blessed He, Whose helpful graces cleansed out the left side!14
18. Praise we Him Who watched and put to sleep him that led us captive. Praise we Him Who went to sleep, and chased our deep sleep away. Glory be to God Who cured weak manhood! Glory be to Him Who was baptized, and drowned our iniquity in the deep, and choked him15 that choked us! Let us glorify with all our mouths the Lord of all creatures!
19. Blessed be the Physician Who came down and amputated without pain, and healed wounds with a medicine that was not harsh. His Son became a Medicine, that showed sinners mercy. Blessed be He Who dwelt in the womb, and wrought therein a perfect Temple, that He might dwell in it, a Throne that He might be in it, a Garment that He might be arrayed in it, and a Weapon that He might conquer in it.
20. Blessed be He Whom our mouth cannot adequately praise, because His Gift is too great for skill of orators [to tell]; neither can the faculties adequately praise His goodness. For praise Him as we may, it is too little.
21. And since it is useless to be silent and to constrain ourselves, may our feebleness excuse such praise as we can sing.
22. How gracious He, Who demands not more than our strength can give! How would Thy servant be condemned in capital and interest, did he not give such as he could, and did he refuse that which He owed! Ocean of glory Who needest not to have Thy glory sung, take in Thy goodness this drop of praise; since by Thy Gift Thou hast supplied my tongue a sense for glorifying Thee.
The footnotes that appear are those from this edition, and may include some footnotes from the original publication of Hymns 1 through 13, inclusive, which was by Rev. Edward B. Pusey, et al., eds., Rhythms of Saint Ephrem The Syrian / Select Works of S. Ephrem the Syrian. Trans. Rev. J. B. (John Brandl) Morris, from A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior to the Division of the East and West. Volume 41. (Oxford: John Henry Parker; London: F. and J. Rivington, 1847), pp. 1-60.
Text from the Holy Bible was not originally included in these texts, and has been added by an editor for The Hymns and Carols of Christmas. All quotations are from the Revised Version, Standard American Edition of the Bible, more commonly known as the American Standard Version (ASV), which was the most recent translation at the time of publication of these poems. The American Standard Version has been termed “the bedrock translation” due to its fidelity to ancient sources known to exist at that time.
1. There is perhaps an allusion here to the pool of Siloam, which comes from the root employed in the original. Return
2. This name is given by St. E. to the Father, to suggest to the mind that there was a period when the Father had not begun to work by His Word. Return
3. St. E. seems to mean, that whereas the alterations man undergoes in his body tend ultimately to decay the same when undergone by our Lord tended to life. Return
4. Ps. 92. 2. "To show forth thy
lovingkindness in the morning,
And thy faithfulness every night," Return
5. Zech. 3. 3. "Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the angel." Return
6. Mark 9. 49. "For every one shall be salted with fire." Return
7. Ps. 69. 4. "For the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up; And the reproaches of them that reproach thee are fallen upon me." Comp. Luke 16. 6. "And he said, A hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bond, and sit down quickly and write fifty." [Editor's Note: These Bible verse citations were verified from the original publication, p. 12.] Return
8. Luke 2. 46. "And it came to pass, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them, and asking them questions:" Return
9. John 10. 9, "I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and go out, and shall find pasture." John 14. 6, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me." Return
10. Alluding to the wave-offering, Levit. 23. 11, "and he shall wave the sheaf before Jehovah, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it." which was ordinarily interpreted of Christ. Return
11. Ps. 61. 3. "For thou hast been a refuge for me, A strong tower from the enemy." Return
12. Prov. 18. 10. "The name of Jehovah is a strong tower; The righteous runneth into it, and is safe." Return
13. Mat. 25. 40. "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, [even] these least, ye did it unto me." Return
14. Allusion is here made perhaps to Eccles. 10. 2, “a wise man’s heart is at his right hand, but a fool’s heart is at his left.” Return
15. Luke 8. 33. "And the demons came out from the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd rushed down the steep into the lake, and were drowned." Return
Also found in Rev. Edward B. Pusey, et al., eds., Rhythms of Saint Ephrem The Syrian / Select Works of S. Ephrem the Syrian. Trans. Rev. J. B. Morris, Volume 41 of A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior to the Division of the East and West. (Oxford: John Henry Parker; London: F. and J. Rivington: 1847), pp. 10-14.
St. Ephraem of Syria was also the author of Fifteen Hymns of the Epiphany, as well as other hymns of the Christmas-tide, hymns against heresies, hymns for the faith, etc.
See generally Christmas-tide Hymns from the Eastern Churches.
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