Blessed Be The Messenger That Was Laden
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. 238-240.
The Rhythms of Saint Ephrem the Syrian on the Nativity
Rhythm The Sixth
Blessed be the Messenger that was laden, and came; a great peace! The Bowels of the Father brought Him down to us; He did not bring up our debts to Him, but made a satisfaction to that Majesty with His own goods.
Praised be the Wise One, who reconciled and joined the Divine with the Human Nature. One from above and one from below, He confined the Natures as medicines, and being the Image of God, became man.
That Jealous One when He saw that Adam was dust, and that the cursed serpent had devoured him, shed soundness into that which was tasteless, and made him [as] salt, wherewith the accursed serpent should be blinded.
Blessed be the Merciful One, who saw the weapon by Paradise, that closed the way to the Tree of Life; and came and took a Body which could suffer, that with the Door, that was in His side, He might open the way into Paradise.
Blessed be that Merciful One, who lent not Himself to harshness, but without constraint conquered by wisdom; that He might give an ensample unto men, that by virtue and wisdom they might conquer discerningly.
Blessed is Thy flock, since Thou art the gate thereof, and Thou art the staff thereof. Thou art the Shepherd thereof, Thou art the Drink thereof, Thou art the salt thereof, yea, the Visitor thereof. Hail to the Only-Begotten, that bare abundantly all manner of consolations!
The husbandmen came and did obeisance before the Husbandman of Life. They prophesied to Him as they rejoiced, [saying,] "Blessed be the Husbandman, by Whom the ground of the heart is tilled, Who gathereth His wheat into the garner of Life."
The husbandmen came and gave glory to the Vineyard that sprang of the root and stem of Jesse, the Virgin Cluster of the glorious Vine. "May we be vessels for Thy new Wine that renews all things."
"In Thee may the Vineyard of my Well-beloved that yielded wild grapes1 find peace! Graft its vines from Thy stocks; let it be laden entirely from Thy blessings with a fruit which may reconcile the Lord of the Vineyard, Who threatens it."
Because of Joseph the workmen came to the Son of Joseph saying, "Blessed be Thy Nativity, Thou Head of Workmen, the impress whereof the ark bore, after which was fashioned the Tabernacle of the congregation that was for a time only!"2
"Our craft praises Thee, Who art our glory. Make Thou the yoke which is light, yea easy, for them that bear it; make the measure, in which there can be no falseness, which is full of Truth; yea, devise and make measures3 by righteousness; that he that is vile may be accused thereby, and he that is perfect, may be acquitted thereby. Weigh therewith both mercy and truth, O just One, as a judge."
"Bridegrooms with their brides rejoiced. Blessed be the Babe, whose Mother was Bride of the Holy One! Blessed the marriage feast, whereat Thou wast present, in which when wine was suddenly wanting, in Thee it abounded again!"
The children cried out, "Blessed He that hath become unto us a Brother, and Companion in the midst of the streets. Blessed be the day which by the Branches4 gives glory to the Tree of life, that made His Majesty be brought low, to our childish age!"
Women heard that a Virgin should conceive and bring forth a Son: honourable women hoped that thou wouldest rise from them; yea noble ladies that Thou mightest spring up from them! Blessed be Thy Majesty, that humbled Itself, and rose from the poor!
Yea the young girls that carried Him prophesied, saying, "Whether I be hated or fair, or of low estate, I am without spot for Thee. I have taken Thee in charge for the bed of Childbirth."
Sarah had lulled Isaac, who as a slave5 bare the Image of the King his Master on his shoulders, even the sign of His Cross; yea, on his hands were bandages and sufferings, a type of the nails.
Rachel cried to her husband, and said, Give me sons.6 Blessed be Mary, in whose womb, though she asked not, Thou didst dwell holily, O Gift, that poured itself upon them that received it.
Hannah with bitter tears asked a child;7 Sarah and Rebecca with vows and words, Elizabeth also with her prayer, after having vexed themselves for a long time, yet so obtained comfort.
Blessed be Mary, who without vows and without prayer, in her Virginity conceived and brought forth the Lord of all the sons of her companions, who have been or shall be chaste and righteous, priests and kings.
Who else lulled a son in her bosom as Mary did? who ever dared to call her son, Son of the Maker, Son of the Creator, Son of the Most High?
Who ever dared to speak to her son as in prayer? O Trust of Thy Mother as God, her Beloved and her Son as Man, in fear and love it is meet for thy Mother to stand before Thee!
These footnotes are from the source identified above, 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 S. husks. Return
2 So too St. E. himself upon Exodus 37. "And Bezaleel made an ark of undecaying wood, a type of the Body of Immanuel, which is incorruptible, and not soiled by sin. By the gold within and without he indicates the Divine Nature of the Word, which was united unto all the functions (S. vessels) of the Soul and the Body in a manner no discourse can reach, seeing he anointed our manhood with His Godhead." These words appear to make it plain, that St. E. means the same ark above as in this passage; he, however, uses a different word, and one which others contend is only applied to Noah's ark. Return
3 St. Mark, 6. 3, intimates that our Lord was a carpenter Himself, while on earth. [Editor. The verse reads: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended in him."] Return
4 He alludes to Palm Sunday, on which the children carried them. Return
5 Gen. 22. 6. "And Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife; and they went both of them together." Return
6 Gen. 30. 1 "And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and she said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die." Return
7 I Sam. 1. 7. "And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of Jehovah, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat." Return
Additional Editor's Notes:
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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