The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Bride of Christ on High

For Christmas

"The Admonitory Address To A Virgin"

Author: Gregory Nazainzen, 4th Century Greek Poet

Translation: Allen W. Chatfield

Music: Not Stated

Source: Allen W. Chatfield, ed., Songs and Hymns of Earliest Greek Christian Poets. Translations by Allen W. Chatfield. (London: Rivingtons, 1876), pp. 125-139. This volume is described as “A selection of songs and hymns from [Christ and Paranikas,] Anthologia Graeca Carminum Christianorum (Leipzig, 1871).”
Note that the text is Greek with notes, preface, etc., in Latin. This link is to the Internet Archive, www.archive.org.

Admonitory Address To A Virgin

Greek Title: Παρθένε, νύμφη Χριστοű

(The Greek is of varied metre, arranged in lines of generally seven syllables each.)

This poem, though lacking the spirit and vigour of the Address to his own Soul, may yet find acceptance with some; and though the times are utterly changed, and what in an age of pagan persecution "was good for the present distress " (i Cor. vii. 26) may be so no longer, yet there is much in it of good instruction : the style is pretty and occasionally elevated. Allan W. Chatfield

Bride of Christ on high,
Thy Bridegroom glorify!
Always thyself keep pure,
In word and wisdom sure.
That bright with Him all-bright
Thou e'er mayst dwell in light.
Far better spouse is He
Than earthly spouse could be :
Thy union happier far
Than mortal unions are. 10
In bodily estate
Thou yet didst imitate
The intellectual powers,
Giving to Him thy hours :
And didst acquire on earth
The angels' right of birth.
'Tis " bind and loose" below,
Bodies from bodies grow :
Above each stands alone.
Nor loosing there is known. 20
Of pure existence, they
First bear the ethereal ray,
Spirit and fire : none rests.
Doing great God's behests.
But wild matter found—
All nature flowing round
With unresisted force—
A mingled intercourse;
But God the flood restrained,
And marriage laws ordained. 30
But thou hast hence escaped.
And upward thy course shaped ;
From matter's base alloy
To spirit's holy joy.
Mind harmonized with mind,
Doth truest pleasure find :
Such harmony is thine,
A harmony divine.
With flesh thou Avar dost wage,
And helpest God's image : 40
For thou art God's own breath,
With body yoked till death :
That out of wrestling sore,
At length the battle o'er,
And earth well beaten down,
Thou mayst receive the crown.
To marriage also raise.
But only second praise.
That is for passion given.
This is bright light of heaven: 50
That founds a pure offspring.
This is self-offering.
This honoured was, we hold,
At seasons marked of old.
To this in Paradise
Lo ! Adam testifies :
For this on Sinai's peak
Doth Moses also speak;
And Zachary the priest,
Of God's true saints not least, 60
And whom we hail the rather
As the Forerunner's father.
But marriage hath its need :
Hence springs a holy seed :
And hence the virgin1 bride,
Honoured at God's own side.
Yet of the flesh it is, and earth.
All earthly from its birth.
When law and shadows ruled,
And we were sometime schooled, 70
Marriage held sceptre mild,
Yet like a little child.
But when the letter died.
The Spirit was supplied :
For Christ had come and borne
In flesh our woes and scorn :
Had brought Redemption nigh.
And then ascended high :
Christ, sprung from Virgin's womb,
Christ, Conqueror o'er the tomb. 80
Then continence did rise,
And this base world despise,
Which should its course have mended,
And high with Christ ascended.

Thou journey'st well ! but haste !
Behind is fiery waste :
Take to thy steps good heed,
And to the mountain speed.
Cast not one backward glance
On Sodom, lest perchance 90
Thou, fixed upon the ground,
A pile of salt be found.
In battling with the flesh
Take ever courage fresh,
Neither by terror bent.
Nor over-confident.
Faint not, for He is nigh
Who will all strength supply.

A spark may kindle hell:
Water the flame doth quell. 100
Full means to thee are lent
For good self-government.
Let thou the fear of God
Freeze the rebelhous blood :
Fasting the flesh control:
Keep watches o'er thy soul,
And pour it forth in prayer:
Such thy true weapons are.
Add tears : and lowly bed,
With reeds or rushes spread : no
One constant flame of love
Rising to God above,
And lulling all desire
Which doth not up aspire.
The fallen rise by thee !
The shipwrecked pitied be !
Thyself live out the gale,
Expanding Hope's bright sail.

They fall not who ne'er rise,
But they who try the skies. 120
Few mount on pinion wings :
Straight course to humbler things.
Fell Lucifer through pride :
Angels in heaven reside.
One, traitor, sunk in night:
The eleven are stars of light.

Be pure, be wholly pure.
Of this make ever sure.
Lest thou, by heeding not,
Christ's spotless robe shouldst spot. 130
Let modest be thine eye :
Thy tongue speak maidenly :
Thy mind not pandering,
Thy foot not wandering :
Nor loud laugh marking thee.
As one we blush to see.

Thy poor and tarnished wear.
Thy unadorned hair,
I honour more than pearls,
Or silken dress, or curls. 140

Fair flower is modest face,
And paleness is true grace :
And virtues plentiful '
Are braid most beautiful.
With paints let others dress
The living God's likeness;
Live tablet they of sin,
And all that's base within.
Whate'er thou hast of beauty,
Die let it all to duty : 150
But beauty of the soul—
'Tis God's—it keep thou whole.

Of men, though good they be,
The sight 'twere best thou flee.
Some cheat might thee entrance,
Or be entranced perchance :
Eye now with eye bespangling,
And word with word entangling,
Then cheek with cheek o'erglowing.
And mutual passion flowing. 160
'Tis well : but not for thee :
Not thine the accursed tree :
The tree of Life thy care :
The serpent's guile beware !

O maiden, hear my word,
Have thou no other lord ;
Thy Bridegroom reigns above.
And bids thee faithful prove.
Thou from the flesh hast fled,
And it to thee is dead. 170
Why turn to it again,
And make thy work all vain ?
That singleness of thine
Is a rare gift divine :
Few they whom it adorns,
As rose among the thorns.
Such grace 'tis thine to know :
High o'er the snares below,
By which the wicked fall,
Thou safely passest all. 180

Lo ! one no sooner builds,
And bridal chamber gilds,
Than she with mournful gloom
Forth bears him to the tomb.
Felt one a father's pride ?
At once the loved child died.
And oh ! the mother's pain
Of travailing in vain !

And jealousy, ah me !
How frightful 'tis to see, 190
When each the other taunts,
Where stolen friendship haunts !

What wormwood and what gall,
Worst recompence of all,
To rear up family,
And then dishonoured be !

One care is thine, one call.
To look to God in all!
But little thou dost need :
That little God will speed. 200

Shelter and barley cake
Sufficient wealth will make ;
Nor shall dire need impart
Keen edge to tempter's dart.
As when Christ, hard bestead,
He bade turn stones to bread.

By thee, however tried.
Be all base gain denied :
Fowls of the air God feeds.
Sure then His saints He heeds. 210
Of oil, if faith prevail,
Thy cruse shall never fail.
By Cherith's desert brook
At the great Prophet look !
To feed him ravens sped :
So too shalt thou be fed !

How Thecla2 from the flame,
And lions, unscathed came,
Thou know'st : and how great Paul,
Preacher of truth to all, 220
Bore hunger, thirst, and cold.
Through death's worst forms still bold;
That thou might'st look, maid.
To God alone for aid,
Who in the wilderness
With food can myriads bless.

Lo ! beauty fadeth fast,
Nor will earth's glories last :
Wealth is a failing stream,
And power an empty dream. 230

But thou, faith's sail unfurled,
Hast fled this erring world,
Steering thy course on high
To realms beyond the sky.
There in the holy shrine
Thou shalt for ever shine:
And there with angels raise
The song of endless praise !

A better portion far
Than sons and daughters are ! 240

But maidens, be ye wise.
And watch with longing eyes,
That when Christ shall return
Your lamps may brightly burn :
That with the Bridegroom ye
May enter in, and see
The beauty and the grace
Of His own dwelling place.
And share in truth and love
The mysteries above. 250

Footnotes:

1. Virgin bride—that is, the Church. So Methodius in his Virgins' Song, and all the early Christians. See Rev. xxi. 2, 9, etc.  Return

2. Thecla, see The Virgins' Song, of Methodius, p. 141.  Return

Editor's Note:

There are three translations on this website of St. Methodius, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins:

Biographical Note by Rev. Chatfield, pp. 91-92:

Gregory

Bishop of Nazianzus

(Born A.D. 325. Died, 389)

This eminent man needs no introduction from my humble pen. His praises are, and always have been, in the Church. Born near Nazianzus in Cappadocia, he succeeded his father in that episcopate. He cultivated his natural gifts, and increased his learning, at Athens. Thence he went forth to be a champion of the Christian faith, and a luminary in the great Church constellation of the fourth century. After the deliverance from the last effort of paganism contrived and led by the Emperor Julian, who had once been his friend and fellow-collegian, he displayed his great talents and eloquence at Constantinople, of which great Eastern capital for a time he became bishop. But soon be retired to the solitary cell, which he had before loved and frequented, near his native place, Nazianzus ; and there renewed and exercised his gift of sacred poetry, of which, to name but one, his Hymn to God is an undying record, and may bear comparison with any similar composition in any age.

Editor's Note:

Quoted in full by Bernhard Pick, ed., Hymns and Poetry of the Eastern Church (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1908), pp. 48-56, who introduced the hymn with the following:

Of this poem on celibacy, commencing, Παρθένε νύμφη, Mrs. Browning says it "has occasionally graphic touches, but is dull enough generally to suit the fairest spinster's view of that melancholy subject. If Hercules could have read it, he must have rested in the middle – from which the reader is entreated to forbear the inference that the poem has not been read through by the writer of the present remarks.”

The hymn contains 250 lines. The quotation from "Mrs. Browning" is from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's essay "Some Account of the Greek Christian Poets," published in four parts in "The Athenaeum" in early 1842. It was preceded in "The Athenaeum" of January 8 by her introduction and translations of three poems by Gregory Nazianzen. The essay also occurs in Harriet Waters Preston, ed., The Complete Poetical Works of Mrs. Browning (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1900), pp. 513-532.

Biographical Note by Rev. Pick, pp. 33-34:

Gregory of Nazianzen was born about 330, either at Nazianzen, a small village in Cappadocia, where his father was bishop, or in the neighboring village of Arianzus. He received an excellent education, which he improved at Athens, where he formed an acquaintance and friendship with Basil. On his return home he was ordained; hesitated long between the contemplative and the active life; adhered to the Nicene doctrine, and endeavored to keep together its persecuted adherents; assisted his father in his pastoral duties, and at length became minister of a small congregation of the Nicene Christians at Constantinople.

Distinguishing himself greatly by his fervent eloquence, and no less by his wisdom and moderation, he was made bishop of Constantinople by Theodosius in 381. After filling this high and difficult post for one year he resigned it and returned to his native place, where he died in 391.

"Influenced, perhaps, by the example of the Syrian poems of Ephraem, and aiming, as he himself tells us, both at consolation for himself in his trials, and also to entice those who cared for poetical form, and not to leave the graces of style in the possession of paganism, he uses poetry for almost every possible purpose." "As a poet," says Schaff, "he holds a subordinate though respectable place. He wrote poetry only in his later life, and wrote it not from native impulse, as the bird sings among the branches, but in the strain of moral reflection upon his own life, or upon doctrinal and moral themes. Many of his orations are poetical; many of his poems are prosaic. Not one of his odes or hymns passed into use in the Church" (Philipp Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 3, Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity. Sixth Edition. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908), p. 921).

Schaff's next sentence was: "Yet some of his smaller pieces, apothegms, epigrams, and epitaphs, are very beautiful, and betray noble affections, deep feeling, and a high order of talent and cultivation."

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