The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

In The Days Of The King

For Christmas

Hymn 13 of
Nineteen Hymns of the Nativity by Saint Ephraem the Syrian

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. 247-250.

The Rhythms of Saint Ephrem the Syrian on the Nativity

Rhythm The Thirteenth

Compare Hymn II. For the Epiphany.

1. In the days of the King whom they called by the name of Semha,1 our Lord sprang up among the Hebrews: and Semha and Denha2 ruled, and came, King upon earth, and Son in Heaven; blessed be His rule!

2. In the days of the king who enrolled men in the book of the dead, our Redeemer came down and enrolled men in the book of the living. He enrolled, and they also: on high He enrolled us, on earth they enrolled Him. Glory to His Name!

3. In the days of the king whose name was Semha, the type and the Reality met together, the king and the King, Semha and Denha. His Cross upon His shoulders, was the sign of His Kingdom. Blessed be He Who bare it.

4. Thirty years He went in poverty upon the earth! The sounds of praise in all their measures let us twine, my brethren, to the years of the Lord, as thirty crowns to the thirty years. Blessed be His Birth!

5. In the first year, that is chieftain over the treasures and Dispenser of abundant blessings, let the Cherubim who bare up the Son in glory,3 praise Him with us! He left His glory, and toiled and found the sheep that was lost. To Him be thanksgiving!

6. In the second year, let the Seraphim praise Him yet more with us. They that had proclaimed the Son Holy,4 by and by saw Him when He was reviled among the gainsayers; He bore the contempt and taught praise. To Him be Glory!

7. In the third year, let Michael and his followers, that ministered to the Son in the highest, praise Him with us. They saw Him on the earth when He was ministering, washing feet, cleansing souls. Blessed be His lowliness!

8. In the fourth year, let the whole earth praise Him with us. It is but small for the Son, and it marvelled because it saw that it entertained Him in its bed that is so very mean. He filled the bed, and filled the Heaven. To Him be Majesty!

9. In the fifth year, the Sun shone unto the earth. With its breath let it praise our Sun Who brought His breadth down low, and humbled His mightiness, that the subtle eye of the unseen soul might be able to look upon Him. Blessed be His brightness!

10. In the sixth year again, let the whole air praise Him with us, in whose wide space it is that all things are made glorious, which saw its mighty Lord that had become a little Child in a little bosom. Blessed be His dignity!

11. In the seventh year, the clouds and winds rejoiced with us and sprinkled the dews over the flowers, for they saw the Son who enslaved His brightness and received disgrace and foul spitting. Blessed be His Redemption!

12. In the year also that is eighth, let the fields give praise, that suckle their fruits from His fountains. They worshipped because they saw the Son in arms and the pure One sucking pure milk. Blessed be His good pleasure!

13. In the ninth year, let the earth glorify the might of her Creator, Who laid seed in her in the beginning that she might bring forth all her produce; for it saw Mary, a thirsty land, who yielded the fruit of a Child that was a wonder, yea, a marvel. [Then] it praised Him more exceedingly, for that He was a great Sea of all good things. To Him be exaltation!

14. In the tenth year, let the mount Sinai glorify Him, it which trembled before its Lord. It saw that they took up stones against its Lord; He received stones, Who should build His Church upon a Stone.5 Blessed be His building!

15. In the eleventh year, let the great sea praise the fists of the Son that measured it,6 and it was astonished and saw that He came down, was baptized in a small water, and cleansed the creatures. Blessed be His noble act!

16. In the twelfth year, let the holy Temple praise Him, that saw the Child when He sat amongst the old men: the priests were silent when the Lamb of the Feast bleated in His feast. Blessed be His propitiation!

17. In the thirteenth year, let the crowns praise with us the King who conquered, that died and was crowned with a crown of thorns, and bound upon Adam a great crown at His right hand. Blessed be His Apostleship!

18. In the fourteenth year, let the passover in Egypt praise the Passover that came and passed over all, and instead of Pharaoh sunk Legion,7 instead of horses choked the devil. Blessed be His vengeance!

19. In the fifteenth year, let the lamb of the gluttons praise Him: since our Lord was so far from slaughtering it as Moses did, that He even redeemed mankind with His own Blood. He that feeds all, died for all. Blessed be His Father!

20. In the sixteenth year, let the wheat praise by its type that Husbandman,8 Who sowed His Body in the barren earth, since it covers all, spreads itself out and yields new Bread. Blessed be the Pure One!

21. In the seventeenth year, let the Vine praise the Lord that garnished it. He planted a vineyard, souls were as vineplants. He gave peace to the vineyard, but destroyed the vineyard that brought forth wild grapes. Blessed be its Uprooter!

22. In the eighteenth year, let the Vine which the wild boar out of the wood had eaten, praise the True Vine which trimmed Himself, and kept His fruit, and brought the fruits to the Lord of the Vineyard.9 Blessed be His Vintage!

23. In the nineteenth year, let our leaven praise the true leaven which worked itself in among those that were in error, and drove them all together, and made them one mind by one Doctrine. Blessed be thy doctrine!

24. In the twentieth year, let salt praise Thy living Body, wherewith are salted the bodies and the souls of all the faithful, and faith is the salt of men wherewith they are preserved.10 Blessed be Thy preserving!

25. In the twenty-first year, let the waters of the desert praise Thee. They are sweet to them afar off, they are bitter to them11 that are near, who did not minister to Him. The [chosen] people and the nations were bitter in the desert, and He destroyed them. They were sweetened by the Cross which redeemed them. Blessed be Thy pleasantness!

26. In the twenty-second year, let arms and the sword praise Thee: they sufficed not to kill our adversary. It was Thou that killed him, even Thou who didst fix the ear on, which Simon's sword cut off. Blessed be Thy healing!

27. In the twenty-third year, let the ass praise Him, that gave its foal for Him to ride on, that loosed the bonds, that opened the mouth of the dumb, that opened also the mouth of the wild asses12 when the race of Hagar gave a shout of praise.13 Blessed be the praise of Thee!

28. In the twenty-fourth year, let the Treasury praise the Son. The treasures marvelled at the Lord of treasures, when in the house of the poor He was increasing, Who made Himself poor that He might enrich all.14 Blessed be Thy rule!

29. In the twenty-fifth year, let Isaac praise the Son, for by His goodness he was rescued upon the Mount from the knife, and in his stead there was the victim, the type of the Lamb for the slaughter.15 The mortal escaped, and He that quickens all died.16 Blessed be His offering!

30. In the twenty-sixth year, let Moses praise Him with us, for that he was afraid and fled from his murderers. Let him praise the Lord that bore the spear and that received the nails in His hands, in His feet. He entered into hell and spoiled it,17 and came forth. Blessed be Thy Resurrection!

31. In the year which is the twenty-seventh, let the eloquent speakers praise the Son, for they found no cloke to save our cause. He was silent in the judgment-hall, and He carried our cause. Honour be to Him!

32. And in this year let all judges praise Him, who, as being just men, killed the ungodly; let them praise the Son who died for the wicked, as being good. Though Son of the Just One, He gave them all manner of good things in abundance. Blessed be His bowels of mercy!

33. In the eight and twentieth year, let all mighty men of valour praise the Son, because they delivered not from him who took us captive. He only is to be praised, who being slain showed us life.18 Blessed be His delivery!

34. In the twenty-ninth year, let Job praise Him with us, who bore sufferings for himself, and our Lord bore for us the spitting and the spear, and the crown of thorns, and scourges, contempt and reproach, yea mocking. Blessed be His mercy!

35. In the year that is thirteenth, let the dead praise Him with us, because they are quickened, and the living, because they have turned to repentance,19 because height and depth were set at one by Him. Blessed be He and His Father!


Editor's Notes:

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.

I.e., August. Return

I.e., Dayspring. Return

Ps. 99. 1. "Jehovah reigneth; let the peoples tremble:
He sitteth above the cherubim; let the earth be moved." Return

Is. 6. 2. "Above him stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly."; Mat. 26. 53. " Or thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father, and he shall even now send me more than twelve legions of angels?"; I Tim. 3. 16. "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness;
He who was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the spirit,
Seen of angels,
Preached among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory." Return

Cephas-Petros-stone. Return

Is. 40. 12. " Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?" Return

Mark 5.9. "And he asked him, What is thy name? And he saith unto him, My name is Legion; for we are many."; Luke 8. 30. "And Jesus asked him, What is thy name? And he said, Legion; for many demons were entered into him." Return

John 12. 24. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit." Return

John 18. 9. "... that the word might be fulfilled which he spake, Of those whom thou hast given me I lost not one." Return

10 Mark 9. 49. " For every one shall be salted with fire." Return

11 Exod. 15. 25. "An he cried unto Jehovah; and Jehovah showed him a tree, and he cast it into the waters, and the waters were made sweet. There he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them;Return

12 Gen. 16. 12. "And he shall be as a wild ass among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his brethren." Return

13 Acts 2. 11. "Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God." Return

14 2 Cor. 8. 9. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich." Return

15 Heb. 11. 19. ".. accounting that God is able to raise up, even from the dead; from whence he did also in a figure receive him back." Return

16 Isaiah 53. Return

17 Is. 49. 24. "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captives be delivered?" Return

18 Rev. 5. 9. "And they sing a new song, saying,
Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation," Return

19 Mal. 4. 6. "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." 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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