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. 240-241.
The Rhythms of Saint Ephrem the Syrian on the Nativity
Rhythm The Seventh
The Son of the Maker is like unto His Father as Maker! He made Himself a pure body, He clothed Himself with it, and came forth and clothed our weakness with glory, which in His mercy He brought from the Father.
From Melchizedek, the High Priest, a hyssop came to Thee, a throne and crown from the house of David, a race and family from Abraham.
Be thou unto me a Haven, for Thine own sake, O great Sea. Lo! the Psalms of David Thy Father, and the words also of the Prophets, came forth unto me, as it were ships.
David Thy father, in the hundred and tenth Psalm, twined together two numbers as it were crowns to Thee, and came [to Thee], O Conqueror! With these shalt Thou be crowned, and unto the throne shalt Thou ascend and sit.
A great crown is the number that is twined in the hundred, wherein is crowned Thy Godhead! A little crown is that of the number ten, which crowns the Head of Thy Manhood, O Victorious One!
For Thy sake women sought after men. Tamar desired him that was widowed, and Ruth loved a man that was old, yea, that Rahab, that led men captive, was captivated by Thee.
Tamar went forth, and in the darkness1 stole the Light, and in uncleanness stole the Holy One, and by uncovering her nakedness she went in and stole Thee, O glorious One, that bringest the pure out of the impure.
Satan saw her and trembled, and hasted to trouble her. He brought the judgment to her mind, and she feared not; stoning and the sword, and she trembled not. He that teacheth adultery hindered adultery, because he was a hinderer of Thee.
For holy was the adultery of Tamar, for Thy sake. Thee it was she thirsted after, O pure Fountain. Judah defrauded her of drinking Thee. The thirsty womb stole a dew-draught of Thee from the spring thereof.
She was a widow for Thy sake. Thee did she long for, she hasted and was also an harlot for Thy sake. Thee did she vehemently desire, and was sanctified in that it was Thee she loved.
May Tamar rejoice that her Lord hath come and hath made her name known for the son of her adultery! Surely the name she gave him2 was calling unto Thee to come to her.
For Thee honorable women shamed themselves, Thou that givest chastity to all! Thee she stole away in the midst of the ways, who pavest the way into the kingdom! Because it was life that she stole, the sword was not able to put her to death.
Ruth lay down by a man in the threshingfloor for Thy sake; her love made her bold for Thy sake, O Thou that teachest all penitents boldness. Her ears refused [to listen to] any voices for the sake of Thy voice.
The live coal that glowed went up into the bed, of Boaz, lay down there, saw the High Priest, in whose loins was hidden a fire for his incense!3 She hasted and was a heifer to Boaz, that should bring forth Thee, the fatted Calf.
She went gleaning for her love of Thee; she gathered straw. Thou didst quickly pay her the reward of her lowliness; and instead of ears of corn, the Root of Kings, and instead of straws, the Sheaf of Life, didst Thou make to spring from her.
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.
2 Gen. 38. 29. "And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, Wherefore hast thou made a breach for thyself? Therefore his name was called Perez." Return
3 The introduction of Ruth after Tamar was doubtless suggested by Ruth iv. 12., Mat. i. 3, etc. St E. seems to mean, "Ruth saw by faith Christ the High Priest, in whose loins was to be that Fire of Righteousness which alone could make the incense (i.e. the child which rose up from Ruth, who is called a coal) to be acceptable." Return
Ruth 4. 12. "... and let thy house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which Jehovah shall give thee of this young woman."
Matt. 1. 3. "...and Judah begat Perez and Zerah of Tamar; and Perez begat Hezron; and Hezron begat Ram;"
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.