The Babe That I Carry Carries Me
Hymn 12 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. 246-247.
The Rhythms of Saint Ephrem the Syrian on the Nativity
Rhythm The Twelfth
The Babe that I carry carries me, saith Mary, and He has lowered His wings, and taken and placed me between His pinions, and mounted into the air; and a promise has been given me that height and depth shall be my Son's.
I have seen Gabriel that called him Lord, and the high priest the aged servant, that carried Him and bare Him. I have seen the Magi when they bowed down, and Herod when he was troubled because the King had come.
Satan also who strangled the little ones that Moses might perish,1 murdered the little ones that the Living One might die. To Egypt He fled, Who came to Judea that He might labour and wander there: he sought to catch the man that would catch himself.
In her virginity Eve put on the leaves of shame: Thy Mother put on in her Virginity the garment of Glory that suffices for all. She gave the little vest of the Body to Him that covers all.
Blessed is she in whose heart and mind Thou wast! A King's palace she was by Thee, O Son of the King, and a Holy of Holies by Thee, O High Priest! She had not the trouble nor vexation of a family, or a husband!
Eve, again, was a nest and a den for the accursed serpent, that entered in and dwelt in her. His evil counsel became bread to her that she might become dust. Thou art our Bread, and Thou art also [of] our race and our garment of glory.
He that has sanctity, if he be in danger, lo! here is his Guardian! He that has iniquity, lo! here is his Pardoner! He that has a devil, here is the Pursuer thereof! They that have pains, lo! here is the Binder up of their breaches.
He that has a child, let him come and become a brother to my Well-beloved!2 He that has a daughter or a young woman of his race, let her come and become the bride of my Glorious One! He that has a servant, let him set him free, that he may come and serve his Lord.
The son of free men that bears Thy yoke, my Son, shall have one reward; and the slave that bears the burden of the yoke of two masters, of Him above and of Him below, there are two blessings for him, and two rewards of the two burdens.3
The free woman, my Son, is Thy handmaid: also if she who is in bondage serve Thee, in Thee she is free: in Thee she shall be comforted, because she is freed; hidden apples in her bosom are stored up,4 if she love Thee!
O chaste woman, long ye for my Well-beloved, that He may dwell in you; and ye also that are impure that He may sanctify you! ye Churches also, that the Son of the Creator Who came to renew all creatures, may adorn you!
He received the foolish who worshipped and served all the stars; He renewed the earth which was worn out through Adam, who sinned and waxed old. The new formation was the creature of its Renewer, and the all-sufficient One repaired the bodies along with their wills.
Come ye blind, and without money receive lights! Come ye lame, and receive your feet! ye deaf and dumb, receive your voice! come thou also whose hand is cut off; the maimed also shall receive his hands.
It is the Son of the Creator Whose treasure-houses are filled with all manner of helps. Let him that is without eyeballs come to Him that makes clay and changes it, that makes flesh, that enlightens eyes.
By the small portion of clay He shows that it was with His hand that Adam was formed: the soul of the dead also bears Him witness, that by Him it was that the breath of man was breathed in; by the last witnesses He was accredited to be the Son of Him Who is the First.
Gather ye together and come, O ye lepers, and receive purification without labour. For He will not wash you as Elisha, who baptized seven times in the river: neither will He trouble you as the priests did with their sprinklings. Foreigners and also strangers have betaken themselves to the Great Physician.
The rank of strangers hath no place with the King's Son; the Lord makes not Himself strange to His servants, [or conceal] that He is Lord of all. For if the Just makes the body leprous, and Thou purifiest it; then, the Former of the body hateth the body; but Thou lovest it.
And if it be not Thy forming, being Just, Thou wouldest not have healed it;5 and if it were not Thy creature, when in health, Thou wouldest not have afflicted it. The punishments that Thou has cast upon it, and the pains which Thou hast healed, proclaim that Thou art the Creator's Son.
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 Ex. 1. 16. "and he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the birth-stool; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him; but if it be a daughter, then she shall live." Return
2 Mat. 12. 15. " And Jesus perceiving it withdrew from thence: and many followed him; and he healed them all," Return
3 This passage is to be observed as one of the many in which the Fathers encourage masters to set slaves free, although they pretty uniformly held (as St. E. here seems to do also) that slaves, if they had the choice, should use slavery rather. Return
4 Song of Solomon 2. 3.
"As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood,
So is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down under his shadow with great delight,
And his fruit was sweet to my taste." Return
5 Deut. 32. 39.
"See now that I, even I, am he,
And there is no god with me:
I kill, and I make alive;
I wound, and I heal;
And there is none that can deliver out of my hand." 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.