The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Banquet of the Ten Virgins

For Christmas

Author: St. Methodius, 3rd Century Greek Bishop, Poet & Martyr
Discourse 11, Chapter 2.
"ἄνωθεν, παρθένοι, βοῆς ἐγερσίνεκρος ἦχος"

Translated by William R. Clark.

Compare: The Bridegroom Cometh - Allen W. Chatfield
Behold the Bridegroom! Hark The Cry, a Cento by Rev. John Brownlie, with Notes

Source: Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Vol. 14, The Writings of Methodius. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1864.), pp. 111-114. Rev. William R. Clark, Trans.

Editor's Note:

I have reformatted the text to look something like free verse, instead of the paragraph format found in both the Edinburgh and American Editions.

Chapter II.—Thekla Singing Decorously a Hymn, the Rest of the Virgins Sing with Her - John the Baptist a Martyr to Chastity - The Church the Spouse of God, Pure and Virgin.

Theopatra said that Arete having said these things, commanded them all to rise, and, standing under the Agnos, to send up to the Lord in a becoming manner a hymn of thanksgiving; and that Thekla should begin and should lead the rest. And when they had stood up, she said that Thekla, standing in the midst of the virgins on the right of Arete, decorously sang; but the rest, standing together in a circle after the manner of a chorus, responded to her.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom, and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.1

1. From above, O virgins,
the sound of a noise that wakes the dead has come,
bidding us all to meet the Bridegroom in white robes,
and with torches towards the east.
Arise, before the King enters within the gates.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

2. Fleeing from the sorrowful happiness of mortals,
and having despised the luxuriant delights of life and its love,
I desire to be protected under Thy life-giving arms,
and to behold Thy beauty for ever, O blessed One.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

3. Leaving marriage and the beds of mortals
and my golden home for Thee, O King,
I have come in undefiled robes,
in order that I might enter with Thee within Thy happy bridal chamber.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

4. Having escaped, O blessed One,
from the innumerable enchanting wiles of the serpent,
and, moreover, from the flame of fire,
and from the mortal-destroying assaults of wild beasts,
I await Thee from heaven.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

5. I forget my own country, O Lord, through desire of Thy grace.2
I forget, also, the company of virgins, my fellows,
the desire even of mother and of kindred,
for Thou, O Christ, art all things to me.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

6. Giver of life art Thou, O Christ.
Hail, light that never sets, receive this praise.
The company of virgins call upon Thee,
Perfect Flower, Love, Joy, Prudence, Wisdom, Word.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

7. With open gates, O beauteously adorned Queen,
admit us within thy chambers.
O spotless, gloriously triumphant Bride,
breathing beauty, we stand by Christ, robed as He is,
celebrating thy happy nuptials, O youthful maiden.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

8. The virgins standing without the chamber,3
with bitter tears and deep moans,
wail and mournfully lament that their lamps are gone out,
having failed to enter in due time the chamber of joy.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

9. For turning from the sacred way of life, unhappy ones,
they have neglected to prepare sufficiency of oil for the path of life;
bearing lamps whose bright light is dead,
they groan from the inward recesses of their mind.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

10. Here are cups full of sweet nectar;
let us drink, O virgins, for it is celestial drink,
which the Bridegroom hath placed
for those duly called to the wedding.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

11. Abel, clearly prefiguring Thy death,4 O blessed One,
with flowing blood, and eyes lifted up to heaven, said,
Cruelly slain by a brother’s hand, O Word, I pray Thee to receive me.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

12. Thy valiant son Joseph,5 O Word, won the greatest prize of virginity,
when a woman heated with desire forcibly drew him to an unlawful bed;
but he giving no heed to her fled stripped, and crying aloud:—

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

13. Jephthah offered his fresh slaughtered virgin daughter
a sacrifice to God, like a lamb; and she, nobly fulfilling the type of Thy body,
O blessed One, bravely cried:—

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

14. Daring Judith,6 by clever wiles
having cut off the head of the leader of the foreign hosts,
whom previously she had allured by her beautiful form,
without polluting the limbs of her body, with a victor’s shout said:—

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

15. Seeing the great beauty of Susanna,
the two Judges, maddened with desire,
said, O dear lady, we have come desiring secret intercourse with thee;
but she with tremulous cries said:—

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

16. It is far better for me to die than to betray my nuptials to you,
O mad for women, and so to suffer the eternal justice of God in fiery vengeance.
Save me now, O Christ, from these evils.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

17. Thy Precursor, washing multitudes of men in flowing lustral water,
unjustly by a wicked man, on account of his chastity, was led to slaughter;
but as he stained the dust with his life-blood, he cried to Thee, O blessed One:—

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

18. The parent of Thy life, that unspotted Grace7 and undefiled Virgin,
bearing in her womb without the ministry of man,
by an immaculate conception,
8
and who thus became suspected of having betrayed the marriage-bed,
she, O blessed One, when pregnant, thus spoke:—

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

19. Wishing to see Thy nuptial day, O blessed One,
as many angels as Thou, O King, calledst from above,
bearing the best gifts to Thee, came in unsullied robes:—

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

20. In hymns, O blessed spouse of God,
we attendants of the Bride honour Thee,
O undefiled virgin Church of snow-white form,
dark haired, chaste, spotless, beloved.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

21. Corruption has fled, and the tearful pains of diseases;
death has been taken away, all folly has perished,
consuming mental grief is no more;
for again the grace of the God-Christ has suddenly shone upon mortals.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

22. Paradise is no longer bereft of mortals,
for by divine decree he no longer dwells there as formerly,
thrust out from thence when he was free from corruption,
and from fear by the various wiles of the serpents, O blessed One.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

23. Singing the new song,
now the company of virgins
attends thee towards the heavens, O Queen,
all manifestly crowned with white lilies,
and bearing in their hands bright lights.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

24. O blessed One,
who inhabited the undefiled seats of heaven without beginning,
who governed all things by everlasting power,
O Father, with Thy Son, we are here, receive us also within the gates of life.

Chorus.

I keep myself pure for Thee, O Bridegroom,
and holding a lighted torch I go to meet Thee.

Editor's Note:

Except as noted all of the translations from the Bible are from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Roberts & Donaldson's Footnotes:

1. The text of Jahn is here followed.—Tr.

2. Psalm 45:10. “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
    Forget your people and your father’s house.”

3. Matt. 25:11. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ ”

4. Gen. 4:10. “The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

5. Gen. 39:12.She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.”

6. Book of Judith 13:8, where “Then Judith raised the sword and struck him [Holofernes] twice in the neck as hard as she could, chopping off his head. Good News Translation, Used With Permission. [This footnote was in error in both Editions. It read "Jud. VIII," which made little sense. I have corrected it to Judith 13:8. Ed.]

7. Matt. 1:18.This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.”

8. [The only one. See p. 355, Elucidation II., below.] [This footnote appeared in the American Edition only. Ed.]

Editor's Notes:

The reference in Footnote 1 to "Jahn" is to the Latin text by Albert Jahn, ed., S. Methodii Opera et S. Methodius Platonizans. Two Volumes. (Halis Saxonum: C. E. M. Pfeffer, 1865). Note that the scans at both Google and the Internet Archive may contain both parts 1 and 2, although this is not stated in the text; the tip-off is the number of pages (e.g., above 300 as opposed to about 160).

The following Elucidation appears in only the American Edition.

Elucidation II.

Christ Himself is the one who is born.

Source: Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., The Works of Methodius, et al., The Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Vol. 6. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.), p. 355.

Wordsworth, and many others of the learned, sustain our author’s comment on this passage.1 So Aquinas, ad loc., Bede, and many others. Methodius is incorrectly represented as rejecting2 the idea that “the woman” is the Blessed Virgin Mary, for no such idea existed for him to reject.

He rejects the idea that the man-child is Christ; but that idea was connected with the supposition that the woman was the Church of the Hebrews bringing forth the Messiah.

Gregory the Great regards the woman as the Christian Church. So Hippolytus:3 “By the woman…is meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father’s Word, whose brightness is above the sun,” etc. Bossuet says candidly,4 “C’est l’Église, tout éclatante de la lumière de J. C.,” etc.

Now, note the progress of corruption, one fable engendering another. The text of Genesis 3:15Ed01, contrary to the Hebrew, the Seventy, the Syriac, and the Vulgate itself, in the best mss., is made to read, “She shall bruise thy head,” etc. The “woman,” therefore, becomes the Mother of our Lord, and the “great red dragon” (of verse 3)Ed02, from which the woman “fled into the wilderness,”Ed03 is next represented as under her feet (where the moon appears in the sacred narrative)Ed04; and then the Immaculate Conception of her Holy Seed is transferred back to the mother of Mary, who is indecently discussed, and affirmed to have been blest with an “Immaculate Conception” when, in the ordinary process of nature, she was made the mother of the Virgin. So, then, the bull Ineffabilis—comes forth, eighteen hundred years after the event,5 with the announcement that what thousands of saints and many bishops of Rome have denounced as a fable must be received by all Christians on peril of eternal damnation.6 The worst of it all is the fact, that, as the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God has heretofore been the only “Immaculate Conception” known to the faith of Christendom, thousands now imagine that this is what was only so lately set forth, and what we must therefore renounce as false.

Coxe's Footnotes:

Note that I have expanded some of these footnotes to include a more complete citation.

1. See Christopher Wordsworth, Lectures on the Apocalypse: Critical, Expository, and Practical. (Philadelphia, 1852), Lecture IX, p. 198. Return

2. Speaker’s Com., ad loc. Return

3. Vol. V. p. 217, this series. Return

4 Jacques Bénigne Bossuet , Oeuvres Complètes de Bossuet [“Complete Works of Bosseut”], Volume 1 of 31. (Paris, 1845), p. 447. Return

5. Ineffabilis Deus, that is, "God Ineffable," was an encyclical issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, establishes the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whereby " ... her conception ... was preserved free from all stain of original sin ...." See: www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius09/p9ineff.htm. It's first sentence: “God ineffable – whose ways are mercy and truth, whose will is omnipotence itself, and whose wisdom "reaches from end to end mightily, and orders all things sweetly" – having foreseen from all eternity the lamentable wretchedness of the entire human race which would result from the sin of Adam, decreed, by a plan hidden from the centuries, to complete the first work of his goodness by a mystery yet more wondrously sublime through the Incarnation of the Word.” Return

6. See Edward Bouverie Pusey, DD, An Eirenicon (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1866). Rev. Pusey (1800 – 1882) was an English minister who was one of the leaders of the "Oxford Movement," and Regius Professor of Hebrew at Christ Church, Oxford. "The Eirenicon" endeavored to find a basis of union between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. Return

Editor's Footnotes:

1. Three contemporary translations of Genesis 3:15 – ESV, NIV, NKJV

ESV. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” English Standard Version (ESV). The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

NIV. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” New International Version (NIV). Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

NKJV. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” New King James Version (NKJV). Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Return

2. “Great red dragon” refers to Rev. 12:3, which reads “Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads.” NIV. Return

3. “Fled into the wilderness” refers to Rev. 12:6. which reads, “The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.” NIV. Return

4. "The moon appears to be under her feet." This refers to Rev. 12:1, which reads “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” NIV. Return

Editor's Note:

This is one of many hymns inspired by the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Matthew 25:1-13. Others include:

See: Christmas-tide Hymns from the Eastern Churches.

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