Celebrate, O Nations, This Feast
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. A. Edward Johnston
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. 252-255.
The Rhythms of Saint Ephrem the Syrian on the Nativity
Rhythm The Fifteenth
Resp.—Blessed is He above all in His Birth! (bis).
1. Celebrate, O nations, this feast, first fruits of all feasts;—recount the
sufferings that were, and the wounds and pains,—that we may know what plagues,
He healed, the Son Who was sent.
R., Blessed be He Who sufficed to heal our pains!
2. Celebrate, O saved nations, Him Who saves all in His Birth.—Even my feeble
tongue, has become a harp through His mercy.—The excellency of the Firstborn, in
His Festival let us sing.
R., Blessed is He Who has made us meet for His Feast !
3. How then can any one, admire a physician,—until he hear and learn, what
were the pains he healed?—And when our plagues are proclaimed, then is our
R., Blessed be He Who is exalted in our pains !
4. Created things were worshipped: because the worshipper was foolish,—he
used to worship all things; but One they worshipped not.—He came down therefore
in mercy and broke, the yoke that enslaved all.
R., Blessed is He Who loosed our pains !
5. The mercies of the Highest were revealed; He came down and set free His
creature.—In this blessed month, wherein are made releases of slaves,—the Lord
underwent bondage, to call the bond to freedom.
R., Blessed is He Who brought freedom !
6. The Lord of the months chose Him, two months for His doings.—His
Conception was in Nisan, and His Birth in Conun.—In Nisan He sanctified them
that were conceived; and them that were born He set free in Conun.
R., Blessed be He Who makes glad His months !
7. The Sun revealed in silence, his worshippers to his Lord:—it was grievous
to him, a servant, to be worshipped instead of his Lord.—Lo! creation is glad,
that the Creator is worshipped.
R., Blessed is the Child that is worshipped.
8. The months wore three crowns, and crowned Him in His triumphs.—Blessed is
the Sun for His Birth, and for His Resurrection desired,—and for His Ascension
blessed; the months have borne Him crowns.
R., Blessed be He Who has triumphed in His months !
9. Unveil and make glad thy face, O Creature, in our feast.—Let the Church
sing with voice; Heaven and earth in silence!—Sing and praise the Child, who has
brought release for all!
R., Blessed be He Who has annulled the bonds !
10. When fools did reverence to the Sun, in reverence to him they disgraced
him.—But now when all know he is a servant, in his course his Lord is
worshipped;—all servants rejoice, that as servants they are reckoned.
R., Blessed be He Who ordered their natures !
11. We have done perverse things, who have become servants of servants.—Lo!
our freedom compelled him, a servant, to become lord to us:—the Sun, the servant
for all, we have made Lord for all.
R., Blessed is He Who to Himself has turned us !
12. And the Moon too which was worshipped, has been set free by His
Birth.—For ’tis strange that by her light, which enlightens the eyes,—by it the
eyes were darkened, that they gazed on her as a God.
R., Blessed be the beam that has enlightened us !
13. Fire commended Thy Birth, which drew away worship from it.—The magi used
to worship it: they who have worshipped before Thee.—They left it and worshipped
its Lord; they exchanged fire for the Fire.
R., Blessed is He Who has bathed us in His light !
14. In place of the senseless fire that eats up its own body of itself,—the
magi adored the Fire Who gave His Body to be eaten.—The live coal drew near and
sanctified, the lips that were unclean.
R., Blessed is He Who has mixed His Fire in us !
15. Delusion blinded men, to worship created things:—fellow servants were
worshipped, and the God of all was wronged.—He Who is to be worshipped came down
to His birth, and gathered to himself worship.
R., Blessed is He who by all is worshipped !
16. The All-knowing saw, that men worship things that were made:—He put on a
body that was made, that in our custom He might take us captive,—and by a body
that was made, drew us to the Creator.
R., Blessed be He Who drew us with guile !
17. The Evil One knew how to harm us; and by lights he blinded us,—by
possessions he hurt us, through gold he made us poor,—by the graver’s graven
images, he made us a heart of stone.
R., Blessed is He Who came and softened it !
18. They graved and set up stones, whereon men should stumble.—They set them
not on the highway, for the blind to stumble on:—they called them Gods, that on
them with open eyes men might stumble.
R., Blessed is He Who exposed the idols which they feared!
19. Sin had spread its wings, and covered all things,—that none could
discern, of himself or from above, the truth.—Truth came down into the womb,
came forth and rolled away error.
R., Blessed is He Who dispelled Sin by His Birth!
20. For Mercy endured not, to see the way hindered.—When He came down for
conception, He opened the way and made it easy:—when He came forth in birth, He
trod it and marked its miles.
R., Blessed is the peace of Thy Way!
21. He chose the Prophets; they cleared the way for the people:—He sent the
Apostles; they smoothed paths for the nations.—The snares of the Evil One were
shamed, when feeble men cleared them away.
R., Blessed is He Who made our paths plain!
22. The graven images blinded, their gravers in secret:—they graved eyes on
stone, and darkened the eyes of the soul.—Praise to Thy Birth that opened, the
sight that was blinded.
R., Blessed be He Who has restored sight!
23. Let women praise Her, the pure Mary,—that as in Eve their mother,—great
was their reproach,—lo! in Mary their sister,—greatly magnified was their
R., Blessed is He Who sprang from women!
24. Let the nations praise Thy Birth, that they have gained eyes to see,—how
their wine has made them reel; and they have seen their own humiliation?—They
come to know themselves, and worship Him who has rescued them.
R., Blessed is He Who has taught repentance!
25. Its worship mankind—had spread everywhere:—Him Who is to be worshipped it
sought not, that worship should be paid Him.—But He endured not—worshippers that
R., Blessed is He Who came down and is worshipped!
26. The gold of the idols worshipped Thee, that Thou didst treat it as alms;
which availed not apart, for the uses of life.—It hasted to Thy purse, as it had
hasted to the manger.
R., Blessed be He Whom Creation has loved!
27. The frankincense worshipped Thy Birth, which had served demons.—It
sorrowed then in its vapour: it exulted when it saw its Lord.—Instead of being
the incense of delusion, it was an oblation before God!
R., Blessed is Thy Birth which is worshipped!
28. The myrrh worshipped Thee for itself, and for its kindred ointments.—The
hands that bore its ointment, had anointed abominable graven images.—To Thee the
perfume was sweet, from the anointing wherewith Mary anointed Thee.
R., Blessed is Thy savour which is sweet to us!
29. The gold that had been worshipped worshipped thee, when the magi offered
it.—That which had been worshipped in molten images, gave worship to Thee.—With
its worshippers it worshipped Thee, it confessed that Thou art He that is to be
R., Blessed is He Who claimed worship for Himself!
30. The Evil One fled and his hosts, he that used to exult in the world.—In
the high places they sacrificed heifers to him, in the gardens they slew bulls
for him.—He swallowed up all creation, he filled his belly with prey.
R., Blessed be He Who came and made him disgorge!
31. Of him the Lord said, that he had fallen from Heaven.—The Abhorred One
had exalted himself; from his uplifting he has fallen. The foot of Mary has trod
him down, who bruised Eve with his heel.
R., Blessed be He Who by His Birth laid him low!
32. Chaldeans went about, in all places and led astray:—the preachers of
delusion, were shamed through the world,—they were shamed and overcome,—by the
preachers of truth.
R., Blessed be the Babe Whom they preached!
33. Sin had spread out, her nets for the draught.—Praise be to Thy Birth that
captured, the nets of delusion.—The soul took flight on high, which had been
taken in the deep.
R., Blessed is He Who prepared for us wings!
34. His Will was able, even by force to rescue us.—But since it was not force
that made us guilty, it was not by force He purged us.—The Evil One by
enticement enslaved us: Thy Birth enticed to give us life.
R., Blessed be He Who planned and gave us life!
35. The creatures complained that they were worshipped; in silence they
sought release.—The All-Releaser heard, and because He endured it not He came
down,—put on the form of a servant in the womb, came forth, set free Creation.
R., Blessed be He Who made his Creation his gain!
36. Mercy was kindled on high, at the voice of Creation that cried
out:—Gabriel was sent; he came and gave tidings of Thy Conception.—When Thou
camest to the Birth, Watchers gave tidings of thy coming forth.
R., Blessed be by Thy Worship above all!
37. For greater is the joy of the Birth than the Conception.—Yea it was one
angel, that brought us tidings of Thy Conception:—but in the joy of Thy Birth, a
multitude of Watchers brought tidings.
R., Blessed be Thy tidings in Thy day!
38. Glory to Thee I too in Thy day, will offer, O Thou that art
worshipped!—Take of the fruit that is mine; and give me mercy which is
Thine!—For if the evil that is in me gives gifts, how much more shalt Thou give
Who art good!
R., Blessed is Thy wealth in Thy servant!
39. The two things Thou soughtest, in Thy Birth have been done for us.—Our
visible body Thou hast put on; Thy invisible might we have put on:—our body has
become Thy clothing; Thy Spirit has become our robe.
R., Blessed be He Who has been adorned and has adorned us!
40. Height and depth were amazed, that Thy Birth subdued the rebels.—For that
we gave Thee hostages, Thou gavest us the Paraclete:—when the hostages went up
from us, the Captain of the host came down to us.
R., Blessed be He Who took away and sent down!
41. Come ye mouths of all and pour forth, and be in the likeness of waters,
and wells of voices! May the Holy Spirit come,—and sing glory through us all, to
the Father Who has redeemed us through His Son!
R., Blessed is He above all in His Birth!
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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