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Death Knelt Before Him and Life Worshipped Him

Death Knelt Before Him and Life Worshipped Him

Dear friend, since I cannot embrace you in person, please allow me to share some words from the Apostle Paul and a poem by St Ephrem that reminds me of the hope we share in Christ. – Jonathan

Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί, ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, ἀμετακίνητοι, περισσεύοντες ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ κυρίου πάντοτε, εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ κόπος ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔστιν κενὸς ἐν κυρίῳ.  

“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58

Hymns of the Resurrection, No. 1 
Saint Ephrem the Syrian 

The Lamb has come for us from the House of David,
The Priest and Pontiff from Abraham;
He became for us both Lamb and Pontiff, 
giving His body for sacrifice, His blood for sprinkling.[1]
Blessed in His accomplishment! 

Refrain: Blessed is Your rising! 

The Shepherd of all flew down
in search of Adam, the sheep that had strayed;
on His shoulders He carried him[2] taking him up:
he was an offering for the Lord of the flock.
Blessed in His descent! 

He sprinkled dew and life-giving rain
on Mary, the thirsty earth.[3]
Like a seed of wheat He fell again to Sheol, 
to spring up as a whole sheaf,[4] as the new Bread.[5]
Blessed is His offering! 

Knowledge of Him chased error away
from mankind who had become lost;
the Evil One was led astray by Him and was confounded.
Knowledge of Him poured out all kinds of wisdom upon the nations. 
Blessed in His fountain! 

From on high did Power descend to us,
from a womb did Hope shine out for us,
from the grave Salvation appeared for us,
and on the right hand the King sits for us. 
Blessed in His glory! 

From on high He flowed like a river,
from Mary He stemmed as from a root,[6]
from the cross He descended as fruit,
as the first-fruit He ascended to heaven.[7]
Blessed in His will! 

The Word came forth from the Father’s bosom,
He put on the body in another bosom;
from one bosom to another did He proceed,
and chaste bosoms are filled with Him. 
Blessed is He who dwells within us! 

From on high He came down as Lord,
from the womb He came forth as a servant.
Death knelt before Him in Sheol,
and Life worshipped Him in His resurrection. 
Blessed in His victory! 

Mary carried Him as a child,
the priest carried Him as an offering,[8]
the cross carried Him as one slain,
heaven carried Him as God. 
Praise to His Father! 

From every side He stretched out and gave
healing and promises:
children ran to His healings,
the discerning rain to His promises.
Blessed in His appearance! 

From the fish’s mouth He gave a coin[9]
whose imprint was temporal, whose currency passing;[10]
from His own mouth He gave a new imprint,
giving us the new covenant.
Blessed is its giver! 

From God is His godhead,
from mortals His manhood,
from Melkizedek His priesthood,[11]
from David’s line His kingship.
Blessed in His combining them! 

He joined the gusts at the wedding-feast,
He joined the fasters in the temptation,
He joined the watchers in toil, 
He was a teaching in the sanctuary.
Blessed in His instruction! 

He did not shrink from the unclean,
He did not turn away from sinners,
in the sincere He greatly delighted,
at the simple He greatly rejoiced.
Blessed in His teaching! 

He did not hold back His footsteps from the sick
or His words from the simple;
He extended His descent to the lowly,
and His ascension to the highest.
Blessed in His sender! 

His birth gives us purification,
His baptism gives us forgiveness,
His death is life to us, 
His ascension is our exaltation.
How we should thank Him! 

By the greedy He was considered a glutton,[12]
but by those who know, the Provider of all;
by the drunk He was considered a drinker,
but by the discerning, the Giver of drink to all.
Blessed in His foresight! 

To Caiaphas His conception was a scandal, 
but to Gabriel His birth was glorious;
to the unbeliever His ascension is a source for suspicion,
but to His disciples His exaltation is a source of wonder. 
Blessed in His discernment! 

With His begetter His birth is certain,
but to the investigator it is filled with difficulty;
to supernal beings its truth is crystal clear, 
but to those below a subject of enquiry and hesitation
– yet one which cannot be investigated! 

By the Evil One He was tempted,
by the Jewish people He was questioned,
by Herod He was interrogated:
He spurned him with silence since he wished to probe Him.[13]
Blessed is His Begetter! 

They thought He was one of those baptized in the Jordan,
they accounted Him amongst those that sleep while at sea,[14]
they hung Him like a slain man on the cross,
they laid Him like a corpse in the grave.
Blessed is His humiliation! 

Whom have we, Lord, like You – 
the Great One who became small, the Wakeful who slept, 
the Pure One who was baptized, the Living One who died,
the King who abased himself to ensure honour for all! 
Blessed is Your honour! 

Translation by Sebastian Brock, The Harp of the Spirit: Poems of Saint Ephrem the Syrian. 3rd. ed. Cambridge: Aquila Books, UK., 2013.  

[1] Exodus 12:6-7 

[2] Luke 15:5 

[3] Isaiah 53:2 

[4] Leviticus 23:11

[5] John 6:36

[6] Isaiah 11:1; Luke 3:32; Romans 15:12

[7] Cp. Colossians 1:18

[8] Luke 2:25 

[9] Matthew 17:27

[10] Cp. Matthew 22:21 

[11] Hebrews 5:6

[12] Matthew 11:19 

[13] Luke 23:9

[14] Matthew 8:24 

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