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Hymns And Homilies Of Ephraim The Syrian by Ephraim the Syrian

Hymn XIV. Under the three pastors,--there were manifold shepherds

1. Under the three pastors, -- there were manifold shepherds; -- the one mother that was in the city, -- had daughters in all regions. -- Since Wrath has destroyed her dwellings, -- Peace shall build up her churches. R. Blessed be He who chose out those three!

2. The kindly labour of the first, -- bound up the land in her affliction: -- the bread and wine of the next, -- healed the city when site was broken: -- the sweet speech of the last, -- sweetened our bitterness in affliction.

3. The first tilled the land with his labour, -- he rooted out of her the briars and thorns: -- the next fenced her round about, -- he made a hedge for her of them that were saved: -- the last opened the garner of his Lord, -- and sowed in her the words of her Lord.

4. The first priest by means of a fast, -- closed up the doors of men's mouths: -- the second priest for the captives, -- opened the mouths of the purse: -- but the last pierced through the ears, -- and fastened in them the ornament of life.

5. Aaron stripped off from the ears, -- the earrings and made a calf. -- That lifeless calf in secret, -- pierced and slaughtered the camp: -- those who had fashioned his horns, -- he ripped them up with his horns.

6. But our priest who was the third, -- pierced through the ears of the heart: -- and fastened there the earrings he had fashioned, -- of the nails that were fixed in the cross, -- whereon his Lord was crucified, -- and gave life to His fellow-men.

7. A son unto death the fire brought forth; -- Death feeds upon all bodies: -- the son of Death who surpassed Death, -- upon the souls of men he fed. -- The calf forsook his provender, -- for men's minds were the food for him.

8. To the first Tree that which killed, -- to it grace brought forth a son. -- O Cross offspring of the Tree, -- that didst fight against thy sire! -- The Tree was the fount of death; -- the Cross was the fount of life.

9. The son that was born to Death, -- all mouths were opened to curse him. -- He devoured bodies and souls, -- and multiplied the disgrace of his father. -- But the Cross caused to pass away the rebuke, -- of its father that first Tree.

10. The two sons were even as were -- the two mothers that bare them. -- The calf which the fire brought forth, -- the fire consumed in the midst of the people: -- the Cross the offspring of grace, -- divided good gifts to all creation.

11. O my tongue hold thy peace and be silent of the histories of the Cross that press to be told! -- for my mind of a sudden has conceived, -- and lo! pangs of travail smite it: -- it has conceived these among the last, -- and they strive to become the firstborn.

12. The babes struggled in the womb; -- the elder made haste to come forth: -- the younger desiring the birthright, -- laid his hand upon his heel; -- that which he obtained not by birth, -- he obtained by the mess of pottage.

13. After the like sort these later histories, -- lo! they make light of the former ones, -- that themselves may come forth and take the birthright. -- Let us bring forth the history of our fathers, -- for lo! the histories of the Cross -- are the firstborn of all creatures.

14. For if that which has no beginning -- is the first of all created things, -- its histories also are the firstborn, -- for they are elder than all creatures. -- Let the histories of Thee, O my Lord, yield place, -- that we may tell of Thy ministers!

15. The first in degree of doctrine, -- His eloquence was like as was his degree; -- the next who was second in degree, -- his interpretation mounted to the height of his degree; -- the last who was third in degree, -- his eloquence was great as he was.

16. The first in his simple words, -- gave milk unto his infants; -- the next in his plain sayings, -- gave victual to his children; -- the third in his perfect sayings, -- gave meat to his that were of perfect age.

17. She too the daughter of instruction, -- mounted from degree to degree, -- along with her teachers and fathers. -- A young child she was with the first; a simple maid was she with the next; -- she came to perfect age in the third.

18. The first dealing with her as a child, -- loved her and taught her to fear; -- the next as with a damsel, rebuked her and make her glad; -- the third as with one fully instructed, -- was to her a solace of pleasantness.

19. Even the Most High with the daughter of Jacob, -- gave blandishment and the rod to her childhood; -- and in her frowardness and full age, -- gave part in the sword and the Law; -- and according to her discipline and instruction, -- He came to her in mildness and pleasantness.

20. The first that begat the flock, -- his bosom bare her infancy; -- the next of glad-some countenance, -- cheered with song and made glad her childhood; -- the last grave of countenance, -- lo! he guards her chastity in her youth.

21. The first priest who begat her, -- gave milk to her infancy; -- the next priest interpreted, -- and gave victual to her childhood; -- the third priest nourished her, and gave meat to her perfect age.

22. The wealthy father who was first, -- laid up treasures for her childhood; -- the next for her maturity -- multiplied provision for her journey; -- the third the goodly olive tree, -- multiplied oil in her vessels.

23. When she comes before Him who is rich, -- she will show the treasure of the first; -- when she comes before the Saviour, she will show the saved ones of the next; -- when she goes forth to meet the Bridegroom, -- she will show the oil of her lamps.

24. Before Him who rewards the weary toilworn, -- she will offer the labour of the first; -- before Him who loves cheerful givers, -- she will show the almsgiving of the next; -- before Him who judges doctrines, -- she will offer the discourse of the last.

25. And I the sinner who have striven to be -- the disciple of these three, -- when they shall see Him of the Third Day, -- that he has closed the door of His chamber, -- may these three pray Him for me, that He keep the door open a little while for me!

26. May the sinner press into and enter -- rejoicing and fearing to behold! -- May the three masters call in -- the one disciple in their grace! -- May he gather up under the table -- the crumbs that are full of life!

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