Ephrem the Syrian: God in His Great Love Granted to Moses to See His Glory Sunday, Jun 9 2013 

Mor_Ephrem_iconBut what shall we say about the Lord of the Angel, Who said to Moses No man shall see Me and live?

Is it on account of the fury of His anger, that whoso shall see Him shall die?  Or on account of the splendour of His Being?

For that Being was not made and was not created:  so that eyes which have been made and created cannot look upon it.

[…] Accordingly, the Self-Existent by His vision slays them that look upon Him; but He slays, not because of harsh fury but because of His potent splendour.

Because of this He in His great love granted to Moses to see His glory; yet in the same great love He restrained him from seeing His glory.

But it was not that the glory of His majesty would have been at all diminished, but that weak eyes could not suffice to bear the overpowering billows of His glory.

Therefore God, Who in His love desired that the vision of Moses should be directed upon the goodly brightness of His glory, in His love did not desire that the vision of Moses should be blinded amidst the potent rays of His glory.

Therefore Moses saw and saw not.  He saw, that he might be exalted; he saw not, that he might not be injured.  For by that which he saw, his lowliness was exalted; and by that which he saw not, his weakness was not blinded.

As also our eyes look upon the sun and look not upon it; and by what they see are assisted; and by what they see not, are uninjured.

[…]  So then through love God hindered Moses from seeing that glory that was too hard for his eyes;  as also Moses through his love prevented the children of his people from seeing the brightness that was too strong for their eyes.

For he learned from Him Who covered him, and spread His hand, and hid from him the splendour of the glory, that it might not injure him; so that he also should spread the veil and conceal from the feeble ones the overpowering splendour, that it might not hurt them.

Now when Moses saw that the sons of perishable flesh could not gaze upon the borrowed glory that was on his face, his heart failed within him; for that he had sought to dare to gaze upon the glory of the Eternal Being,

in whose floods, those above and those below are plunged and spring forth; the depths whereof none can fathom; the shores whereof none can reach; whereof no end or limit can be found.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Homily on Our Lord, 29.

Ephrem the Syrian: Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan and the Cleansing and Healing of the Heart Sunday, Jan 13 2013 

Mor_Ephrem_icon(Addressed to the Church)

Give thanks, O daughter, that thy crownings have been doubled;—for lo! thy temples and thy sons rejoice. —The dedication of thy temples is in the ministration;—The dedication of thy sons is in the anointing.—Blessed art thou that at once…[art] the tabernacle for them that dwell in thee,—and the Spirit has abode upon thy sons!

Our Lord opened up Baptism—in the midst of Jordan the blessed river.—The height and the depth rejoiced in Him;—He brings forth the first fruits of His peace from the water,—for they are first fruits, the fruits of Baptism.—The good God in His compassion will bring to pass—that His peace shall be first fruits on earth.

Moses stretched out the temporal Tabernacle;—the priests bathed themselves in water,—and went in and ministered; and were stricken and punished,—because their heart within was not cleansed.—Blessed art thou that in the Passover of the great Passion,—the priests by the savour of their oblations,—lo! are cleansing souls in thee!

Great was the mystery that the Prophet saw,—the torrent that was mighty.—Into its depths he gazed and beheld—thy beauty instead of himself; thee it was he saw, for thy faith passes not away,—thou whose flood unseen shall overwhelm—the subtleties of idolatry.

Though John was great among them that are born of women,—yet he that is little is greater than he,—in this that his baptized were again baptized,—in the baptism that was of the Apostles.—Blessed art thou that thy priest is greater than he—in this alone that forever—abides his baptism.

The baptism that was of Siloam—did not bring mercy to the man that was laid there—who for thirty and eight years awaited it,—for he was a respecter of the persons of the Levites.—Blessed art thou that thy healing is in thee for all men,—and thy priests are devoted and ready—for all that are in need of thy help.

The Prophet healed the waters that were unwholesome,—and cured the disease of the land that was barren,—so that its death was done away and its region resounded, for its offspring increased and its bosom was filled.—Greater is Thy grace, Lord, than Elisha’s!—Multiply my lambs and my flocks—at the great stream of my fountain!

Great is the marvel that is within thy abode;—the flocks together with the Shepherds,—those at the stream of the waters,—two unseen with one manifest who baptizes.—Blessed is he who is baptized in their fountains!—for three arms have upheld him,—and three Names have preserved him!

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Fifteen Hymns on the Epiphany, 11.

Ephrem the Syrian: Glory to Him Who Came and Restored the World Sunday, Jan 6 2013 

Mor_Ephrem_icon(Response: “Glory to Him Who came and restored it!”)

Adam sinned and earned all sorrows;—likewise the world after his example, all guilt.—And instead of considering how it should be restored,—considered how its fall should be pleasant for it.—Glory to Him who came and restored it!

This cause summoned Him that is pure,—that He should come and be baptized, even He with the defiled,—Heaven for His glory was rent asunder.—That the purifier of all might be baptized with all,—He came down and sanctified the water for our baptism.

For that cause for which He entered into the womb,—for the same cause He went down into the river.—For that cause for which He entered into the grave,—for the same cause He makes us enter into His chamber.—He perfected mankind for every cause.

His conception is the store of our blessings;—His birth is the treasury of our joys;—His baptism is the cause of our pardon;—His death is the cause of our life.—Death He alone has overcome in His resurrection.

At His birth a star of light shone in the air;—when He was baptized light flashed from the water;—at His death the sun was darkened in the firmament;—at His passion the luminaries set along with Him;—at His epiphany the luminaries arose with Him.

[…] Lo! the east in the morning was made light!—lo! the south at noonday was made dark!—The west again in turn at eventide was made light.—The three quarters represent the one birth;—His death and His life they declare.

His birth flowed on and was joined to His baptism;—and His baptism again flowed on even to His death;—His death led and reached to His resurrection,—a fourfold bridge unto His kingdom; and lo! His sheep pass over in His footsteps.

[…] Good is He, for lo! He labours in these two things;—He wills not to constrain our freedom—nor again does He suffer us to abuse it.—For had he constrained it, He had taken away its power;—and had He let it go, He had deprived it of help.

He knows that if He constrains He deprives us;—He knows that if He casts off He destroys us;—He knows that if He teaches He wins us.—He has not constrained and He has not cast off, as the evil one does:—He has taught, chastened, and won us, as being the good God.

He knows that His treasuries abound:—the keys of His treasuries He has put into our hands.—He has made the Cross our treasurer—to open for us the gates of Paradise,—as Adam opened the gate of Gehenna.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Fifteen Hymns on the Epiphany, 10.

Ephrem the Syrian: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane Wednesday, Apr 4 2012 

The evening before our Lord gave himself up to death he shared his own body with his Apostles and offered them his blood, with the command that they were to do what he had done in order to keep the memory of his Passion alive.

Then a strange thing happened. Earlier Jesus had charged his disciples not to fear death. Do not be afraid of those who have power to kill ­your body, he had said.

But now he himself showed fear, and ­begged to be spared the cup of suffering. Father, he prayed if it be possible, let this cup pass me by. How are we to explain this?

The answer is that our Lord’s petition was wrung from the human weakness he had made his own. There was no pretence about his incarnation; it was absolutely real.

And since the donning of our poor humanity had made him puny and defenceless, it was only natural that he should experience fear and alarm.

Eating to alleviate hunger, showing weariness after exertion, and revealing human weakness by the need for sleep were all the effects of his taking our flesh and clothing himself with our infirmity.

Consequently when the moment of death drew near, he necessarily experienced the ultimate frailty of our human condition; he was gripped by a dreadful horror of ­dying.

It was then that Jesus said to his disciples: Stay awake and pray that you may be spared the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

And in answer to our question he might well say: ‘When you are afraid, it is not your spirit that trembles but your human ­weakness. Remember then that I myself tasted the fear of death in my desire to convince you that I truly shared your flesh and blood.’

[…] We may also tell ourselves that we too were in our Lord’s mind as he prayed. In time of temptation our minds become confused and our imagination runs riot.

By persevering in prayer Jesus was showing us how much we ourselves need to pray if we are to escape the wiles and snares of the devil.

It is only by constant prayer that we gain control of our distracted thoughts.

Finally, there is our Lord’s desire to strengthen all who are afraid of death.

By letting them see that he himself had expe­rienced fear he would show them that fear does not necessarily lead to sin, provided one continues to resist it.

This is the force of our Lord’s concluding prayer: Not my will, Father, but yours be done. He is saying: ‘Yes, Father, I am ready to die in order to bring life to many.’

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Diatessaron 20.3-4, 6-7 (CSCO 145:201-204); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Maundy Thursday, Year 2.

Ephrem the Syrian: We shall Acquire, through Praise, Life that Has No Measure Monday, Aug 15 2011 

Our generation is like a leaf whose time, once it falls, is over,
but though the limit of our life is short, praise can lengthen it,
for, corresponding to the extent of our love,
we shall acquire, through praise, life that has no measure.

For it is in our Lord that the root of our faith is grafted;
though far off, he is still close to us in the fusion of love.
Let the roots of our love be bound up in him,
let the full extent of his compassion be fused in us.

O Lord, may the body be a temple for him who built it,
may the soul be a palace full of praise for its architect!
Let not our body become a hollow cavity,
let our souls not be a harbour of loss.

And when the light of this temporal breath flickers out
do you relight in the morning the lantern that was extinguished in the night.
The sun arrives and with the warmth of its rising
it revives the frozen and relights what has been extinguished.

It is right that we should acknowledge that Light which illumines all,
for in the morning, when the sun has gone up, lanterns are extinguished,
but this new Sun has performed a new deed,
relighting in Sheol the lanterns that had been extinguished.

In place of death who has breathed the smell of mortality over all,
he who gives life to all exhales a life-giving scent in Sheol;
from his life the dead breathe in new life,
and death dies within them.

The scent of the buried Elisha who gave life to a dead man provides a type for this:
a man dead but a day breathed in life from him who was long dead;
the life-giving scent wafted from his bones and entered the dead corpse –
a symbol of him               who gives life to all.

Jesus has elucidated for us the symbols that took place at Elisha’s grave,
how from an extinguished lantern a lantern can be relit,
and how, while lying in the grave, he could raise up the fallen,
himself remaining there, but sending forth a witness to Christ’s coming.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): The Harp of the Spirit, 77-78, tr. Sebastian Brock; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday in Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Ephrem the Syrian: May the Spiritual Waters of Your Love Cleanse the Effects of Mortality from Our Hearts Thursday, Jun 9 2011 

Lord, shed upon our darkened souls the brilliant light of your wisdom so that we may be enlightened and serve you with renewed purity.

Sunrise marks the hour for men to begin their toil, but in our souls, Lord, prepare a dwelling for the day that will never end.

Grant that we may come to know the risen life and that nothing may distract us from the delights you offer.

Through our unremitting zeal for you, Lord, set upon us the sign of your day that is not measured by the sun.

In your sacrament we daily embrace you and receive you into our bodies; make us worthy to experience the resurrection for which we hope.

We have had your treasure hidden within us ever since we received baptismal grace; it grows ever richer at your sacramental table.

Teach us to find our joy in your favour! Lord, we have within us your memorial, received at your spiritual table; let us possess it in its full reality when all things shall be made new.

We glimpse the beauty that is laid up for us when we gaze upon the spiritual beauty your immortal will now creates within our mortal selves.

Saviour, your crucifixion marked the end of your mortal life; teach us to crucify ourselves and make way for our life in the Spirit.

May your resurrection, Jesus, bring true greatness to our spiritual self and may your sacraments be the mirror wherein we may know that self.

Saviour, your divine plan for the world is a mirror for the spiritual world; teach us to walk in that world as spiritual men.

Lord, do not deprive our souls of the spiritual vision of you nor our bodies of your warmth and sweetness.

The mortality lurking in our bodies spreads corruption through us; may the spiritual waters of your love cleanse the effects of mortality from our hearts.

Grant, Lord, that we may hasten to our true city and, like Moses on the mountain top, possess it now in vision.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Sermon 3, from the Office of Readings for the feast of St. Ephrem, June 9th @ Crossroads Initiative.

Ephrem the Syrian: The Cross is the Foundation of the Church, the Establishment of the Universe Friday, Apr 1 2011 

The Cross abolished idolatrous adulation, enlightened the whole universe, gathered all the nations into one Church and united them with love.

The Cross is the resurrection of the dead. The Cross is the hope of Christians.

[…] The Cross is the foundation of the Church, the establishment of the universe.

[…] By this holy armour of the Cross Christ the Lord has terminated the all-consuming bowels of Hades and blocked the many snares in the mouth of the devil.

Having seen the Cross, death trembled and released everyone whom she possessed with the first creature.

Armed with the Cross, the God-bearing apostles subdued all the power of the enemy and caught all peoples in their dragnets, and gathered them for the worship of the One Crucified.

Clothed in the Cross as in armour, the martyrs of Christ trampled all the plans of torturers and preached with plainness the Divine Cross-bearer.

Having taken up the Cross for the sake of Christ, those who renounced everything in the world settled in deserts and on mountains, in caves and became the fasters of the earth.

But what language is worthy to praise the Cross, this invincible wall of the orthodox, this victorious armour of the Heavenly King?!

By the Cross the Almighty One bestowed unspeakable blessings on humanity!

Therefore on the forehead, and on the eyes, and on the mouth, and on the breasts let us place the life-giving Cross.

Let us arm them with the invincible armour of Christians, with this hope of the faithful, with this gentle light.

Let us open paradise with this armour, with this support of the orthodox faith, with this saving praise of the Church.

Neither in one hour, nor in one instant, let us not forget the Cross, nor let us begin to do anything without it.

But let us sleep, let us arise, let us work, let us eat, let us drink, let us go on our way, let us sail on the seas, let us go across the river, let us adorn all our members with the life-giving Cross.

And let us not be frightened “by the terror of the night, nor by the arrow that flies by day, nor by anything roaming in darkness, nor by any calamity, nor any noonday demon” (Ps. 90:5, 6).

If, O Christian, you will always take up the Cross of Christ on yourself as a help, then “evil shall not come towards you, nor any scourge come near your habitation”.

For the opposition power, seeing it, trembles and leaves.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): @ Monks and Mermaids (Dom David Bird OSB).

Ephrem the Syrian: The Son of the Most High Came and Dwelt in Me, and I Became His Mother Friday, Mar 25 2011 

(The Virgin Mother to Her Child…)

I shall not be jealous, my Son, that Thou art with me, and also with all men.

Be Thou God to him that confesses Thee, and be thou Lord to him that serves Thee, and be Brother to him that loves Thee, that Thou mayest gain all!

When Thou didst dwell in me, Thou didst also dwell out of me, and when I brought Thee forth openly, Thy hidden might was not removed from me.

Thou art within me, and Thou art without me, O Thou that makest Thy mother amazed.

For when I see that outward form of Thine before mine eyes, the hidden form is shadowed forth “in my mind,” O holy One.

In Thy visible form I see Adam, and in Thy hidden form I see Thy Father, who is joined with Thee.

Hast Thou then shown me alone Thy beauty in two forms?  Let Bread shadow forth Thee, and also the mind; dwell also in Bread and in the eaters thereof.

In secret, and openly too, may Thy Church see Thee, as well as Thy Mother.

[…] Lo! Thy image is shadowed forth in the blood of the grapes on the Bread; and it is shadowed forth on the heart with the finger of love, with the colours of faith.

Blessed be He that by the image of His Truth caused the graven images to pass away.

Thou art not so the Son of Man that I should sing unto Thee a common lullaby; for Thy conception is new, and Thy birth marvellous.

Without the Spirit who shall sing to Thee?  A new muttering of prophecy is hot within me.

How shall I call Thee a stranger to us, Who art from us?  Should I call Thee Son?  Should I call Thee Brother?

Husband should I call Thee?  Lord should I call Thee, O Child that didst give Thy mother a second birth from the waters?

For I am Thy sister, of the house of David the father of us both.

Again, I am Thy mother because of Thy conception, and Thy bride am I because of Thy sanctification, Thy handmaid and Thy daughter, from the Blood and water wherewith Thou hast purchased me and baptised me.

The Son of the Most High came and dwelt in me, and I became His mother; and as by a second birth I brought Him forth so did He bring me forth by the second birth, because He put His mother’s garments on, she clothed her body with His glory.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Hymns on the Nativity, 11.

Ephrem the Syrian: When Our Lord was Presented in the Temple… Wednesday, Feb 2 2011 

When our Lord was presented in the Temple, He put on prophecy and priesthood, and went forth bearing the purity of the priesthood upon His pure members, and bearing the words of prophecy in His wondrous ears.

For when Simeon was sanctifying the body of the Child who sanctifies all, that body received the priesthood in its sanctification.

And again, when Simeon was prophesying over Him, prophecy quickly entered the hearing of the Child.

[…] Accordingly, each one of the gifts that was stored up for the Son, He gathered from their true tree.

For He received baptism from the Jordan, even though John still after Him used to baptise.

And He received priesthood from the Temple, even though Annas the High Priest exercised it.

And again, He received prophecy which had been handed down amongst the righteous, even though by it Caiaphas in mockery platted a crown for our Lord.

And He received the kingdom from the house of David, even though Herod held the place and exercised it.

And when all those gifts which He had given to those of old time saw Him, they came flying from every quarter and rested on Him their Giver.

For they gathered themselves together from every side, to come and be grafted into their natural tree.

[…] Therefore they hastened to come to their sweet parent-stock; namely to the Godhead Who in sufficiency came down to the people of Israel, that the parts of Him might be gathered to Him.

[…] But when our Lord took to Himself Priesthood…He sanctified by it all the Gentiles.

And again, when He took to Himself prophecy, He revealed by it His counsels to all nations.

And when he wove His crown, He bound the strong One who takes all men captive, and divides his spoils.

These gifts were barren, with the fig-tree, which while it was barren of fruit made barren such glorious powers as these.

Therefore as being without fruit, it was cut off, that these gifts might pass forth from it and bring forth fruit abundantly among all the Gentiles.

So He, Who came to make our bodies abodes for His indwelling, passed by all those dwelling-places.

Let each one of us then be a dwelling-place for Him Who loves me.  Let us come to Him and make our abode with Him.

This is the Godhead Whom though all creation cannot contain, yet a lowly and humble soul suffices to receive Him.

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Homily on Our Lord, 53-57.

 

Ephrem the Syrian: Behold the Pure Fire of Our Redeemer which He Kindled in Mankind of His Mercy Friday, Jan 7 2011 

(Response: – Happy are ye whose bodies have been made to shine!)

God in His mercy stooped and came down, to mingle His compassion with the water;

and to blend the nature of His majesty with the wretched bodies of men.

He made occasion by the water to come down and to dwell in us:

like to the occasion of mercy when He came down and dwelt in the womb.

O the mercies of God Who seeks for Himself all occasions to dwell in us!

To the cave in Horeb He stooped and came down, and on Moses He caused His majesty to dwell;

He imparted His glorious splendour to mortals.

There was therein a figure of Baptism:

He Who came down and dwelt in it tempers within the water the might of His majesty, that He may dwell in the feeble.

On Moses dwelt the Breath, and on you the Perfecting of Christ.

[…] Two words again our Lord spake which in one voice agree in unison:

He said, “I am come to send fire,” and again, “I have a baptism to be baptized with.”

By the fire of Baptism is quenched the fire, that which the Evil One had kindled:

and the water of Baptism has overcome those waters of contention

(by which he had made trial of Joseph who conquered and was crowned).

Lo! the pure fire of our Redeemer which he kindled in mankind of His mercy!

Through His fire He quenched that fire which had been kindled in the defiled and sinful.

This is the fire wherein the thorns are burnt up and the tares.

But happy are your bodies that have been baptized in the fire which has consumed your thickets,

and by it your seeds have sprung up to heaven!

[…] In the beginning the Spirit that brooded moved on the waters;

they conceived and gave birth to serpents and fishes and birds.

The Holy Spirit has brooded in Baptism, and in mystery has given birth to eagles – Virgins and Prelates;

and in mystery has given birth to fishes – celibates and intercessors;

and in mystery of serpents – lo! the subtle have become simple as doves!

Lo! the sword of our Lord in the waters! that which divides sons and fathers:

for it is the living sword that makes division, lo! of the living from the dying.

Lo! they are baptized and they become Virgins and saints,

who have gone down, been baptized, and put on the One Only begotten.

Lo! many have come boldly to Him!

Ephrem the Syrian (c.306-373): Hymns on the Nativity, 8:1-2,7-8,16-17.

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