As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

St. Ephrem the Syrian's Hymn on Fasting


1.1
The is the fast of the First Born, the first of his victories.
Let us rejoice in his coming; for in fasting he has overcome.
Though he could have overcome by any means,
He revealed for us the strength hidden in fasting, Overcomer of All.
For by means of it a man can overcome that one who with fruit overcame Adam;
He became greedy and gobbled it. Blessed is the First-Born who encompassed
Our weakness with the wall of his great fasting.

Res:
Blessed is the King who adorned the Holy Church with Fasting, Prayer and Vigil.

1.2
This is the fast which exalts; which appeared from the First Born
So as to extol the younger ones. There is occasion for delight for the discerning ones in fasting;
When one sees how much he has grown. Fasting secretly purifies the soul
So it can gaze on God and grow by the vision of Him.
For the weight that is from the earth, bends it back to the earth.
Blessed is he who gave us fasts,
The sheer wings by which we fly to him.

1.3
Fasting is bright and beautiful for any who bright enough
To gaze on God. The Turbid One, stirred up by anything
Cannot fix the eye on that Clear One. He who possesses a clear eye
He can gaze upon him; as much as it is given to him to gaze.
Instead of the clarifying wine, let us clarify our thought
So that we will be able to see the Clear One
Who overcame the Evil Oneby means of fasting, that Disturber of All.

1.4
This is the fast through which greed escapes
The peoples at the top of the mountain ; clothed in fasting he overcame the Greedy One.
Who had clothed himself with the food of Adam's house.
The Lord of Victories gave us his weapon, he ascended on high to be an observer.
Who would not run to the weapon by which God overcame
It is a shameful thing, my brothers, to be bested by the weapon
Which overcomes and causes to overcome all creation.

1.5
Because the enemy is not visible, let us purge our thinking so that he sees that we see him.
He is able to steal some of those whom he sees
That they have not noticed him.
When a soul undertakes a fast,
The the fast bears it and gives it back to its counterpart.
Amid the volleys of sharpened arrows, hiddren from view, the hidden eye
Is polished to see from whence they come.

1.6
This is the instructive fast, it teaches the athlete the ways of the contest.
Draw near to it, study, learn to struggle shrewdly.
Behold he instructed us to fast with our mouths and hearts,
Let us not fast from bread and think thoughts
In which the hidden poison of death is hidden.
Let us confess on the fast day the First Born
Who gave us the word of life to meditate on.

1.7
Let the scriptures be for us like a mirror, let us see in them our fast
For the Bible descriminates between fasts and prayer.
It chooses one type of fast and rejects another
Some fasters appease God and others anger him.
There is a prayer which is sinful, and another which is the medicine of life
O Lord let us rejoice in our fast
As he rejoiced, my brothers, in his own fast.

1.8
The fast is not defiling for the Holy One, for through it he descended and shone
Another mixing made the fast defiled, though itself is pure.
Examine nature! Are not desirable fruit
Polluted by loathsome fruit?
Our thoughts are repelled by them though they be washed many times.
Blessed is the Pure One who receives those fruits
Which all the penitent having purified them give to him.

1.9
The Troubler mixes filth with our Clarity,
So as to make the first-fruits of our prayer and fasting hateful.
It is possible by his jealousy, that our gift be rebuked.
Take away your deceits from your fasts, remove mockery from your praise.
May your voices wash your mouths from lies.
Allow us, O First Born in your mercy
To uproot hidden weeds from our thoughts

1.10
Do not be hindered O Simple Ones regarding that Deceiver who robs Fasters.
For when he sees someone abstaining from bread,
He is filled with anger. When he sees someone standing to pray
He fills his mind with one distraction after another.
He steals from his heart the prayer of his mouth,
O Lord of ours give us an eye to see,
How he steals the truth in deceit.

1.11
Come be gathered, my brothers, on this fast day let us sit and marvel at how evil is the Evil One
When he makes a transaction (gives and takes), he impoverishes us by what is his.
And does he become wealthy through what is ours; the truth that he steals suits him not.
The deceit he gives to us does not avail.
It is similar to the whore his companion, who is neither ours nor his.
Judge O Lord, between us and him,
For it is through you that Solomon judged the unclean women.

1.12
Let us seek the trace of truth on the fast day; Let us go forth by it to the place of abodes
For the Blind People run, on a fast day with pride and wandering
Though there is a fast in their mouth, yet an idol is in the heart;
Prayer is on their lips, but divination in their heart
Their stomach is devoid of bread, but full of lies;
Though they wash their hands all day,
Hidden blood still screams against them.

1.13
Blessed is he who endured and sustained and his head is crowned in exaltation.
With a bold voice, as one who deserves a payment, he demands his wage
He is not like me, who is too weak to fast, too lowly for the vigil
The first to be overcome. My enemy possesses skill
When he overcomes me, he lets me rise that he might again cast me low.
O Sea of mercies give me a handful of mercies

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