St Ephraim: Has the Nativity of Christ Increased Your Hope?

Feast of the Ten Martyrs of Crete

Nativity_Square_2.jpegRefrain: Glory to You utterly from all of us.

1. Who, being a mortal, can tell about the Reviver of all, // Who left the height of His majesty and came down to smallness? // You, Who magnify all by being born, magnify my weak mind // that I may tell about Your birth, not to investigate Your majesty, // but to proclaim Your grace. Blessed is He Who is both hidden and revealed in His actions!

2. It is a great wonder that the Son, Who dwelt entirely in a body, // inhabited it entirely, and it sufficed for Him. Although limitless, He dwelt in it. // His will was entirely in Him; His totality was not in Him. // Who is sufficient to say that although He dwelt entirely in the body, // still He dwelt entirely in the universe? Blessed is the Unlimited Who was limited!

3. Your majesty is hidden from us; Your grace is revealed before us. // I will be silent, my Lord, about Your majesty, but I will speak about Your grace. // Your grace seized hold of You and inclined You toward our evil. // Your grace made You a Babe; Your grace made You a human being. // Your majesty contracted and stretched out. Blessed is the power that became small and became great!

4. Glory to Him Who became earthly although heavenly by His nature! // By His love He became first-born to Mary although He is First-born of Divinity. // He became in name the child of Joseph although He is Child of the Heavenly One. // He became by His will a human although He is God by His nature. // Glorious is Your will and Your nature! Blessed is Your glory that put on our image!

5. My Lord, Your birth became mother of all creatures, // since, again, she labored and gave birth to humanity which gave birth to You. // Humanity gave birth to You physically; You begot her spiritually. // Your birth became Begetter of all. Blessed is He Who became young and restored youth to all!

6. Since human hope was shattered, hope was increased by Your birth. // The heavenly beings announced good hope to human beings. // Satan, who cut off our hope, cut off his hope by his own hands // when he saw that hope increased. Your birth became for the hopeless // a spring gushing hope. Blessed is the hope that brought the Gospel.

7. Your birthday resembles You. Blessed is the hope that brought the Gospel! // Without having seen Your birth, we love it as if in its time. // On your day we see You just as when You were a babe, // beloved of everyone. Behold the churches rejoice in it. // Your day adorns and is adorned. Blessed is the day that came to be for our sake.

8. Your day gave us a gift like which the Father has no other. // It was not the Seraphim He sent us, nor the Cherubim came down to us. // Nor did attending Watchers come, but the First-born Who is attended. // Who is able to give thanks that Majesty without measure // is lying in a despised manger? Blessed is He Who gave us all that He gained!

9. Your birth made that generation glad, and Your day makes our generation glad. // Double is the bliss of that generation who saw the birth and the day. // Smaller is the bliss of the later people who see only the day of Your birth. // But since the nearer people doubted, greater is the bliss of the later people who believed in You without seeing You. Blessed is Your bliss that was increased for us!

10. The Magi rejoiced from afar; the scribes proclaimed from nearby. // The prophet showed his erudition, and also Herod his fury. // The scribes showed interpretations; the Magi showed offerings. // It is a wonder that to one babe the kinspeople rushed with their swords, // but strangers with their offerings. Blessed is Your birth that stirred up the universe!

11. Mary’s lap astonishes me that it sufficed for You, my Lord, and embraced You. // The entire creation was too small to hide Your majesty. // Earth and heaven were too narrow to be like laps // to hide Your divinity. Too small for You is the earth’s lap, // but large enough for You is Mary’s lap. He dwelt in a lap, and He healed by the hem of His garment.

12. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes in baseness, but they offered Him gifts. // He put on the garments of youth, and helps emerged from them. // He put on the water of baptism, and rays flashed out from it. // He put on linen garments in death, and triumphs were shown by them. // With His humiliations came His exaltations. Blessed is He Who joins His glory to His suffering!

13. All these are changes that the Compassionate One shed and put on // when He contrived to put on Adam the glory that he had shed. // He wrapped swaddling clothes with his leaves and put on garments instead of his skins. He was baptized for Adam’s wrongdoing and embalmed for his death. // He rose and raised him up in glory. Blessed is He Who came down, put on a body and ascended!

14. Since Your birth sufficed for the sons of Adam as for Adam, // O Great One Who became a babe, by Your birth again You begot me. // O Pure One Who was baptized, let Your washing wash us of impurity. // O Living One Who was embalmed, let us obtain life by Your death. // I will thank You entirely in Him, Who fills all. Glory to You entirely from all of us!

~St Ephraim the Syrian

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