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Home > Fathers of the Church > Nisibene Hymns (Ephraim) > Nos. 4-12

The Nisibene Hymns

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Hymn 4.

1. My God, without ceasing, I will tread the threshold of Your house; I who have rejected all grace, I will ask with boldness, that I may receive with confidence. R., Our hope, be our Wall!

2. For if, O Lord, the earth, enriches manifold, a single grain of wheat, how then shall my prayers, be enriched by Your grace!

3. Because of the voices of my children, their sighs and their groans, open to me the door of Your mercy! Make glad for their voices, the mourning of their sackcloth!

4. O firstborn that wast a weaned child, and wast familiar with the children, the accurst sons of Nazareth, hearken to my lambs that have seen the wolves, for lo! They cry.

5. For a flock, O my Lord, in the field, if so be it has seen the wolves, flees to the shepherd, and takes refuge under his staff, and he drives away them that would devour it.

6. Your flock has seen the wolves, and lo! It cries loudly. Behold how terrified it is! Let your Cross be a staff, to drive out them that would swallow it up!

7. Accept the cry of my little ones, that are altogether pure. It was He, the Infant of days, that could appease, O Lord, the Ancient of days.

8. The day when the Babe came down, in the midst of the stall, the Watchers descended and proclaimed, peace — may that peace be, in all my streets for all my offspring.

9. Seventy and two old men, the elders of that people, sufficed not for its breaches. The Babe it was, the Son of Mary, that gave peace on every side.

10. Have mercy, O Lord, on my children! In my children call to mind Your childhood, You Who wast a child! Let them that are like Your childhood, be saved by Your grace!

11. Mingled in the midst of the flock, are the cry of the innocents, and the voice of the sheep, that call on the Shepherd of all, to deliver them from all.

* * * * * * * * * * *

13. There is a joy that is affliction, misery is hidden in it; there is a misery that is profit, it is a fountain of joys, in that new world.

14. The happiness that my persecutor has gained, woes are hidden in it; therefore I rejoice. The wretchedness that I have gained from him, happiness is concealed for me in it.

15. Who will not give praise, to Him that has begotten us, and can beget again, from the midst of evil rumours the voices of glad tidings!

16. You Healer of all, have visited me in my sicknesses! Payment for Your medicines, I cannot give You, for they are priceless.

17. Your mercies in richness, surpass Your medicines: they cannot be bought, they are given freely, it is for tears they are bartered.

18. How, O my Master, can a desolate city, whose king is far off, and her enemy near, stand firm without aid of mercy?

19. A harbour and refuge, are You at all times. When the seas covered me, Your mercy descended and drew me out. Again let Your help lay hold on me!

20. Apply to my afflictions, the medicine of Your salvation, and the passion of Your help! Your sign can become, a medicine to heal all.

21. I am greatly oppressed, and I hasten to complain, against him that troubles me. Let Your mercy, my Lord, take the bitterness from the cup, that my sins have mixed.

22. I look on all sides, and weep that I am desolate. Very many though be my chiefs and my deliverers, one is He that has delivered me.

23. My young men have fled, O Lord, and gone forth, and are like chickens, which an eagle pursues; lo! They hide in a secret place: may Your peace bring them back!

24. The sound of my grape-gatherers, lo! My ears miss it, for their voices fail. Let it resound with the glad tidings, O Blessed One of Your salvation!

25. A voice of terror, I have heard on my towers; as my defenders cry, while they guard my walls. Still it with the voice of peace!

26. The noise of my husbandmen, shall speak peace without my walls: the shouting of my dwellers shall speak peace within my walls, that I may give peace without and within.

27. Make an end, O Lord, of the mourning, of this Your pure altar, and of Your chaste priest, who stands clothed in mourning, covered over with sackcloth!

28. The Church and her ministers shall give praise for Your salvation; the city and its dwellers. Be the voice of peace, O Lord, the reward of their voices!

Hymn 5.

1. Cause to be heard in Your grace, the tidings of Your salvation: for an hearing has been made, a path of passage; our minds have been downtrodden, by messages of terror. R., Praises to Your victory! Glory to Your Dominion!

2. Comfort with profits, though small and scanty, those that have had harvest, of hurt by their labour: at a time of profit, they have gained but loss.

3. It is manifest that He has stood, portioning wrath upon earth: loss and profit in anger He divided. There are whom He has cast down of a sudden, and there are whom He has puffed up of a sudden.

4. To teach us that He can, chastise in all ways; when He saw the persecutors, were terrible before my eyes, He laid me out before my children, and they my beloved chastised me.

5. Lo! He taught me to fear, Himself and not man: for when there was none to smite us, His wrath gave command of a sudden, and every man stretched himself out, and chastised himself.

6. In like manner that Babylonian, who struck down all kings when he was confident and hoped that there was none to smite him, God caused that by his own hands, he should strike himself down.

7. His majesty and his mind, of a sudden became mad together: he rent and cast off his garments; he went forth and wandered in the desert; he drove himself out first, and then his servants drove him out.

8. He showed to all kings, whom he had led captive and brought down, that not by his own power, could he have overcome: the power that struck him down, was that which punished them.

9. I have stood and borne, O my Lord; the blows of my deliverers. You are able in Your grace, to make me profit by the smiters: You are able in Your justice to punish me by my helpers.

10. The day when the host was bold, to come up against Samaria; their plenty and their pleasure, their treasures and their possessions, they cast away and forsook and fled. He crowned her by her persecutors.

11. My beloved ones crowned me, and my deliverers healed me. Through the guilt of my dwellers, my helpers chastised me, give me drink from Your vines, of the cup of consolation!

12. The grain and the vine, preserve, O my Lord, by Your grace! Be the husbandman cheered, by the vine of the grape-gatherer; be the vinedresser glad, in the grain of the husbandman!

13. They are joined each to each, the grain and the grape. In the field the reapers, wine can make cheerful, in the vineyard the dressers, bread strengthens in turn.

14. These two things have power, to comfort my troubles: the Trinity has power, to comfort more exceedingly; whom I will praise because of a sudden, I was delivered through grace.

15. But the man whose life, is preserved through grace, if he goes away to murmur, at the loss of his goods, he is thankless for the grace, of Him who had pity on him.

16. Of His own will He destroys, one thing instead of another. He destroys possession, and spares the possessor: He destroys our plants, instead of our lives.

17. Let us fear to murmur, lest His own wrath be roused, and He spare the possessions, and smite the possessor; that we may learn in the end, His mercy in the beginning.

18. Let us learn against whom, it is meet for us to murmur. Learn to murmur, not against the Chastener, but against your own will, that made you sin and you were punished.

19. Let us put away murmuring, and turn unto prayer: for if the possessor dies, his possessions also cease for him; but while he survives, he seeks to recover his losses.

20. Let consolations be multiplied, in mercy to my dwellers: let the remainder and residue, console us in the midst of wrath; and cause us to forget in the residue, the mourning of our devastation!

21. Heal and increase O my Lord, the fruits Your wrath has left! They seem to me like sick ones, that have escaped in pestilence. Make me to forget in these weak ones, the suffering of the many!

22. While I speak, O my Lord, I call to mind that this too is the month, when the blossom pined, and dropped off in blight, may it return to soundness, to be a consolation!

23. For these escaped the pestilence, that carried off their brethren. The vines though voiceless, wept when before them, a multitude was cut down and felled, of trees that they loved.

24. The company of plants, lo! The earth misses! The roots for the husbandmen, weep and cause them to weep. Their beauty had spread and gave shade, and it was torn away in one hour.

25. The axe came near and struck; and struck the husbandman; the blow was on the trees, and it caused the husbandman to suffer; every axe that smote, he bore the pain of it.

Hymn 6.

1. I will run in my affections, to Him who heals freely. He who healed my sorrows, the first and the second, He who cured the third, He will heal the fourth. R., Heal me, You Son the First Born!

2. My sons, O my Lord, drank and were drunken, of the tidings which wrath had mixed; and they rushed on my adornments, and spoiled and cast away my ornaments; they rent and spared not, my garments and my crowns.

3. They uncovered me and I was made bare. Because I was shamed a little, by means of that stripping, the first and the second, because I was shamed a third time, lo! They have stripped me a fourth time.

4. For they have seized and taken away my garments, my ornaments and my gardens. On the sackcloth that girds my altar, look, O my Lord, and have pity on me! Let the sackcloth be to me, O my Lord, the breastplate of salvation!

5. Lo! It is not by the hand of the chaste, that You have chastised me, O my Master! For lo! His shame is before him, and behind him his disgrace; for as to his marriage, adultery is better than it.

6. Lo! His daughter is his wife, and his sister his consort; and his mother whence he came forth, he turns again and takes her to wife! The heavens are astonished that thus, he provokes You, and lo! He prospers.

7. And though, O my Lord, my crimes are many, are my offenses so heavy, that You should make over a chaste woman, mother of chaste daughters, to foul Assyria, mother of defiled daughters?

8. Restrain him that he come not, and wag at me his head, and stamp on me his heel, and rejoice that the voice of his fame, thus troubles the world; and be uplifted yet a little!

9. My sons, O my Lord, have seen my nakedness, yea have uncovered me and wept. Uncover me before my children, who are pained by my pain, and let not those mock at me, the accursed that have no pity!

10. My lands had brought forth fruits and pleasant things; good things in the vineyard, abundance in the fields. But as I rested secure, of a sudden wrath overtook me.

11. The husbandmen were plundered, the spoilers heaped the grain; what you had borrowed and sown these destroyed. With one's debt his hunger, haply will also remain unsatisfied, for his bread is snatched from him.

12. The husbandman, O my Lord, is plundered, for he lent to the earth; she has received the deposit, and given it to a stranger; she has borrowed it of the husbandman; and paid it to the spoiler.

13. Be jealous over me who am Yours, and to You, O my Lord: am I betrothed! The Apostle who betrothed me to You, told me that You are jealous. For as a wall to chaste wives is the jealousy of their husbands.

14. Samson stirred up seas, because he was mightily jealous over his wife, though she was greatly defiled, and was divided against him. Keep Your Church, for no other, has she beside You!

15. Whoever is not jealous, over his spouse despises her. Jealousy it is that can make known, the love that is within. You are called jealous, that you may show me Your love.

16. The nature of woman is this; it is weak and rash: it is jealousy keeps it, under fear every hour. You have been named among the jealous, that You might make known Your solicitude.

17. Every man has been master, of something that was not his own; every man has gone forth gathering, something that he scattered not. The day of confusion, I have prepared for myself by my crimes.

18. How shall they bear the suffering, the labourers and tillers? In the face of the vinedresser, they have cut down the vines and driven away the flocks of the husbandman; his sowing they have reaped and carried off.

19. They had yoked cattle sown and harrowed, they had ploughed, planted, nurtured. They stood afar and wept; and they went away bereft of all. The labour was for the toilers, the increase for the spoilers.

20. The rulers, O my Lord, maintained not, order in the midst of Your wrath. If they had willed it they might have kept order, but our iniquity suffered it not. Though wrath had greatly abated, wrath compelled them to spoil.

21. To whom on any side, shall I look for comfort, for my plantations that are laid low, and my possessions that are laid waste? Let the message of the voice of peace, drive away my sadness from me!

22. Give me not over; lest it be thought that You have given me a writing of divorce, and sent me away and driven me out! Let them not call me, O my Lord, the forsaken and the disgraced!

23. I have not anything, to call to mind before Your eyes, for I am wholly despised. Call to mind for me, O my God, this only that none other, have I set before me beside You!

24. Who would not weep for me, with voice and wailing? For before the days of full moon I was chaste and crowned; and after the days of full moon, I was uncovered and made bare.

25. My chaste daughters of the chambers, wander in the fields; for the wrath that makes all drunken, has caused my honourable women to be despised. Let Your mercy which gives peace to all, restore these beloved ones to honour!

26. My elder daughters and my younger, lo! They cry before You; the damsels with their voices, they that are aged with their tears; my virgins with their fasts, my chaste ones with their sackcloth!

27. My eyes to all the streets, I lift up and lo! They are deserted. There are left of a hundred ten, and a thousand of ten thousand. Give peace and fill my streets, with the tumult of my dwellers!

28. Bring back them that are without, and make them glad that are within! Mighty is Your grace, that You extend it within and without. Let the wings of Your grace gather my chickens together!

29. Let the prayer of my just men, save my fugitives! The unbelievers have plundered me, and the believers have sustained me. In them that believe put to shame them that believe not!

30. There came together on one day, two festivals as one: the Feast of Your Ascension, and the Feast of Your Champions; the feast that wove Your Crown, and the memorial of the crowning of Your servants.

31. Have mercy because there were doubled for us, these feasts on one day; and there were doubled for us instead of them, even the two feasts in one, suffering from the voice of ill tidings, and mourning from desolation!

32. Give peace to my festivals! For both my feasts have ceased; and instead of rejoicing, of my remnants in festivals, tremblings and desolations meet me in every place.

33. Bring home mine that are far off, make glad mine that are near; and in the midst of our land shall be preached, good tidings of joy; and I shall render in return for peace, praise from every mouth!

Hymn 7.

1. Wrath came to rebuke, the greedy who in the midst of peace, bargained, defrauded and plundered. In calamity the greedy have waxed rich: lo! What was theirs they have scattered, what was not theirs they have gathered. R., Give peace, O Son, to our land!

2. Twenty years my troubles, have been like branches, O my Saviour! Which are kept back throughout winter, but when it is time to shoot forth, my troubles shoot forth: with our fruit our heart ripens.

3. Nisan is the time of buds: in it the ill tidings budded. When our delights crowded on us, then crowded on us our ills. At the time of winnowing of wheat, came the winnowing of cities,

4. For the three brethren in Babylon fled not from the fire that men kindled, because they were steadfast: from lust they fled, because they were perfect.

5. The fire of them that have triumphed, is able to turn the black kids into white: the fire of vain men is able to make the lambs into spotted leopards.

6. How great will be my cries, to be cried at any alarm! How great my indignation to ripen at every ill tidings! How great my harvests, to perish every mouth!

7. For the crimes of my sons He has chastened me, in their struggling for my deliverance. The people who deliver me, bring chastisement upon me. Restrain your sins, and lo! My chastisements are restrained!

8. In ill tidings they are afflicted; in time of wrath they are tortured; in time of peace they are distressed; for when every man breathes freely, and all are unthankful for grace, they render thanks on behalf of every man.

9. Their sackcloth is humble for my sake; their ashes are sprinkled in my affliction; their prayer is for my victory; their fast for my deliverance: Lo! The debt is on my ascetics, the guilt with my nobles.

10. Great is in every age, the folly of the wise; the scribes and elders envied and killed the teacher, who taught all people the Law of Moses.

11. Wisdom in this age is a possession that brings loss: he who has a little folly, very small is his guilt; but he who has a little prudence, his iniquity passes measure.

12. They build with their words, and overthrow in their deeds; for the teachers were many and foolish, but the mouth of the judge is both of these things, the judge and the accuser.

Hymn 8 is missing, as also the first part of Hymn 9.

Hymn 9.

...My afflictions are as Job's. Your justice delivered him; let Your grace have mercy on me!

2. In these two things is profit; that neither should the just, be weary in supplication, nor should the rebellious, multiply transgression.

3. With the sons You labour, to chastise and help them; and that the fathers should not be grieved, by the sound of the scourge, they left me in peace.

4. Look, O my Lord, on my woods without, how they have been cut down! Behold, O my Lord, my breasts within, that they are too weak, for me to bear my beloved ones!

5. With swords they have cut off, my wings that are without; again the fire kindles, in my bosom within, the incense of burnt offering.

6. The sun-worshippers have killed, my sons in the plain: and they that offer to Baal, have sacrificed my bulls in the city, my sheep with my babes.

7. In my fields is lamentation; in my halls wailing; in my vineyards terror; in my streets confusion. Who can suffice for me?

8. The Evil One who dealt treacherously, and disturbed me with his words, stirred up trouble within, so that my inward part, is wholly as my outward part.

9. With what face, O my Lord, shall I call on You to send, a camp of holy ones, to guard my bosom, which is full of uncleanness?

10. With Your new leaven, You have chastened creation. Make the old leaven, which ensnares and humbles, to be like the new leaven!

11. By the manifest striving, of Your power let us conquer; lest error should crown, those that strive for You, cleaving to them with blandishment!

12. If we look into our time, it is like our deceit; — for in the years of truthfulness, we practised divinations, — and secretly used enchantments.

13. If I look into the time, it provokes and into light — brings secret things, that our deceit may be shamed — which wore the raiment of Truth.

14. Verily it is truth, that overcomes all; — and the sea with its bitterness, cannot trouble it — for it is pure in its nature.

15. In wisdom You have made it, O my Lord, that it has laid bare our lust.— That the foolish should come to nought, and should not be encouraged — Truth has withheld the crown.

16. On the tottering walls, whereon You have given me victory — the unthankful repay You, with sacrifice and libation, which provoke You openly.

17. If it were at that time, sacrifices had been offered;— there had been room even, for delusion to suppose — that in these I was delivered.

18. Through the multitude of deliverances, You have rebuked two things:— the delusion of graven images, and the teaching of magicians;— for in You, O my Lord, have I been delivered!

Hymn 10.

1. My children have been slain; and my daughters that are without me — their walls are overthrown, their children scattered — and their holy places trodden down. R., Blessed is Your chastisement!

2. The fowlers have taken, my doves out of my strongholds — which quitted their nests, and fled to the caves — in the net have they taken them.

3. After the manner of wax, that melts before the fire — thus melted and dissolved, the bodies, of my sons before the heat — and the drought of my strongholds.

4. And instead of streams, of milk that used to flow — for my sons and my little ones, milk fails the sucklings, and water the weaned children.

5. The suckling falls, from its mother and gasps — because it cannot suck, nor can she give suck:— they breathe out their spirit and die.

6. How is it possible, that Your grace can refrain — the welling of its stream, when it is not possible to restrain — the abundance of its flow?

7. And why has Your grace, shut up its mercies — and withheld its streams, from the people that cry — for one to moisten their tongue?

8. And there was a pit, between them and their brethren;— like the rich man who cried, and there was none to answer — to moisten his tongue.

9. And as into the midst of fire, the wretched ones were cast — and heat in the midst of thirst, the fire was blowing — and kindling upon them.

10. Their carcasses were melted, and dissolved by the heat — they that had thirsted gave in turn the earth to drink — of the reek of their bodies.

11. And the fort that with thirst, had killed, its dwellers — it drank in its turn of the flux from the corpses — that were melted by thirst.

12. Who has seen a people — that were burning with thirst — while there surrounded them a wall of water and they could not — moisten their tongue!

13. Surely with the judgment of Sodom, were my beloved judged, — and my children smitten, with the torment of Sodom — though that was but for one day.

14. The torment of fire, though it be for one hour, O my Lord, — in lingering thirst, is a lingering death, and a subtle punishment.

15. After my sorrows, O my Lord, and my bitter sufferings — this is the best comfort, wherewith You have comforted me — that You have multiplied my afflictions.

16. The medicine that I hoped, it is sorrow decreed;— the binding up that I looked for, it is bitter calamity — that it seeks to work for me.

17. And whereas I hoped to escape, from the midst of the storm — worse for me is the storm in it, even in the harbour — than that in the sea.

18. Whereas I thought in my folly, that I should anchor and escape — from the midst of the Gulf; my sins have cast me back — again into the midst of it.

19. Look, O my Lord, on my limbs, how the swords are thick in me — and have left their mark on my arms; and the scars of the spears — are planted in my sides!

20. Tears in my eyes, and in my ears ill rumours — wailing in my mouth, and mourning in my heart!— Add no more, O my Lord, to me!

Hymn 11.

1. Your chastening is, as a mother of our infancy:— her rebuke is merciful, in that You have restrained — the children from folly, and they have been made wise! R., Glory be to your justice!

2. Let us search out Your justice; for who is sufficient — to measure its help? Since by it the wanton — are oftentimes made chaste. —

3. Oftentimes Your hand, O my Lord, has made the sick whole — for it is the healer in secret of their diseases — and the fount of their life.

4. Exceeding gently, the finger of Your justice — in love and compassion, touches the wounds — of him that is to be healed.

5. Exceeding mild and merciful, is her cutting to him that is wise:— her sharp remedy, in its mighty love — consumes the corrupt part.

6. Exceeding welcome her wrath, to him that is discerning — but her remedies are hated, of the fool who has delight — in the trouble of his limbs.

7. Exceeding eager is she, to bind the cut she has made — when she has smitten she pities, that from between these two — she may breed healing.

8. Exceeding welcome her wrath, and her anger pleasant — and sweet her bitterness, sweetening bitter things — that they may be made pleasant.

9. A cause of negligence is Your indulgence to the careless — a cause of profit, is Your rod among the slothful— so that they become as traffickers.

10. The cause of our affliction, it is Your justice — the cause of our carelessness, it is Your graciousness — for our understanding has turned foolish.

11. Pharaoh hardened himself, because of Your graciousness;— for when the plagues were stayed, his cruelties waxed strong — and he lied to his promises.

12. Justice requited him, because he lied greatly against her — even Grace her freeborn sister; yea she restrained him again — that he should not again provoke.

13. Rebuke, O my Lord, my guide, for it has been false as Egypt — my prayers testify, that I am not as she — for Your door have I not forsaken.

14. Let Your cross, O my Lord, which stands, in my breaches that are open — repair again the breaches that are hidden; for instead of those without — those within have cleft me asunder!

15. A sea has broken through, and cast down, the watch tower wherein I had triumphed.— Iniquity has dared to set up, a temple wherein I am shamed: its drink-offering chokes me.

16. My prayers on my walls, my persecutors have heard:— the sun and his worshippers, are ashamed of their magicians — for I have triumphed by Your cross.

17. All creatures cried out, when they saw the struggle — while Truth with falsehood, on my battered walls, fought and was crowned conqueror.

18. The force of Truth, chastised falsehood:— in its chastisement it felt Truth, and through its own sins, it earned her victory.

19. I have great alarm; for since my deliverance — the honourable and mighty, who were devoted to my altar, have built in me high places.

20. My seven senses, O my Lord, even though they had been as fountains of tears, yet my tears were too little — to lament our ruin.

21. The streets that were in sackcloth, and ashes cried out — disturbed by the play, akin to that which was — in the wilderness before the calf.

22. Poison seeks and wears, the beauty of lilies — and though their buds may conceal, and hidden disguise it — it blossoms in their bitter flowers.

Hymn 12.

1. I will call in my affliction, on the Power that subdues all — that is able to subdue, the Captor in his wrath — as it overcame Legion. R., Glory to His grace!

2. The Evil One has repaid me my brethren, debts that he borrowed not of me:— the good God likewise has repaid me, mercies that I lent Him not.— Come and marvel at these two things!

3. The good God has divided and given, my misdeeds to His grace — my offenses to His justice; His mercy has blotted out my misdeeds — His judgment has requited my offenses.

4. Sin was exceeding angry, and abode in alarm — when she saw how grace, put restraint on freedom, that she might overcome transgressions.

5. Glow, O my Lord, and send down Your love, break out and pour forth Your wrath!— Your wrath to destroy, Your love to rescue — the captives from the captor!

6. The days wherein the Evil One, decreed to cast me forth — as with a sling into perdition, in them the good God has bound up and kept — my soul in the bundle of life.

7. The men of speech who keep not silence, from praising continually — who have kept me in the midst of waves, and supported me that I fell not, let them give praise in my stead, O my Lord!

8. For who has at any time sufficed, in presence of the grace — of the mercies which surrounded him, that I should suffice to praise — the mercies that encompass me?

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Source. Translated by J.T. Sarsfield Stopford. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 13. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

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