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Home > Fathers of the Church > Nisibene Hymns (Ephraim) > Nos. 17-21

The Nisibene Hymns

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Hymn 17.

Concerning Abraham, Bishop of Nisibis .

1. Suffer, O Lord, that even my lowliness, should cast into Your treasury its farthing, even as the merchant of our flock, who made increase of his talent of Your doctrine, and has departed and entered Your haven. I will speak of the shepherd, under him who has become head of the flock; who was disciple of the Three, and has become our fourth master. R., Blessed be He Who has made him our comfort!

2. In one love will I cause them to shine, and as a crown will I weave them, the splendid blossoms, and the fragrant flowers of the teacher and of his disciple, who remained after him as Elisha; for the horn of his election and he was consecrated and became head, and he was exalted and became master. R., Blessed be He Who made him chief!

3. And they in heaven rejoiced for the flock, that by the pastor whom they fed, they feed it; the abode of the shepherds under him rejoiced, because they saw the succession of their degrees. He took and set him as a mind in the midst of the great body of the church, and his members came round him to buy of him life, doctrine, new bread. R., Blessed be He Who made him their treasury!

4. He chose him from the multitude of shepherds, because he had given trial of his steadfastness; the time tested him in the midst of the flock, and length of days proved him as a crucible; for that he gave proof in his person, He made him a wall for many. Let your fasting be armour to our country, your prayer a shield to our city, let your censer purchase reconcilement. R., Blessed be He Who has hallowed your sacrifices!

5. The Pastor who has been parted from his flock, fed them on spiritual pastures, and by his exalted staff, he defended them from secret wolves. Fill up the room of your master, which thirsts for the sound of his melody; set up yourself as a pillar, in the city of the trembling people; support her with your prayers. R., Blessed be He Who has made you our pillar!

6. He has committed the Hand to his disciple, the Throne to one that is worthy of it, the Key to one that is proved faithful, the Flock to one that has excelled. To your hand belongs the laying-on, to your offering propitiation, and to your tongue consolation. May peace adorn your Dominion; be the watchmen within and the congregations without. R., Blessed be He Who has chosen you for rejoicings!

7. May your doctrine abound, in deeds more than words! In saying few words, till our land with labour, that by much tillage the scanty seed may become rich, the increase of the old seed, may come among us thirtyfold, and your new seed sixtyfold. R., Blessed be He Who multiplies an hundredfold!

8. The wrath that was against you ceases, because peace flows over you altogether; the jealousy against you is quenched, for your love hourly flames forth: you have broken the string of envy, that it should smite none in secret; slander that confounds, to it your ear turns not, for open truth is pleasing to you. R., Blessed be He Who adorned your members!

9. You shall give counsel in the midst of your people, like Jethro among the Hebrews; you shall altogether go with him, who for your profit counsels you, you shall altogether flee from him, who otherwise counsels you: Rehoboam shall be a sign to you; you shall choose counsels of profit, you shall refuse counsels of envy. R., Blessed be He Who has counselled comfort!

10. The gift that has been given you, from on high it flew and came down: you shall call it by a name of man, you shall not bear it in another power, lest haply to its place there should come, Satan in his guile, supposing, that the sons of men have given it to you, so that this freeborn gift should serve in bondage to man. R., Blessed be He Who has handed down his gift!

11. Your master is painted in your person; lo! His likeness is on you altogether; parted from us one with us is he. In you we shall see those three, the excellent ones who are parted from us. You shall be unto us a wall as Jacob, and full of tenderness as Babu, and a treasury of speech as Valgesh. R., Blessed be He Who in one has painted them!

12. I, too, the offscouring of the flock, have not withholden anything that was meet: I have painted the similitude of these two, in the colors of these two; that the sheep may see their adornment, and the flock their beauties. And I who have become a lamb endowed with speech, unto You, O God of Abraham, in the posture of Abram will give You praise. R., Blessed be He Who has made me His harp!

Hymn 18.

1. O you who are made priest after your master, the illustrious after the excellent, the chaste after the grave, the watchful after the abstinent, your master from you has not departed; in the living we see the deceased: for lo! In you is his likeness painted; and impressed upon you are his footprints, and all of him shines from all of you. R., Blessed be He Who in His stead has given us you!

2. The fruit wherein its tree is painted, bears witness concerning the root. Hitherto there has not failed us, the savour of his sweetness. His words you show forth in bodily act, for you have fulfilled them in deed. In your conversation is painted his doctrine, in your conduct his exposition, in your fulfilment his interpretation. R., Blessed be He Who has made your lustre to excel!

3. The last pastor who was exalted, and became head unto the members, the younger who obtained the birthright, not for price like Jacob, not in jealousy like Aaron, whose brethren the Levites envied him, but by love obtained he it like Moses, though he was older than Aaron. In you your brethren rejoiced as in him. R., Blessed be He Who chose you in unanimity!

4. There is no envy or jealousy, among the members of the body; for in love they give ear unto him, with tenderness they are visited by him. A watch tower is the head unto the members, for on every side he looks forth. Exalted is he yet meek in his graciousness, even to the feet he humbles himself, that he may turn away harm from them. R., Blessed be He Who instilled your love into us!

5. A small thing verily had this been, if by an old man apostasy were overcome. Old age in its prudence submitted; youth in its season conquered; for a youthful combatant endured, the hateful conflict waged, by force that was full of apostacy, which like smoke waxed and passed: with its beginning was its end. R., Blessed be He Who blew upon it that it vanished!

6. The voice of the cornet on a sudden amazed and called You to battle. You went up like a new David, by You was subdued a second Goliath. You were not untried in combat, for a secret warfare day by day, You are waging against the Evil One. Exercise in secret is wont to attain the crown openly. R., Blessed be He Who chose You for our glory!

7. In face of trial Job trained his body and his mind, and in temptation he was victorious. And Joseph conquered in the chamber; Ananias and his company in the furnace, and in the midst of the den Daniel. Satan did foolishly, when in tempting, he confirmed their victory openly. R., Blessed be He Who has multiplied shame on him!

8. And the husbandman who apostatized and was urgent, to sow thorns with his left hand; zealous against him was the righteous husbandman, stopped and cut off his left hand. He filled His own right hand and sowed in the heart the words of life; and lo! Our understanding is tilled, by His prophets and His apostles. By You may our souls be tilled! R., Blessed be He Who chose You for our husbandman!

9. And if so be Your words are too little, till our land with deeds, that amid much tillage, stock and root may be strengthened. Better is a goodly deed, than the hearing of ten thousand words. Your seed shall yield an hundredfold, and the after crop sixtyfold, yea that which grows of itself thirtyfold. R., Blessed be He Who multiplied Your increase!

10. That light should be darkened it is not meet, that salt should lose its savour it is not right; defilement for the head is not seemly, nor yet foulness for the mirror. Nor if medicines have lost their savour sicknesses also are not cured; and if so be the torch is quenched, the stumbling also are many. Your light shall chase away our darkness. R., Blessed be He Who has made You our lamp!

11. Appoint for you scribes and judges, exactors also and dispensers, overseers also and officers: to each assign his work, lest haply by care should be rusted, or by anxiety should be distracted, the mind and the tongue, wherewith you offer supplication, for the expiation of all the people. R., Blessed be He Who makes illustrious Your ministry!

12. That he should purge his mind, and cleanse also his tongue; that he should purify his hands, and make his whole body to shine; this is too little for the priest and his title, who offers the Living Body. Let him cleanse all himself at all hours; for he stands as mediator, between God and mankind. R., Blessed be He Who has cleansed His ministers!

Hymn 19.

1. You who answers to the name of Abraham, in that You are made father of many; but because to You none is spouse, as Sarah was to Abraham — lo! Your flock is Your spouse; bring up her sons in Your truth; spiritual children may they be to You, and the sons be sons of promise, that they may become heirs in Eden. R., Blessed be He Who foreshowed You in Abraham!

2. Fair fruit of chastity, in whom the priesthood was well pleased, youngest among Your brethren as was the son of Jesse; the horn overflowed and anointed You, the hand alighted and chose You, the Church desired and loved You; the pure altar is for Your ministry, the great throne for Your honour, and all as one for Your crown. R., Blessed be He Who multiplied Your crowning!

3. Lo! Your flock, O blessed one, arise and visit it, O diligent one! Jacob ranged the flocks in order; range the sheep that have speech, and enlighten the virgin-youths in purity, and the virgin-maids in chastity; raise up priests in honour, rulers in meekness, and a people in righteousness. R. Blessed be He Who filled You with understanding!

4. Guard the sheep that are whole, and visit them that are sick, and bind up them that are broken, and seek out them that are lost; feed them in the pastures of the Scriptures, and give them drink or the spring of doctrine: let the truth be a wall unto you, let the cross be a staff unto you, and truthfulness be peace unto you. R., Blessed be He Who multiplied Your virtues!

5. Let there be with You in Your flock, the power that was with David; for if he plucked a straying lamb, from the mouth of the lion, how meet is it for You, O exalted one, to be zealous to snatch from the Evil One the souls that are precious above all, for by nothing can they be bought, save by the blood of Christ! R., Blessed be He Who was sold and bought all!

6. Unto Moses Joshua ministered, and for the reward of his ministry, from him received the right hand. Because to an illustrious old man you have ministered, he too gave you the right hand. Moses committed unto Joshua, a flock of which half were wolves; but to you is delivered a flock, whereof a fourth yea a third is sanctified. R., Blessed be He who adorned your flock!

7. Let the love of Moses abide in you, for his love was a discerning love, his zeal a discreet zeal. When Korah and Dathan sundered themselves, he sundered the earth from beneath them; by sundering he made the sundering to cease. In Eldad and Medad he made known, that his good will was altogether this that all the people should prophesy. R., Blessed be He who in His good will was reconciled!

8. The poor estate of Elijah, Elisha loved above wealth; a poor man gave to a poor man, a gift that was great above all. Because you have loved the poverty, of your master who in secret was rich, the fountain of his words shall flow from you, that you may become a harp for the Spirit, and may sing to yourself inwardly His good will. R., Blessed be He who made you His treasure!

9. There is none that envies your election, for meek is your headship; there is none angered by the rebuke, for your word sows peace; there is none terrified by your voice, for pleasant in your visitation; there is none that groans against your yoke, for it labors instead of our neck, and lightens the burden of our souls. R., Blessed be He who chose you for our rest

10. Contend not with the mighty, despair not of the outcast; soften and teach the rich, exhort and win the poor; with the harsh join the forbearing, and the long suffering with the wrathful; catch them that are evil by them that are good, and them that spoil by them that give, and the defiled by means of the sanctified. R., Blessed be He who made you our hunter!

11. Take to you ten thousand medicaments, and arise and go forth among the sick; to the diseased offer medicine, and to him that is sound a preservative; not one medicine only shall you offer, for the sickness lest haply it be not meet: offer many remedies, that the sickness may find healing; likewise you shall learn experience. R., Blessed be He who laboured to heal our wounds!

12. May the land be according to your desire; may the vineyard be according to your husbandry; may the flock be in the midst of your dwelling, and the sheep sound under your staff! May you be a great Head, and we the jewels of your crown! May we be beautiful in you and you be beautiful in us! For they are goodly each in the other, people and priest when they are at one. R., Blessed be He who has sowed among us unity!

13. Hearken to the Apostle when he says, to that virgin whom he had espoused; I am jealous over you with jealousy, with a jealousy verily of God, not of the flesh but of the spirit. Be jealous therewith you also in pureness, that He may know what she is and whose she is. In you may she cherish, and in you may she love, Jesus the Bridegroom in truth. R., Blessed is he whose zeal is holy!

14. As are her masters, so are her manners: for with the teacher that lags a laggard is she, and with him that is noble, excellent is she. The Church is like a mirror, for according to the face that gazes into it, thus does it put on the likeness thereof. For as is the king so also his host, and as is the priest so also his flock; according as these are it is stamped on them. R., Blessed be He Who stamped her in His likeness!

15. Without a testament they departed, those three illustrious priests; who in Testaments used to meditate, those two Testaments of God. Great gain have they bequeathed to us, even this example of poverty. They who possessed nothing the blessed ones, made us their possessions; the Church was their treasure. R., Blessed is he who possessed in them his possessions!

16. The priest Jacob the noble, with him she was ennobled as he was: because he joined his love to his jealousy, with fear and love he was clothed. With Babes a lover of bounty, for money she redeemed the captives. With Valgesh a scribe of the law, her heart she opened to the Scriptures. With you then may her profit be manifold! R., Blessed be He Who has magnified her merchantmen!

Hymn 20.

1. O virgin-youth that art become bridegroom, move to a little jealousy your mind, towards her who is the wife of your youth: cut off the attachments which she had, in her girlhood with many others; rebuke her and call together her affections, that she may know what she is and whose she is. In you may she desire yea love, Christ the Bridegroom of truth. R., Blessed be He Who betrothes her to His Only Begotten!

2. Be jealous O husbandman against the tares, which have sprung up and entangled themselves among the wheat. Easy is it to root up the thicket, rather than the despised: if a slight breeze bears it, it attacks the sowing and conquers it. That which three husbandmen have sown, may it return in threefold measure! Thirty-fold and sixty and an hundred! R., Blessed be He Who makes rich your increase!

3. A new shepherd for him it is right, that he should oversee the flock in new wise, and should know what is the number of it, and should see what are its needs. A flock it is that was purchased with the blood, of that chief of the shepherds. Call and cause to pass each sheep by its name, for it is a flock whereof the name is written, and its reckoning in the Book of life. R., Blessed be He Who will require the number thereof!

4. Lo the spouse of your Lord is with you! keep her from all harm, and from men that deal corruptly, and call the congregations by their own names. The name of her spouse is set on her; let her not go a whoring for another name, for she was not baptized in the name of man; with Names wherein she was baptized let her make confession, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. R., Blessed be He by Whose Name she is called!

5. The Apostle her betrother was jealous over her, that she should not be corrupted by names, yet not by names that were false, but not even by names that were true; not by Cephas yea not by his name. They who were true betrothers, set the Name of her betrothed upon her; the false betrothers like whoremongers, set their own names on the flock. R., Glory be to Your Name, our Creator!

6. The stamp on living creatures, O my brethren, no man destroys openly; and a name that is signed to a letter, no man adds to or alters: whoever effaces the stamp is a thief; and whoever alters the name is a falsifier. The name of Christ has been altered; names of falsehood lo! Have been set, upon the congregations that have been corrupted. R., Blessed be He Who has called His flock by His Name!

7. Look at the Prophets and Apostles, how like they are each to the other! By the Prophets the Name of God, was set on the flock of God; and by the Apostles the Name of Christ, was set on the Church of Christ. The false betrothers also are like one another for by their names are called, the congregations who commit whoredom with them. R., Blessed be He in Whose Name we were sanctified!

Hymn 21.

1. John who was a torch, laid bare and rebuked the wanton ones: they made haste and quenched the torch, that they might let loose the desire of their lust. Be a lamp in brightness, and make the works of darkness cease, that whenever your doctrine shines, no man may dare at its rising, to give ear to the lusts of darkness. R., Blessed be He Who made you our lamp!

2. A great blessing was hidden in it, even in the reproof of Elijah. Elisha ministered unto him and sought, a twofold reward of his ministration. Twofold glory it gave to him, for in double measure was he clad with his virtues. You who has loved the reproof of Valgesh your master rich in gifts, may you inherit the treasure of his wisdom! R., Blessed be He Who makes your Doctrine rich!

3. May greediness be overcome by your fasting even as by the fasting of Daniel! May lust be confounded before your body, like as it was confounded before Joseph! May lust of money be overcome by you! like as it was overcome before Simeon, May you bind on earth even as he, and loose on high after his likeness; for your faith is even as his! R., Blessed is He Who committed to you His ministry!

4. Your chastity be as Elisha's, and your celibacy Elijah's, the covenant with your eyes as Job's, your tender mercies as David's; without envy as Jonathan, your firmness as Jeremiah's, your gentleness the Apostles'! Yours be the ancient things of the prophets, yours the new things of the Apostles. R., Blessed be He Who filled you with their treasures!

5. Be a crown to the priesthood, and in you be the ministry made to shine! Be a brother to the elders, likewise an overseer to the deacons; be a master to youth, a staff and a hand to old age; be a wall to the consecrated virgins. In your conversation may the covenant prevail, and the Church in your comeliness be adorned. R., Blessed be He Who chose you to be priest!

6. In your poverty be brought to nought, the hateful custom of the house of Gehazi; in your sanctity be abolished, the abominable custom of the house of Eli; in your unity be done away, the treacherous greeting of the lips of Iscariot the deceiver! Pour forth all our thought, and form it anew from the beginning! R., Blessed be He Who in your crucible refines us!

7. In your conversation let Mammon be put to shame, who has been lord over our freedom! Let the disease be done away from us, which is customary with us and pleasant to us; abolish the causes that have maintained, customs that are full of harm! Evil things have possessed us through custom: let good things possess us through custom! Be, O Lord, the cause of help to us. R., Blessed be He Who chose You in order to our life!

8. Let evil customs be cut off: let not the Church possess wealth; that she be sufficed let her possess souls, and if thus she be sufficed let it be in marvellous measure! And let not her deceased be buried in the cutting off of hope heathenishly, with vestments and wailing and lamentation; for the living is clothed in raiment, but the deceased his all is a coffin. R., Blessed be He Who to our dust turns us again!

9. A cause of evil is the lust, also the greediness of the house of Eli, and the thievishness of the house of Gehazi, and the reviling of Nabal. Close up these hateful well-springs, lest there be a great outpouring, and there come from it defilement, and even you are reached by its overflow. The Lord restrain their outpourings! R., Blessed be He Who dried up their over-flowings!

10. For the old man commit speech to him; for the young enjoin silence on him; for the stranger who comes in unto you, learns of you from your discipline, namely who speaks first, and who second and third: and if every man keeps his mouth, and every man knows his degree, they will call you happy. R., Our Lord perform your desire!

11. Let the voice of your truth be single and your assumed voices without number; the image of truthfulness on your heart, and on your face all aspects, sadness, gladness, and feebleness. To him that errs show that you are wrathful, to him that is chaste show that you are glad. Be single towards the Godhead, and to mankind be manifold. R., Blessed be He Who with all men is all things!

12. If you hear an evil report, from truthful men that deceive not, pour forth tears that you may quench the fire that burns in others; let them that are wise pray with you, and appoint a fast for them that have knowledge, and let your dwelling be in mourning, for him who is lost in sin, that he may turn back in repentance. R., Blessed be He Who found the sheep that was lost!

13. To every man give not your ear, lest liars overwhelm you; to every man lend not your foot, lest vile ones misguide you; to every man give not your soul, lest the insolent trample you. Keep your hand from the false man, lest he gather thorns into your hand. Be far off and near at hand. R., Blessed be He Who is near though far!

14. Lo the fame of the new king, resounds and comes into the world! To the spoiled he is a comfort, and to the spoilers a terror. On the covetous vomiting has come, that they may render up all that they have swallowed. Let them be put to fear from before you also, that between a priest and a righteous king, the former customs may be done away. R., Blessed be He Who was angry, and turns and has mercy!

15. There is that finds opportunity and ventures, and there is that forces and compels his will. One thinks that judgment is reserved, and another that it is not to be at all. There is that steals and quenches his thirst, and there is that steals and thirsts to steal. The rich steal and the poor; but the hungry steal by measure, and the full steal without measure. R., Blessed be He Who has searched out all wills!

16. But now has He given opportunity, and every man has shown his will, of what kind it is and to what it is like, and what he has chosen for himself rather than what. He has removed temptation from every man, lest even he who is not hateful should deny him. He has given us opportunity that we may understand, that better think this power is chastisement which profits much. R., Blessed is He Who for our profit rebukes us!

17. For He wills not by compulsion, to cast his yoke on our neck; He gave us opportunity and we waxed proud, that so when we rebelled and were punished, we might love His light yoke, might choose His pleasant staff. Our rest is very wearisome to us, for in His compulsion is restfulness, and in His yoke is lightening. R., Blessed be He Whose labour is pleasantness!

18. The whole world like a body, had fallen into a heavy sickness; for in the fever of heathenism, it burned and pined and fell. The right hand of tender mercy touched it, and dealt with its soul in pity; and cut off speedily its heathenism, for that was the cause of its sickness, and it was purged and sweated and restored. R., Glory be to the Hand that has healed!

19. The land shall have peace in your days, for it has seen you that you are full of peace. In you shall the churches be built, and shall be clothed with their ornaments, and their books shall be opened in them, and their tables shall be spread, and their ministers shall be adorned; from them shall go up thanksgiving, as first fruits to the Lord of peace. R., Blessed is He Who revives our Churches!

20. Let your prayer go up to heaven, with it let reconciliation go up! May the Lord of Heaven rain down His blessings upon our [], and His consolations upon our afflictions, and His gathering upon our dispersion: may He waken His jealousy with His love; may His righteousness avenge our disgrace, may His grace blot out our iniquity! R., Blessed is He Who blesses His flock!

21. The first priest and first king, even as if depicted each in the other, were balanced as if in scales. So too Valgesh and so too the son of that king, for they were gentle and calm. May these latter be like each to other; the priests be shining lights, the king be glowing lights, likewise illustrious judges! R., Blessed be He Who has enlightened our souls!

22. From the king's office laws, and from the priest's office propitiations. That both should be mild is hateful; that both should be strong is grievous. Let one be strong and one be tender; in prudence and in discretion, let fear with mercy be mingled. Let our priesthood be tender, likewise our king strong. R., Blessed be He Who has mingled our helps!

23. Let the priests pray for the kings, that they may be a wall to mankind! From beside the kings be victory; and from beside the priests faith! May victory save our bodies, and faith our souls! May kings put an end to war; priests put an end to strife! May disputing and quarrelling cease! R., Blessed be the Son of Him Who gives peace to all! Praise to You for Your gift!

About this page

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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