Hymn concerning our Lord and John. – St. Ephraim the Syrian


Hymn concerning our Lord and John.

St. Ephraim the Syrian

1. My thought bore me to Jordan, — and I saw a marvel when there was revealed — the glorious Bridegroom who to the Bride — shall bring freedom and holiness.

2. I saw John filled with wonder, — and the multitudes standing about him, — and the glorious Bridegroom bowed down — to the Son of the barren that he might baptize Him.

3. At the Word and the Voice my thought marvelled: — for lo! John was the Voice; — our Lord was manifested as the Word, that what was hidden should become revealed.

4. The Bride was espoused but knew not — who was the Bridegroom on whom she gazed: — the guests were assembled, the desert was filled, — and our Lord was hidden among them.

5. Then the Bridegroom revealed Himself; — and to John at the voice He drew near: — and the Forerunner was moved and said of Him — “This is the Bridegroom Whom I proclaimed.”

6. He came to baptism Who baptizes all, — and He showed Himself at Jordan. — John saw Him and drew back, — deprecating, and thus he spake: —

7. “How, my Lord, willest Thou to be baptized, — Thou Who in Thy baptism atonest all? — Baptism looks unto Thee; — shed Thou on it holiness and perfection?”

8. Our Lord said “I will it so; — draw near, baptize Me that My Will may be done. — Resist My Will thou canst not: — I shall be baptized of thee, for thus I will it.”

9. “I entreat, my Lord, that I be not compelled, — for this is hard that Thou hast said to me, — I have need that thou shouldst baptize Me;’ — for it is Thou that with Thy hyssop purifiest all.”

10. “I have asked it, and it pleases Me that thus it should be; — and thou, John, why gainsayest thou? — Suffer righteousness to be fulfilled, — and come, baptize Me; why standest Thou?”

11. “How can one openly grasp — in his hands the fire that burns? — O Thou that art fire have mercy on me, — and bid me not come near Thee, for it is hard for me!”

12. “I have revealed to Thee My Will; what questionest thou? — Draw near, baptize Me, and thou shalt not be burned. — The bridechamber is ready; keep Me not back — from the wedding-feast that has been made ready.”

13. “The Watchers fear and dare not — gaze on Thee lest they be blinded; — and I, how, O my Lord, shall I baptize Thee? — I am too weak to draw near; blame me not!”

14. “Thou fearest; therefore gainsay not — against My Will in what I desire: — and Baptism has respect unto Me. — Accomplish the work to which thou hast been called!”

15. “Lo! I proclaimed Thee at Jordan — in the ears of the people that believed not and if they shall see Thee baptized of me, — they will doubt that Thou art the Lord.”

16. “Lo! I am to be baptized in their sight, — and the Father Who sent Me bears witness of Me — that I am His Son and in Me He is well pleased, — to reconcile Adam who was under His wrath.”

17. “It becomes, me, O my Lord, to know my nature — that I am moulded out of the ground, — and Thou the moulder Who formest all things: — I, then, why should I baptize Thee in water?”

18. “It becomes thee to know wherefore I am come, — and for what cause I have desired that thou shouldst baptize Me. — It is the middle of the way wherein I have walked; — withhold thou not Baptism.”

19. “Small is the river whereto Thou art come, — that Thou shouldst lodge therein and it should cleanse Thee. — The heavens suffice not for Thy mightiness; — how much less shall Baptism contain Thee!”

20. “The womb is smaller than Jordan; — yet was I willing to lodge in the Virgin: — and as I was born from woman, — so too am I to be baptized in Jordan.”

21. “Lo! the hosts are standing! — the ranks of Watchers, lo! they worship! — And if I draw near, my Lord, to baptize Thee, — I tremble for myself with quaking.”

22. “The hosts and multitudes call thee happy, — all of them, for that thou baptizest Me. — For this I have chosen thee from the womb: — fear thou not, for I have willed it.

23. “I have prepared the way as I was sent: — I have betrothed the Bride as I was commanded. — May Thy Epiphany be spread over the world — now that Thou art come, and let me not baptize Thee!”

24. “This is My preparation, for so have I willed; — I will go down and be baptized in Jordan, — and make bright the armour for them that are baptized, — that they may be white in Me and I not be conquered.”

25. “Son of the Father, why should I baptize Thee? — for lo! Thou art in Thy Father and Thy Father in Thee. — Holiness unto the priests Thou givest; — water that is common wherefore askest Thou?”

26. “The children of Adam look unto Me, — that I should work for them the new birth. — A way in the waters I will search out for them, — and if I be not baptized this cannot be.”

27. “Pontiffs of Thee are consecrated, — priests by Thy hyssop are purified; — the anointed and the kings Thou makest. — Baptism, how shall it profit Thee?”

28. “The Bride thou betrothedst to Me awaits Me, — that I should go down, be baptized, and sanctify her. — Friend of the Bridegroom withhold Me not — from the washing that awaits Me.”

29. “I am not able, for I am weak, — Thy blaze in my hands to grasp. — Lo! Thy legions are as flame; — bid one of the Watchers baptize Thee!”

30. “Not from the Watchers was My Body assumed, — that I should summon a Watcher to baptize Me. — The body of Adam, lo! I have put on, — and thou, son of Adam, art to baptize Me.”

31. “The waters saw Thee, and greatly feared; — the waters saw Thee, and lo! they tremble! — The river foams in its terror; — and I that am weak, how shall I baptize Thee?”

32. “The waters in My Baptism are sanctified, — and fire and the Spirit from Me shall they receive; — and if I be not baptized they are not made perfect — to be fruitful of children that shall not die.”

33. “Fire, if to Thy fire it draw near, — shall be burnt up of it as stubble. — The mountains of Sinai endured Thee not, — and I that am weak, wherein shall I baptize Thee?”

34. “I am the flaming fire; — yet for man’s sake I became a babe — in the virgin womb of the maiden. — And now I am to be baptized in Jordan.”

35. “It is very meet that Thou shouldst baptize me, — for Thou hast holiness to purify all. — In Thee it is that the defiled are made holy; but Thou that art holy, why art Thou to be baptized?”

36. “It is very right that thou shouldst baptize Me, — as I bid, and shouldst not gainsay. — Lo! I baptized thee within the womb; — baptize thou me in Jordan!”

37. “I am a bondman and I am weak. — Thou that freest all have mercy on me! Thy latchets to unloose I am not able; — Thy exalted head who will make me worthy to touch?”

38. “Bondmen in My Baptism are set free; — handwritings in My washing are blotted out; — manumissions in the water are sealed ; — and if I be not baptized all these come to nought.”

39. “A mantle of fire the air wears, — and waits for Thee, above Jordan; — and if Thou consentest to it and willest to be baptized, — Thou shalt baptize Thyself and fulfil all.”

40. “This is meet, that thou shouldst baptize Me, — that none may err and say concerning Me, — Had He not been alien from the Father’s house, — why feared the Levite to baptize Him?'”

41. “The prayer, then, when Thou art baptized, — how shall I complete over Jordan? — When the Father and the Spirit are seen over Thee, — Whom shall I call on, as priest?”

42. “The prayer in silence is to be completed: — come, thy hand alone lay thou on Me. — and the Father shall utter in the priest’s stead — that which is meet concerning His Son.”

43. “They that are bidden, lo! all of them stand; — the Bridegroom’s guests, lo! they bear witness — that day by day I said among them, — I am the Voice and not the Word.'”

44. “Voice of him that cries in the wilderness, — fulfil thou the work for which thou camest, — that the desert whereunto thou wentest out may resound — with the mighty peace thou preachedst therein.”

45. “The shout of the Watchers has come to my ears; — lo! I hear from the Father’s house — the hosts that sound forth the cry, — In Thy Epiphany, O Bridegroom, the worlds have life.'”

46. “The time hastes on, and the marriage guests — look to Me to see what is doing. — Come, baptize Me, that they may give praise — to the Voice of the Father when it is heard!”

47. “I hearken, my Lord, according to Thy Word: — come to Baptism as Thy love constrains Thee! — The dust worships that whereunto he has attained, — that on Him Who fashioned him he should lay his hand.”

48. The heavenly ranks were silent as they stood, — and the Bridegroom went down into Jordan; — the Holy One was baptized and straightway went up, — and His Light shone forth on the world.

49. The doors of the highest were opened above, — and the voice of the Father was heard, — “This is my Beloved in Whom I am well pleased.” — All ye peoples, come and worship Him.

50. They that saw were amazed as they stood, at the Spirit Who came down and bare witness to Him. — Praise to Thy Epiphany that gladdens all, — Thou in Whose revelation the worlds are lightened!

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