Death Knelt Before Him and Life Worshipped Him

Dear friend, since I cannot embrace you in person, please allow me to share some words from the Apostle Paul and a poem by St Ephrem that reminds me of the hope we share in Christ. – Jonathan

Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί, ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, ἀμετακίνητοι, περισσεύοντες ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ κυρίου πάντοτε, εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ κόπος ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔστιν κενὸς ἐν κυρίῳ.  

“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58

Hymns of the Resurrection, No. 1 
Saint Ephrem the Syrian 

The Lamb has come for us from the House of David,
The Priest and Pontiff from Abraham;
He became for us both Lamb and Pontiff, 
giving His body for sacrifice, His blood for sprinkling.[1]
Blessed in His accomplishment! 

Refrain: Blessed is Your rising! 

The Shepherd of all flew down
in search of Adam, the sheep that had strayed;
on His shoulders He carried him[2] taking him up:
he was an offering for the Lord of the flock.
Blessed in His descent! 

He sprinkled dew and life-giving rain
on Mary, the thirsty earth.[3]
Like a seed of wheat He fell again to Sheol, 
to spring up as a whole sheaf,[4] as the new Bread.[5]
Blessed is His offering! 

Knowledge of Him chased error away
from mankind who had become lost;
the Evil One was led astray by Him and was confounded.
Knowledge of Him poured out all kinds of wisdom upon the nations. 
Blessed in His fountain! 

From on high did Power descend to us,
from a womb did Hope shine out for us,
from the grave Salvation appeared for us,
and on the right hand the King sits for us. 
Blessed in His glory! 

From on high He flowed like a river,
from Mary He stemmed as from a root,[6]
from the cross He descended as fruit,
as the first-fruit He ascended to heaven.[7]
Blessed in His will! 

The Word came forth from the Father’s bosom,
He put on the body in another bosom;
from one bosom to another did He proceed,
and chaste bosoms are filled with Him. 
Blessed is He who dwells within us! 

From on high He came down as Lord,
from the womb He came forth as a servant.
Death knelt before Him in Sheol,
and Life worshipped Him in His resurrection. 
Blessed in His victory! 

Mary carried Him as a child,
the priest carried Him as an offering,[8]
the cross carried Him as one slain,
heaven carried Him as God. 
Praise to His Father! 

From every side He stretched out and gave
healing and promises:
children ran to His healings,
the discerning rain to His promises.
Blessed in His appearance! 

From the fish’s mouth He gave a coin[9]
whose imprint was temporal, whose currency passing;[10]
from His own mouth He gave a new imprint,
giving us the new covenant.
Blessed is its giver! 

From God is His godhead,
from mortals His manhood,
from Melkizedek His priesthood,[11]
from David’s line His kingship.
Blessed in His combining them! 

He joined the gusts at the wedding-feast,
He joined the fasters in the temptation,
He joined the watchers in toil, 
He was a teaching in the sanctuary.
Blessed in His instruction! 

He did not shrink from the unclean,
He did not turn away from sinners,
in the sincere He greatly delighted,
at the simple He greatly rejoiced.
Blessed in His teaching! 

He did not hold back His footsteps from the sick
or His words from the simple;
He extended His descent to the lowly,
and His ascension to the highest.
Blessed in His sender! 

His birth gives us purification,
His baptism gives us forgiveness,
His death is life to us, 
His ascension is our exaltation.
How we should thank Him! 

By the greedy He was considered a glutton,[12]
but by those who know, the Provider of all;
by the drunk He was considered a drinker,
but by the discerning, the Giver of drink to all.
Blessed in His foresight! 

To Caiaphas His conception was a scandal, 
but to Gabriel His birth was glorious;
to the unbeliever His ascension is a source for suspicion,
but to His disciples His exaltation is a source of wonder. 
Blessed in His discernment! 

With His begetter His birth is certain,
but to the investigator it is filled with difficulty;
to supernal beings its truth is crystal clear, 
but to those below a subject of enquiry and hesitation
– yet one which cannot be investigated! 

By the Evil One He was tempted,
by the Jewish people He was questioned,
by Herod He was interrogated:
He spurned him with silence since he wished to probe Him.[13]
Blessed is His Begetter! 

They thought He was one of those baptized in the Jordan,
they accounted Him amongst those that sleep while at sea,[14]
they hung Him like a slain man on the cross,
they laid Him like a corpse in the grave.
Blessed is His humiliation! 

Whom have we, Lord, like You – 
the Great One who became small, the Wakeful who slept, 
the Pure One who was baptized, the Living One who died,
the King who abased himself to ensure honour for all! 
Blessed is Your honour! 

Translation by Sebastian Brock, The Harp of the Spirit: Poems of Saint Ephrem the Syrian. 3rd. ed. Cambridge: Aquila Books, UK., 2013.  

[1] Exodus 12:6-7 

[2] Luke 15:5 

[3] Isaiah 53:2 

[4] Leviticus 23:11

[5] John 6:36

[6] Isaiah 11:1; Luke 3:32; Romans 15:12

[7] Cp. Colossians 1:18

[8] Luke 2:25 

[9] Matthew 17:27

[10] Cp. Matthew 22:21 

[11] Hebrews 5:6

[12] Matthew 11:19 

[13] Luke 23:9

[14] Matthew 8:24 

Refugee Blues

In 2015 there were 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, 21.3 million refugees and 10 million stateless people (source: UNHCR).

Photo credit:

In some cases, only poetry can touch our souls in a way which leads us to compassionate action. We live in a world with constant refugee crises. Let us not live as if millions of people around the world are not suffering due to lost family, friends and homes.


Refugee Blues – W.H. Auden, March 1939


Say this city has ten million souls,

Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:

Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us.


Once we had a country and we thought it fair,

Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:

We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.


In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,

Every spring it blossoms anew:

Old passports can’t do that, my dear, old passports can’t do that.


The consul banged the table and said,

“If you’ve got no passport you’re officially dead”:

But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.


Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;

Asked me politely to return next year:

But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?


Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;

“If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread”:

He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.


Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;

It was Hitler over Europe, saying, “They must die”:

O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.


Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,

Saw a door opened and a cat let in:

But they weren’t German Jews, my dear, but they weren’t German Jews.


Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,

Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:

Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.


Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;

They had no politicians and sang at their ease:

They weren’t the human race, my dear, they weren’t the human race.


Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,

A thousand windows and a thousand doors:

Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.


Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;

Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:

Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.


I said, “Let me walk in the fields.”
He said, “No, walk in the town.”
I said, “There are no flowers there.”
He said, “No flowers, but a crown.”

I said, “But the skies are black;
There is nothing but noise and din.”
And He wept as He sent me back;
“There is more,” He said; “there is sin.”

I said, “But the air is thick,
And fogs are veiling the sun.”
He answered, “Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone.”

I said, “I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say.”
He answered, “choose to-night
If I am to miss you, or they.”

I pleaded for time to be given.
He said, “Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem hard in heaven
To have followed the steps of your Guide.”

I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town;
He said, “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?”

Then into His hand went mine,
And into my heart came He;
And I walk in a light divine
That path I had feared to see.

– George MacDonald

My Jesus, as Thou Wilt

“My Jesus, as Thou Wilt” is one of my favorite hymns. It was written by Benjamin Schmolck around 1704 and was translated into English from German by Jane L. Borthwick in 1854.

My Jesus, as Thou wilt! Oh, may Thy will be mine!

Into Thy hand of love I would my all resign;

Through sorrow, or through joy, conduct me as Thine own,

And help me still to say, my Lord, Thy will be done!

My Jesus, as Thou wilt! If needy here and poor,

Give me Thy people’s bread, their portion rich and sure.

The manna of Thy Word Let my soul feed upon;

And if all else should fail, my Lord, thy will be done.

My Jesus, as Thou wilt! Though seen through many a tear,

Let not my star of hope grow dim or disappear;

Since Thou on earth hast wept, and sorrowed oft alone,

If I must weep with Thee, my Lord, Thy will be done!

My Jesus, as Thou wilt! All shall be well for me;

Each changing future scene I gladly trust with Thee:

Straight to my home above I travel calmly on,

And sing, in life or death, my Lord, Thy will be done!

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost (1874-1963), Mountain Interval, 1920.

El camino no tomado

Dos caminos divergían en un bosque amarillo,
y apenado de no poder viajarlos ambos
y ser un único viajero, permanecí largo rato
y contemplé por uno tan lejos como podía
para ver adónde se perdía en la vegetación;

entonces tomé el otro, tan recto como iluminado,
y teniéndolo tal vez como el más apropiado,
porque estaba cubierto de hierba y era incitante;
aunque para el que pasa por allí
tenían los dos realmente la misma utilidad.

Y ambos igualmente yacían en aquella mañana
en hojas que ningún paso había manchado de sombra.
Ah, ¡dejé el primero para otro día!
Aun sabiendo cómo el camino conduce al camino,
dudé si habría de volver alguna vez.

Estaré diciendo esto con un suspiro
en algún lugar a edades y edades de aquí:
dos caminos divergían en un bosque y yo…
yo tomé aquel que era el menos transitado,
y eso ha hecho toda la diferencia.

Robert Frost (1874-1963), Mountain Interval, 1920.