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    Sunrise Clouds

    The Coming Light

    Hymns of St. Ephrem the Syrian

    By Marianne Wright

    December 12, 2018
    • Jenny Nowalk

      How wonderful to be introduced to St. Ephram and hear the beautiful hymn, I feel lost in my "church", our local Catholic parish. I am grateful to discover Plough. How strange many U.S. citizens seem to think our country defines is painfully sad.

    • Deb

      Prayers ascending for our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria and for all who are hurting or displaced by war and pain whether or not they know Him yet. Sweet Jesus, wrap them in Your beautiful Love, and bring them home.

    • Judy Goans

      I, too, am taken by the words of this hymn - Light of the just and joy of the upright. Does anyone know which of Ephrem's hymns is the source of this modern translation? I have been looking, but to no avail.

    • John & Concetta Grener

      This is wonderful! What Saint Ephraim lived for and represents, is an era in the Church where it was very costly to follow Christ. Similarly, within this past hundred years, we are seeing more new martyrs than in all the centuries before. This faith that St. Ephraim lived by is still being lived within the Orthodox Church today. The Orthodox Church is the same Church as referred to in the Nicene Creed; One holy catholic and apostolic Church, the same Church handed down from Christ to His apostles until today. When I did a long search for early church a few years ago, all roads pointed to the Orthodox Church, which has continued to this day in succession through the laying on of hands by the episcopacy. My wife, Concetta and I are eternally grateful to Lord for leading us to His Church, and love to share this with others.

    The Plough Music Series is a regular selection of music intended to lift the heart to God. It is not a playlist of background music: each installment focuses on a single piece worth pausing to enjoy.

    Christianity came to Syria early: within a few years of Christ’s death, Saul was on his way to Damascus, commissioned by the High Priest to arrest Jesus’ followers there so that he “might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:2). Saul, having now become Paul, returned to Damascus after spending time in Arabia, and remained there for three years. Jesus’ followers were first called Christians in this city.

    By the end of the first century, Christianity had spread to other parts of Syria, so that in AD 311 Lucian, the priest of Antioch, stated, “the greater part of the world now adheres to this Truth, yea whole cities.” With the spread of faith came persecution: Eusebius’s Church History describes how in AD 303 “prisons, hitherto reserved for murderers and riflers of graves, were now packed everywhere with bishops, priests, [and] deacons.” In the face of this adversity, new voices arose to spread the message of Jesus.

    One of these was Ephrem the Syrian, who, after his baptism around AD 320, helped to spread Christianity into inner Syria. Ephrem is best remembered today as a composer of hymns, over four hundred of which are still in existence. The lyrics of his songs helped to defend the faith against false doctrine, teach about various aspects of Christian belief, and give praise and worship to God. His glorious “Hymn to the Light” is an example, with its words of hope in the coming kingdom. Reading Ephrem’s ancient words, “the saints awaiting Him in weariness and sorrow,” our thoughts are drawn to those suffering in Syria today. Ephrem died serving others: in AD 373, he caught the plague while ministering to the sick.

    Hymn to the Light

    The Light of the just and joy of the upright is Christ Jesus our Lord.
    Begotten of the Father, He manifested himself to us.
    He came to rescue us from darkness and to fill us with the radiance of His light.
    Day is dawning upon us; the power of darkness is fading away.

    From the true Light there arises for us the light which illumines our darkened eyes.
    His glory shines upon the world and enlightens the very depths of the abyss.
    Death is annihilated, night has vanished, and the gates of Sheol are broken.
    Creatures lying in darkness from ancient times are clothed in light.
    The dead arise from the dust and sing because they have a Savior.
    He brings salvation and grants us life. He ascends to his Father on high.
    He will return in glorious splendor and shed His light on those gazing upon Him.

    Our King comes in majestic glory.

    Let us light our lamps and go forth to meet Him.
    Let us find our joy in Him, for He has found joy in us.
    He will indeed rejoice us with His marvelous light.

    Let us glorify the majesty of the Son and give thanks to the almighty Father
    Who, in an outpouring of love, sent Him to us, to fill us with hope and salvation.
    When He manifests Himself, the saints awaiting Him in weariness and sorrow,
    will go forth to meet Him with lighted lamps.

    The angels and guardians of heaven will rejoice
    in the glory of the just and upright people of earth;
    Together crowned with victory,
    they will sing hymns and psalms.

    Stand up then and be ready!
    Give thanks to our King and Savior,
    Who will come in great glory to gladden us
    with His marvelous light in His kingdom.

    Several of Ephrem’s hymns bear the title “Hymn to the Light.” The lyrics of this beautiful rendition, sung in Arabic, are taken from another of Ephrem’s poems (its composer remains unknown). The refrain, “The light has dawned, rejoice O earth and heaven,” reminds us of the victorious light that can never be extinguished.

    A medieval icon of St. Ephrem the Syrian, sitting behind a music stand composing hymns. A medieval icon of Ephrem the Syrian, artist unknown
    Contributed By MarianneWright Marianne Wright

    Marianne Wright, a member of the Bruderhof, lives in southeastern New York with her husband and five children.

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