Saturday, June 24, 2017

"For the olive tree is like John. He foretold a symbol of his Lord."

Saint Ephrem The Syrian.

    In this hymn Ephrem argues that the priesthood and the kingship of the Chosen People have passed through Christ to include the Gentiles along with the Jews. Through Moses and Solomon these offices were bestowed on the Jewish people (str. 1). Zechariah's prophetic vision of two olive trees shows the continuation of these two lines in two covenants, one for Jews, the other for Gentiles (str. 2), but it also presents the typological key for understanding that Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One. The olive branch brought back by the dove after the Flood symbolizes not only peace but also Jesus, the Anointed, the First-born of the dead (str. 3-4). The entry into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, the anointing of Christ by the sinful woman, the preparation of the way of Christ by John the Baptist all are interwoven with the oil of the olive tree, thus implying that Jesus is heir to the priesthood and kingship (str. 5-9). The properties and uses of olive oil itself also point to Christ and his followers: steadfastness (str. 10), the anointing of athletes (str. 11-13), oil as a means of easing conflicting forces (str. 14).

The same melody
 1 - Oil in the likeness of the Heavenly One became the giver of kingship.
From the horn [of oil] a pure cloud descended upon the head of a body,  
as God descended upon the top of the mountain  and gave brightness to Moses,
and Solomon received brightness symbolically.

From the horn of messiahship. From the People to the peoples it went out.
Instead of the few, many will be anointed and cleansed.
Refrain: Blessed is He Who gave eyes to the peoples to see the symbols of the Son, the Anointed.

2 - Again, Zechariah saw two olive branches as sources;
[from] the one would flow priesthood, and [from] the other its companion, kingship. In the Captivity the treasure of the two poured forth [and] gave two branches:
atonement and redemption after the Captivity
to the polluted and constrained People. He gave, again, two covenants:
purification and redemption to the polluted and oppressed peoples.

3 - The olive tree, again, became the first-born of the trees that were buried
in the Flood, in the likeness of its Lord Who became the First-born from the house of the dead.
Therefore the olive tree passed through the Deluge, and before all [else] it was revived.
It rose up [and] gave its leaf as a pledge for the revival of all. The dove found and eagerly desired it-the bird that seeks our inhabited land.
[The dove] announced that there was a survivor, and [the olive tree] sent a greeting in her mouth.

4 - [The olive tree] passed through the waves [and] rose up as king and sent its envoy of peace,
and it gave good tidings to the confined and brought forth praise in the mouth of the silent.
Plucked from it was consolation, a leaf that enlightened the eyes of all.
It announced to Noah that anger was defeated, and mercy was
The sight of the leaf, although mute, sowed exultation with the sorrowful.
For them it became a mirror of peace in which they saw the peace of the earth.

 5 - In the descent of the Mount of Olives palm trees and olive trees partook:
Two whose leaves were not worthy for our Lord ... who shed His garments.
 a sweet voice .
That a sweet voice ... was ... for the Lord...
And the olive tree that ... openings of lamps with its flash of light. With its branches [the palm tree] enriches the babes praising with their hosannas.

6 -  For the olive tree is like John. He foretold a symbol of his Lord.
The king, the Anointed, shone forth and came; the olive tree went out to meet its Lord;
with children who bore his tree branches, he was stripped [and] divided his branches.
It was prophesied that his Lord would shed [and] divide his garments.
The olive tree that bore symbols witnessed to the One Who came to complete his symbols.
He sent a crown from his branches to the Slain One Who would conquer death.

7 - The dove gave rest to Noah  in the Flood, and the dove's kinswoman, Mary,
with good oil instead of a leaf portrayed the symbol of the Son's death.
The oil jar she poured on Him emptied out a treasure of types on Him.
In that moment the symbols of oil took shelter in the Anointed,
and the treasurer of the symbols of oil completed the symbols for the Lord of symbols:
the creation conceived His symbols; Mary  conceived His limbs.

8 - Therefore many wombs brought forth the Only-begotten.
The belly brought Him forth by travail, and the creation also brought Him forth by symbols.
He put on one body of limbs and another of glories.
Eternal power -does not become weary; He worked but gave us rest since it wearied the creatures to bear the symbols of His majesty.
They were weighed down by His symbols like the belly that carried Him.

9 - Oil is next of kin of priesthood like John, a son of priesthood.
He opened out a path in the hearing where formerly the voice had been stopped up,
and the word flows into the ear so that it portrays the will of the speaker in it.
But in this path opened out by John
the Word of the hidden Father flowed. Since the image of Him Who sent Him is portrayed by Him,
by Him is beautified the ugliness of the peoples, who acquired His comeliness.

10 - The confident olive tree does not fear the lion that frightens all.
In the pains of cold winter its leaves resist as the steadfast [do]. They are a type of the steadfast who held fast to the Anointed, the Olive Tree.
In persecution the doubters fell like leaves
that do not stay on their trees, but the anointed ones depend on the Anointed
like the leaves of the olive tree in winter, entirely rooted in it.

11 - Again, a symbol of God is the olive that is upright and good in the contest,
for it grasps the beginning [and] also girds the ends.

12 -   ...
For the oil in a contest gives the crown to the victor.
The Anointed, Who is Truth, gives us true freedom, my brothers.
Athletes with a temporal crown acquire time;
from the burden ... the Anointed sets free with a crown of praise.
From the slavery of sin He freed His church by His victory.

13 -   With oil athletes smear ... . . . disciple ... learns.
He, if he fails, feels ashamed...
The athlete ... his companion is praised,
The disciple who neglects to take from his companion learns.
If ... is worshipped if ... is glorified.
The Sisters Olive Trees of Noah, 6000 years old.
The oldest living olive trees.

14 - Oil teaches acceptableness to disobedient harshness,
that it might appear to comply sweetly with harsh force that grasps
But the Anointed made us oppressed so that instead of one blow we
might be struck two,
that we might mix double harshness with sweetness,
and instead of a mile we might go two, ...

Saint Efrem the Syrian.(1989)
"Efrem the Syrian Hymns".
Paulist Press.