Greetings for the Ascension of the Lord

“Lift up your gates, O you princes and be lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall enter in.”

Dear brothers and sisters – Greetings on this joyful feast of the Ascension, as we celebrate the Saviour ascending with our humanity into the Kingdom of God, where He is for ever human as well as divine, knowing the joys and sorrows, the challenges and trials of our lives, because He lived such a life.

In this knowledge, we pray to Him as One who joined Himself to us in the mystery of His Incarnation.

We pray to Him as One who started life as a refugee in the flight to Egypt; as One who wandered and had nowhere to call His own; as One who lived in simplicity and non-acquisitiveness; as One who hungered and thirsted; as One who wept and felt sorrow; as One who experienced torture and pain; as One who understood betrayal and condemnation; as One who endured and embraced human-nature and human life for the sake of humanity – to redeem it, perfect it, and raise it in glory.

We take comfort that in His self-abasement the ascended Lord deigned to live among us, sharing human life with us and showing us the promise of future life in the age to come, as He takes the ‘robe of Adam’ to be glorified in the Heavenly Kingdom: a promise and calling for each of us who have been baptised into His death and glorious resurrection.

Do you see then to what height of glory human nature has been raised? Is it not from earth to heaven? Is it not from corruption to incorruption? How hard would not someone toil in order to become the intimate friend of a corruptible king here below? But we, although we were alienated and hostile in our intent by evil deeds, have not only been reconciled to God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have also soared aloft to sonship, and now our nature is worshipped in the heavens by every creature seen and unseen.

St Ephrem the Syrian

Wishing you all a happy and joyful feast.

May God bless you all.

In Christ – Hieromonk Mark

St Ephrem the Syrian: Hymn 14 of the Epiphany, concerning our Lord and John.

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.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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 baptise Him.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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.
                                                              

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy

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.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

7. How, my Lord, dost Thou will to be baptised
Thou Who in Thy baptism atonest all?
Baptism looks unto Thee
do Thou shed on it holiness and perfection?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

8. Our Lord said I will it so
draw near, baptise Me that My Will may be done.
Resist My Will thou cannot:
I shall be baptised of thee, for thus I will it.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

9. I entreat, my Lord, that I be not compelled
for this is hard that Thou hast said to me
‘I need thee to baptise Me;’
for it is Thou that with Thy hyssop purifiest all.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

10. I have asked it, and it pleases Me that thus it should be
and thou, John, why dost thou gainsay?
Allow righteousness to be fulfilled
and come, baptise Me; why art thou standing there?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

12. I have revealed to thee My Will;
what dost thou question?
Draw near, baptise Me, and thou shalt not be burned.
The bridechamber is ready; keep Me not back
from the wedding-feast that has been made ready.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

16. Lo! I am to be baptised 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.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

18. It becomes thee to know why I have come
and for what cause I have desired that thou shouldst baptise Me.
It is the middle of the way wherein I have walked
withhold not Baptism.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

19. Small is the river whereto Thou hast 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!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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 baptised in Jordan.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

21. Lo! The hosts are standing!
the ranks of Watchers, lo! They worship!
And if I draw near, my Lord, to baptise Thee
I tremble for myself with quaking.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

23. I have prepared the way as I was sent:
I have betrothed the Bride as I was commanded.
May Thine Epiphany be spread over the world
now that Thou hast come, and let me not baptise Thee!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

25. Son of the Father, why should I baptise Thee?
for lo! Thou art in Thy Father and Thy Father in Thee.
Holiness unto the priests Thou givest –
why dost Thou ask for water that is common?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

  1. 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 baptised this cannot be.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

27. High-priests of Thee are consecrated
priests by Thy hyssop are purified –
the anointed and the kings Thou makest.
Baptism, how shall it profit Thee?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

28. The Bride thou didst betroth to Me awaits Me
that I should go down, be baptised, and sanctify her.
Friend of the Bridegroom withhold Me not
from the washing that awaits Me.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

29. I am not able, for I am weak
Thou blazest in my hands to grasp.
Lo! Thy legions are as flame
bid one of the Watchers baptise Thee!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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 baptise Thee?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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 baptise Thee?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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 baptised in Jordan.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

35. It is very meet that Thou shouldst baptise 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 baptised?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

36. It is very right that thou shouldst baptise Me
as I bid, and should not gainsay.
Lo! I baptised thee within the womb –
baptise me in Jordan!

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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
Thine exalted head who will make me worthy to touch?

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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 baptised all these come to nought.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

39. A mantle of fire the air wears
and waits for Thee, above Jordan;
and if Thou consent to it and will to be baptised
Thou shall baptise Thyself and fulfil all.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

40. This is meet, that thou should baptise Me
that none may err and say concerning Me –
‘Had He not been alien from the Father’s house –
why feared the Levite to baptise Him?’

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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.’

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

44. Voice of him that criest in the wilderness
fulfil the work for which thou didst come –
that the desert whereunto thou didst go out may resound
with the mighty peace thou didst preach therein.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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 Thine Epiphany, O Bridegroom, the worlds have life.’

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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.

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

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

Response:  Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Heaven and earth worship Thee with joy!

ST EPHREM THE SYRIAN: HYMN 6 ON THE EPIPHANY

1. The Spirit came down from on high
and hallowed the waters by His brooding.
In the baptism of John,
He passed by the rest and abode on One:
but now He has descended and abode
on all that are born of the water.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

2. Out of all that John baptised
on One it was that the Spirit dwelt:
but now He has flown and come down
that He may dwell on the many
and as each after each comes up, He loves him and abides on him.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

3. A marvel it is that surpasses all!
To the water He went down and was baptised.
The seas declared it blessed,
that river wherein Thou wast baptised:
even the waters that were in heaven envied
because they were not worthy to be Thy bath.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

4. A marvel it is, O my Lord, now also
that while the fountains are full of water
it is the water of baptism
that alone is able to atone.
Mighty is the water in the seas
yet is it too weak for atonement.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

5. Thy might, O my Lord, if it abides
within the humble it exalts him
like as royalty if it abide
within the desert gives it peace.
Water by Thy might has triumphed
over sin, for Life has encompassed it.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

6. The sheep exulted when they saw
the hand draw near to baptise them.
Receive, O you sheep, your sealing; enter and be mingled in the flock!
for more than over all the flock
over you rejoice the Watchers today.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

7. The Angels and the Watchers rejoice
over that which is born of the Spirit and of water:
they rejoice that by fire and by the Spirit
the corporeal have become spiritual.
The Seraphim who sing Holy rejoice
that they who are made holy have been increased.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

8. For lo! The Angels rejoice
over one sinner if he repent:
how much more do they now rejoice
that in all churches and congregations
lo! Baptism is bringing forth
the heavenly from the earthly!

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

9. The baptised when they come up are sanctified;
the sealed when they go down are pardoned.
They who come up have put on glory
they who go down have cast off sin.
Adam put off his glory in a moment
you have been clothed with glory in a moment.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

10. A house that is of dust when it has fallen
by means of water can be renewed:
the body of Adam that was of dust
which had fallen by water has been renewed.
Lo! The priests as builders
afresh renew your bodies.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

11. A great marvel is this of the wool
that it can take every dye
as the mind takes every discourse.
By the name of its dye it is called
as you who were
baptised when Hearers,
have gained the name of Recipients.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

12. The common waters he sanctified
even Elisha through the Name that is secret.
In them washed the leper openly
and was cleansed by the Power that is secret:
the leprosy was done away in the water, as transgressions in Baptism.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

13. Today, lo! Your offenses are blotted out
and your names are written down.
The priest blots out in the water
and Christ writes down in Heaven.
By the blotting out and the writing down
lo! Doubled is your rejoicing.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

14. Lo! Mercy has dawned today
and from bound to bound it stretches:
the sun has sunk and mercy has dawned.
Justice has drawn in her wrath; Grace has spread forth her love
lo! she pardons and quickens freely.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

15. The sheep that beforetime were in the fold
lo! They hasten forth to greet
the new lambs that have been added to it.
They are white and are clad in white
within and without white are your bodies as your vestments.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

16. From every mouth Blessed are you,
on every side Blessed are you.
Sin from you is driven out
and the Holy Spirit on you is dwelling.
The Evil One has become sad of countenance;
the Good God makes glad your countenance.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

17. The gift that you have received freely
cease not from watching over it:
this pearl if it shall be lost
cannot again be sought out
for it is like to virginity
which if it be lost is not to be found.

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

18. May you from all defilement
be kept by the power of your white robes!
and he whose freedom has defiled itself
may it be able to wash itself clean by his weeping!
For me who am servant of the community
may the supplication of the community win pardon!

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

19. To the author who has toiled in words
be reconciliation in rest!
to the teacher who has toiled with voice
be forgiveness through grace!
to the priest who has toiled in baptizing
let there come the crown of righteousness!

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

20. From every mouth with one consent,
of those beneath and those above
Watchers, Cherubim, and Seraphim
the baptised, the sealed, and the hearers
let each of us cry aloud and say
Glory to the Lord of our feasts!

Response: Blessed be He Who was baptised that He might baptise you, that you should be absolved from your offenses.

A Prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian, For Those Who Despair

Do not lose heart, O soul, do not grieve. Pronounce not over yourself a final judgement for the multitude of your sins. Do not commit yourself to fire. Do not say the Lord has cast me from His face. Such words are not pleasing to God. Can it be that one who is fallen cannot get up? Can it be that he who is turned away cannot turn back again? Do you not hear how kind the father is to a prodigal? Do not be ashamed to turn back and say boldly, “I will arise and go to my father.” Arise, and go!   He will accept you and not reproach you but rather rejoice at your return. He awaits you, just do not be ashamed and do not hide from the face of God as Adam did.

It was for your sake that Christ was crucified. So, will he cast you aside? He knows who oppresses us. He knows that we have no other help but him alone. Christ knows that man is miserable. Do not give yourself up in despair and apathy assuming that you have been prepared for the fire. Christ derives no consolation from thrusting us into the fire. He gains nothing if He sends us into the abyss to be tormented. Imitate the prodigal son – leave the city that starves you. Come and beseech Him and you shall behold the glory of God. Your face shall be enlightened and you will rejoice in the sweetness of Paradise. Glory to the Lord and lover of mankind who saves us!   Amen.