Back to St Ephrem index

 

 

HYMN 12

 

When our Lord went out to meet
our enemy, our
smiling friend, He did not
dress for war, but took
the form of a servant and, facing the one who is all
appetite, He
fasted, so that

Satan saw, in His hunger, his
advantage, thinking -
how can a divinity bear
not to accumulate, not to show
His power? "Make these stones
bread" - so prove Yourself
with mighty deeds and show
Your greatness and
Your magnanimity.

But Satan's heart
trembled within him when he saw
this rude mechanic, this
lumbering oaf
defeat him in debate. He remembered how he had
conversed with Adam.
how he disputed, how
he put questions, how he engaged
in lengthy explanations and, then,
finally conquered.

So he took his Lord
Who made him up to the top
of a lofty pinnacle, symbolising
pride, and typifying
how great is the fall.
But there again, my Satan,
thou art but a dunce.
For if the psalm is true,
the angels and their pinions
hold Him safe. He cannot fall.
The meaning of this is spiritual
and, like the bird for whom
the air beneath his wings
is solid ground, His
humility carries Him,
safe to any height.

But how could Satan understand that
humility is a weapon? He
wanted to know if He was God
or man. If man he could
lead Him astray. But if He were God,
then he would know
to run away,
but He ­
neither as God did He rise high,
nor as a man
plunge to the ground.

He took Him to the
roof of the sanctuary, telling Him
that, from there,
a man could rise to be a god.
It worked when he told Adam
that, from the tree,
he could attain to godliness.
But Adam was a child. Now, here, Satan was
quarrelling with Wisdom.

He took his God up further,
to the top of a mountain to survey
all the kingdoms of the earth.
"All these are Yours", he said
"if You will but
worship me." Had our Lord laughed,
he would have known that He was God.
Had our Lord strayed
even for a moment,
then he would have known
that He was a man.

So, first, Satan offered
a homage to God,
asking for bread
as a gift, but then
he offered Him a gift,
the earth entire,
asking for homage,
as if He were a man.

When He did not give him
the bread he demanded
he thought He was poor,
with nothing to give.
But when He refused
the world he was offered,
He acted as God,
with nothing to receive.

Satan sat down
in great confusion.
He had come to investigate,
to know, this strange
phenomenon. Instead,
he was investigated. Our Lord
called him Satan.
What could he call our Lord?

He thought he had made
a tactical error ­ "I should not have called Him",
he said, "the Son of God,
exalting Him, awakening His pride.
So, when I offered Him
the kingdoms, He was too proud
to fall. With Adam
I did better.
I told him he was a fool.
I praised the tree.

"But this One was too weak
to give me bread, too proud
to take, from my hands,
the world. Instead
He hid Himself behind the Word
of God." So Satan saw
humility as pride.
How could Satan know
that, in the Trinity, the
Lawgiver of Sinai stands
humbly before the Father.
How could Satan ever understand ­
this man was God,
this God was man?

Satan, then, dissatisfied,
withdrew, but said
the problem could be put aside, that it required
a little thought. The Carpenter
was subtle - best, in reply,
to be crude, to give Him
over to be crucified.
Satan reasoned thus because
he did not know that it was God
Himself that he was making
go to the gates of Hell.
The Body tumbled in.
But God was a morsel far too
tough to be swallowed. The gates were broken ­ Hell spewed forth
all that dead humanity.
As Satan in the wilderness would have
lifted Him up to cast Him down
so, now, he cast Him down
as a man, to die, only to see Him rise again,
as God, and bearing with Him
all of Satan's victories.