The Lord of all
is the treasure store of all things:
upon each according to his capacity
He bestows a glimpse
of the beauty of His hiddenness,
of the splendor of His majesty.
He is the radiance
who, in his love,
makes everyone shine
the small, with flashes of light from Him,
the perfect, with rays more intense,
but only His Child is sufficient
for the might of His glory.
Accordingly as each here on earth
purifies his eye for Him,
so does he become more able to behold
His incomparable glory;
accordingly as each here on earth
opens his ear to Him,
so does he become more able to grasp
accordingly as each here on earth
prepares a receptacle for Him,
so is he enabled to carry
a small portion of His riches.
The Lord who is beyond measure
measures out nourishment to all,
adapting to our eyes the sight of Himself,
to our hearing His voice,
His blessing to our appetite,
His wisdom to our tongue.
At His gift blessings swarm,
for this is always new in its savor,
adaptable in its strength,
resplendent in its colors.
This hymn by Ephrem is excerpted from a collection of his verses, called Hymns of Paradise. The book was published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York, in 1990, and was translated by Sebastian Brock.
Image credit for the Icon of Ephrem of Edessa writing his hymns and Scripture commentaries (also known as Ephraim the Syriac) is by an unknown icon painter. This icon is a copy based on an earlier Illustration of Ephrem the Syrian, from a 16th century Russian manuscript of the Slavonic translation of John Climacus and Ephrem’s Homilies (sources from Catalog of icons on PravIcon.com and Wikipedia).
Ephrem, also known as Ephraem the Syrian, was born around the year 306 AD, in the city of Nisibis (the modern Turkish town of Nusaybin, on the border with Syria). Internal evidence from Ephrem’s hymnody suggests that both his parents were part of the growing Christian community in the city, although later hagiographers wrote that his father was a pagan priest. Numerous languages were spoken in the Nisibis of Ephrem’s day, mostly dialects of Aramaic. The Christian community used the Syriac dialect. Various pagan religions, Judaism and early Christian sects vied with one another for the hearts and minds of the populace. It was a time of great religious and political tension. The Roman Emperor Diocletian had signed a treaty with his Persian counterpart, Nerses in 298 that transferred Nisibis into Roman hands. The savage persecution and martyrdom of Christians under Diocletian were an important part of Nisibene church heritage as Ephrem grew up.
James (Mar Jacob), the first bishop of Nisibis, was appointed in 308, and Ephrem grew up under his leadership of the community. Ephrem was baptized as a youth, and James appointed him as a teacher. He was ordained as a deacon either at this time or later. He began to compose hymns and write biblical commentaries as part of his educational office. In his hymns, he sometimes refers to himself as a “herdsman”, to his bishop as the “shepherd” and his community as a “fold”. Ephrem is popularly credited as the founder of the School of Nisibis, which in later centuries was the centre of learning of the Assyrian Church of the East (i.e., the Nestorians).
Ephrem lives most of his life in Nisibis, but moved to Edessa in 363, where most of his works were written. He was a prolific writer of Scripture commentaries, homilies, and hymns. His works are in verse and, and he composed over 70 hymns for the liturgy. After residing 10 years in Edessa, Ephrem reposed in peace in his sixties, according to some in the year 373, and according to others, 379. (bio source from orthodoxwiki.org).