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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Pearl (Ephraim)

The Pearl -- Seven Hymns on the Faith

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Hymn 1

1. On a certain day a pearl did I take up, my brethren; I saw in it mysteries pertaining to the Kingdom; semblances and types of the Majesty; it became a fountain, and I drank out of it mysteries of the Son.

I put it, my brethren, upon the palm of my hand, that I might examine it: I went to look at it on one side, and it proved faces on all sides. I found out that the Son was incomprehensible, since He is wholly Light.

In its brightness I beheld the Bright One Who cannot be clouded, and in its pureness a great mystery, even the Body of our Lord which is well-refined: in its undividedness I saw the Truth which is undivided.

It was so that I saw there its pure conception — the Church, and the Son within her. The cloud was the likeness of her that bare Him, and her type the heaven, since there shone forth from her His gracious Shining.

I saw therein His trophies, and His victories, and His crowns. I saw His helpful and overflowing graces, and His hidden things with His revealed things.

2. It was greater to me than the ark, for I was astonied thereat: I saw therein folds without shadow to them because it was a daughter of light, types vocal without tongues, utterances of mysteries without lips, a silent harp that without voice gave out melodies.

The trumpet falters and the thunder mutters; be not daring then; leave things hidden, take things revealed. You have seen in the clear sky a second shower; the clefts of your ears, as from the clouds, they are filled with interpretations.

And as that manna which alone filled the people, in the place of pleasant meats, with its pleasantnesses, so does this pearl fill me in the place of books, and the reading thereof, and the explanations thereof.

And when I asked if there were yet other mysteries, it had no mouth for me that I might hear from, neither any ears wherewith it might hear me. O you thing without senses, whence I have gained new senses!

3. It answered me and said, The daughter of the sea am I, the illimitable sea! And from that sea whence I came up it is that there is a mighty treasury of mysteries in my bosom! Search out the sea, but search not out the Lord of the sea!

I have seen the various who came down after me, when astonied, so that from the midst of the sea they returned to the dry ground; for a few moments they sustained it not. Who would linger and be searching on into the depths of the Godhead?

The waves of the Son are full of blessings, and with mischiefs too. Have you not seen, then, the waves of the sea, which if a ship should struggle with them would break her to pieces, and if she yield herself to them, and rebel not against them, then she is preserved? In the sea all the Egyptians were choked, though they scrutinised it not, and, without prying, the Hebrews too were overcome upon the dry land, and how shall you be kept alive? And the men of Sodom were licked up by the fire, and how shall you prevail?

At these uproars the fish in the sea were moved, and Leviathan also. Have you then a heart of stone that you read these things and run into these errors? O great fear that justice also should be so long silent! Ecclesiastes 8:11

4. Searching is mingled with thanksgiving, and whether of the two will prevail? The incense of praise rises along with the fume of disputation from the tongue, and unto which shall we hearken? Prayer and prying [come] from one mouth, James 3:10 and which shall we listen to?

For three days was Jonah a neighbour [of mine] in the sea: the living things that were in the sea were affrighted, [saying,] Who shall flee from God? Jonah fled, and you are obstinate at your scrutiny of Him!

Hymn 2

1. Whereunto are you like? Let your stillness speak to one that hears; with silent mouth speak with us: for whoever hears the stammerings of your silence, to him your type utters its silent cry concerning our Redeemer.

Your mother is a virgin of the sea; though he took her not [to wife]: she fell into his bosom, though he knew her not; she conceived you near him, though he did not know her. Do thou, that are a type, reproach the Jewish women that have you hung upon them. You are the only progeny of all forms which art like to the Word on High, Whom singly the Most High begot. The engraven forms seem to be the type of created things above. This visible offspring of the invisible womb is a type of great things. Your goodly conception was without seed, and without wedlock was your pure generation, and without brethren was your single birth.

Our Lord had brethren and yet not brethren, since He was an Only-Begotten. O solitary one, you type exact of the Only-Begotten! There is a type of yours in the crown of kings, [wherein] you have brothers and sisters.

Goodly gems are your brethren, with beryls and unions as your companions: may gold be as it were your kinsman, may there be unto the King of kings a crown from your well-beloved ones! When you came up from the sea, that living tomb, you cried out. Let me have a goodly assemblage of brethren, relatives, and kinsmen. As the wheat is in the stalk, so you are in the crown with princes: and it is a just restoration to you, as if of a pledge, that from that depth you should be exalted to a goodly eminence. Wheat the stalk bears in the field; you the head of the king upon his chariot carries about.

O daughter of the water, who hast left sea, wherein you were born, and art gone up to the dry land, wherein you are beloved: for men have loved and seized and adorned themselves with you, like as they did that Offspring Whom the Gentiles loved and crowned themselves withal.

It is by the mystery of truth that Leviathan is trodden down of mortals: the various put him off, and put on Christ. In the sacrament of oil did the Apostles steal You away, and came up. They snatched their souls from his mouth, bitter as it was.

Your Nature is like a silent lamb in its sweetness, of which if a man is to lay hold, he lifts it by its ears in the form of a cross, as it was on Golgotha. He cast out abundantly all His gleams upon them that looked upon Him.

2. Shadowed forth in your beauty is the beauty of the Son, Who clothed Himself with suffering when the nails passed through Him. The awl passed in you since they handled you roughly, as they did His hands; and because He suffered He reigned, as by your sufferings your beauty increased.

And if they showed no pity upon you, neither did they love you: still suffer as you might, you have come to reign! Simon Peter showed pity on the Rock; whoever has smitten it, is himself thereby overcome; it is by reason of Its suffering that Its beauty has adorned the height and the depth.

Hymn 3

1. You do not hide yourself in your bareness, O pearl! With the love of you is the merchant ravished also, for he strips off his garments; not to cover you, [seeing] your clothing is your light, your garment is your brightness, O you that are bared!

You are like Eve who was clothed with nakedness. Cursed be he that deceived her and stripped her and left her. The serpent cannot strip off your glory. In the mysteries whose type you are, women are clothed with Light in Eden.

2. Very glistening are the pearls of Ethiopia, as it is written, Who gave you to Ethiopia [the land] of black men. He that gave light to the Gentiles, both to the Ethiopians and unto the Indians did His bright beams reach.

The eunuch of Ethiopia upon his chariot Acts 8:27 saw Philip: the Lamb of Light met the dark man from out of the water. While he was reading, the Ethiopian was joy, and journeyed on!

He made disciples and taught, and out of black men he made men white. And the dark Ethiopic women became pearls for the Son; He offered them up to the Father, as a glistening crown from the Ethiopians.

3. The Queen of Sheba 1 Kings 10:1 was a sheep that had come into the place of wolves; the lamp of truth did Solomon give her, who also married her when he fell away. She was enlightened and went away, but they were dark as their manner was.

The bright spark which went down home with that blessed [Queen], held on its shining amid the darkness, till the new Day-spring came. The bright spark met with this shining, and illumined the place.

4. There are in the sea various fishes of many cubits, and with all their greatness they are very small; but by your littleness the crown is made great, like as the Son, by whose littleness Adam was made great.

For the head is your crown intended: for the eye your beauty, for the ear your goodliness. Come up from the sea, you neighbour to the dry land, and come and sojourn by the [seat of] hearing. Let the ear love the word of life as it loves you!

In the ear is the word, and without it is the pearl. Let it as being warned by you, by you get wisdom, and be warned by the word of truth. Be its mirror: the beauty of the Word in your own beauty shall it see: in you it shall learn how precious is the Word on High! The ear is the leaf: the flesh is the tree, and you in the midst of it are a fruit of light, and to the womb that brings forth Light, you are a type that points.

You He used as a parable of that kingdom, O pearl! As He did the virgins that entered into it, five in number, clothed with the light of their lamps! To you are those bright ones like, you that are clad in light!

5. Who would give a pearl to the daughter of the poor? For when it hangs on her, it becomes her not. Gain without price that faith, all of which becomes all the limbs of men. But for no gold would a lady exchange her pearl.

It were a great disgrace if you should throw your pearl away into the mire for nought!

In the pearl of time let us behold that of eternity; for it is in the purse, or in the seal, or in the treasury. Within the gate there are other gates with their locks and keys. Your pearl has the High One sealed up as taking account of all.

Hymn 4

1. The thief gained the faith which gained him, Luke 22:42 and brought him up and placed him in paradise. He saw in the Cross a tree of life; that was the fruit, he was the eater in Adam's stead.

The fool, who goes astray, grazes the faith, as it were an eye, Zechariah 2:8 by all manner of questions. The probing of the finger blinds the eye, and much more does that prying blind. the faith.

For even the diver pries not into his pearl. In it do all merchants rejoice without prying into whence it came; even the king who is crowned therewith does not explore it.

2. Because Balaam was foolish, a foolish beast in the ass spoke with him, because he despised God Who spoke with him. You too let the pearl reprove in the ass's stead.

The people that had a heart of stone, by a Stone He set at nought, Matthew 21:42 for lo, a stone hears words. Witness its work that has reproved them; and you, you deaf ones, let the pearl reprove today.

With the swallow Jeremiah 8:7 and the crow did He put men to shame; with the ox, yea with the ass, Isaiah 1:3 did He put them to shame; let the pearl reprove now, O you birds and things on earth and things below.

3. Not as the moon does your light fill or wane; the Sun whose light is greater than all, lo! Of Him it is that a type is shadowed out in your little compass. O type of the Son, one spark of Whom is greater than the sun!—

The pearl itself is full, for its light is full; neither is there any cunning worker who can steal from it; for its wall is its own beauty, yea, its guard also! It lacks not, since it is entirely perfect.

And if a man would break you to take a part from you, you are like the faith which with the heretics perishes, seeing they have broken it in pieces and spoiled it: for is it any better than this to have the faith scrutinised?

The faith is an entire nature that may not be corrupted. The spoiler gets himself mischief by it: the heretic brings ruin on himself thereby. He that chases the light from his pupils blinds himself.

Fire and air are divided when sundered. Light alone, of all creatures, as its Creator, is not divided; it is not barren, for that it also begets without losing thereby.

4. And if a man thinks that you are framed [by art] he errs greatly; your nature proclaims that you, as all stones, are not the framing of art; and so you are a type of the Generation which no making framed.

Your stone flees from a comparison with the Stone [which is] the Son. For your own generation is from the midst of the deep, that of the Son of your Creator is from the highest height; He is not like you, in that He is like His Father.

And as they tell, two wombs bare you also. You came down from on high a fluid nature; you came up from the sea a solid body. By means of your second birth you showed your loveliness to the children of men.

Hands fixed you, when you were embodied, into your receptacles; for you are in the crown as upon a cross, and in a coronet as in a victory; you are upon the ears, as if to fill up what was lacking; you extend over all.

Hymn 5

1. O gift that came up without price Isaiah 55:1 with the diver! You laid hold upon this visible light, that without price rises for the children of men: a parable of the hidden One that without price gives the hidden Dayspring!

And the painter too paints a likeness of you with colors. Yet by you is faith painted in types and emblems for colors, and in the place of the image by you and your colors is your Creator painted.

O you frankincense without smell, who breathes types from out of you! You are not to be eaten, yet you give a sweet smell unto them that hear you! You are not to be drunk, yet by your story, a fountain of types are you made unto the ears!

2. It is you which are great in your littleness, O pearl! Small is your measure and little your compass with your weight; but great is your glory: to that crown alone in which you are placed, there is none like.

And who has not perceived of your littleness, how great it is; if one despises you and throws you away, he would blame himself for his clownishness, for when he saw you in a king's crown he would be attracted to you.

3. Men stripped their clothes off and dived and drew you out, pearl! It was not kings that put you before men, but those naked ones who were a type of the poor and the fishers and the Galileans.

For clothed bodies were not able to come to you; they came that were stript as children; they plunged their bodies and came down to you; and you much desired them, and you aided them who thus loved you.

Glad tidings did they give for you: their tongues before their bosoms did the poor [fishers] open, and produced and showed the new riches among the merchants: upon the wrists of men they put you as a medicine of life.

4. The naked ones in a type saw your rising again by the sea-shore; and by the side of the lake they, the Apostles of a truth, saw the rising again of the Son of your Creator. By you and by your Lord the sea and the lake were beautified.

The diver came up from the sea and put on his clothing; and from the lake too Simon Peter came up swimming and put on his coat; John 21:7 clad as with coats, with the love of both of you, were these two.

5. And since I have wandered in you, pearl, I will gather up my mind, and by having contemplated you, would become like you, in that you are all gathered up into yourself; and as you in all times are one, one let me become by you!

Pearls have I gathered together that I might make a crown for the Son in the place of stains which are in my members. Receive my offering, not that You are shortcoming; it is because of my own shortcoming that I have offered it to You. Whiten my stains!

This crown is all spiritual pearls, which instead of gold are set in love, and instead of ouches in faith; and instead of hands, let praise offer it up to the Highest!

Hymn 6

1. Would that the memory of the fathers would exhale from the tombs; who were very simple as being wise, and reverend as believing. They without cavilling searched for, and came to the right path.

He gave the law; the mountains melted away; fools broke through it. By unclean ravens He fed Elijah at the desert stream; and moreover gave from the skeleton honey unto Samson. They judged not, nor inquired why it was unclean, why clean.

2. And when He made void the sabbaths, the feeble Gentiles were clothed with health. Samson took the daughter of the aliens, and there was no disputing among the righteous; the prophet also took a harlot, and the just held their peace.

He blamed the righteous, Hosea 1:2 and He held up and lifted up [to view] their delinquencies: He pitied sinners, Matthew 9:13 and restored them without cost: and made low the mountains of their sins: Luke 18:9 He proved that God is not to be arraigned by men, and as Lord of Truth, that His servants were His shadow; and whatsoever way His will looked, they directed also their own wills; and because Light was in Him, Song of Songs 2:17 their shadows were enlightened.

3. How strangely perplexed are all the heretics by simple things! For when He plainly foreshadowed this New Testament by that of the Prophets, those pitiable men rose, as though from sleep, and shouted out and made a disturbance. And the Way, wherein the righteous held straight on, and by their truths had gone forth therein, that [Way] have these broken up, because they were besotted: this they left and went out of; because they pried, an evil searching, [yea,] an evil babbling led them astray.

They saw the ray: they made it darkness, that they might grope therein: they saw the jewel, even the faith: while they pried into it, it fell and was lost. Of the pearl they made a stone, that they might stumble upon it.

4. O Gift, which fools have made a poison! The People were for separating Your beauteous root from Your fountain, though they separated it not: [false] teachings estranged Your beauty also from the stock thereof.

By You did they get themselves estranged, who wished to estrange You. By You the tribes were cut off and scattered abroad from out of Sion, and also the [false] teachings of the seceders.

Bring Yourself within the compass of our littleness, O Gift of ours. For if love cannot find You out on all sides, it cannot be still and at rest. Make Yourself small, You Who is too great for all, Who comes unto all!

5. By this would those who wrangle against our Pearl be reproved; because instead of love, strife has come in and dared to essay to unveil your beauty. It was not graven, since it is a progeny which cannot be interpreted.

You showed your beauty among the abjects to show whereto you are like, you Pearl that art all faces. The beholders were astonied and perplexed at you. The separatists separated you in two, and were separated in two by you, you that are of one substance throughout.

They saw not your beauty, because there was not in them the eye of truth. For the veil of prophecy, full as it was of the mysteries; to them was a covering of your glistering faces: they thought that you were other [than you are], O you mirror of ours! And therefore these blind schismatics defiled your fair beauty.

6. Since they have extolled you too much, or have lowered you too much, bring them to the even level. Come down, descend a little from that height of infidelity and heathendom; and come up from the depth of Judaism, though you are in the Heaven.

Let our Lord be set between God and men! 1 Timothy 2:5 Let the Prophets be as it were His heralds! Let the Just One, as being His Father, rejoice! That Word it is which conquered both Jews and Heathens!

7. Come, You Gift of Holy Church, stay, rest in the midst of Her! The circumcised have troubled You, in that they are vain babblers, and so have the [false] doctrines in that they are contentious. Blessed be He that gave You a goodly company which bears You about!

In the covenant of Moses is Your brightness shadowed forth: in the new covenant You dart it forth: from those first Your light shines even unto those last. Blessed be He that gave us Your gleam as well as Your bright rays.

Hymn 7

1. As in a race saw I the disputers, the children of strife, [trying] to taste fire, to see the air, to handle the light: they were troubled at the gleaming, and struggled to make divisions.

The Son, Who is too subtle for the mind, did they seek to feel: and the Holy Ghost Who cannot be explored, they thought to explore with their questionings. The Father, Who never at any time was searched out, have they explained and disputed of.

The sound form of our faith is from Abraham, and our repentance is from Nineveh and the house of Rahab, and ours are the expectations of the Prophets, Genesis 15:6 ours of the Apostles.

2. And envy is from Satan: the evil usage of the evil calf is from the Egyptians. The hateful sight of the hateful image of four faces is from the Hittites. Accursed disputation, that hidden moth, is from the Greeks.

The bitter [enemy] read and saw orthodox teachings, and subverted them; he saw hateful things, and sowed them; and he saw hope, and he turned it upside down and cut it off. The disputation that he planted, lo! It has yielded a fruit bitter to the tooth.

3. Satan saw that the Truth strangled him, and united himself to the tares, and secreted his frauds, and spread his snares for the faith, and cast upon the priests the darts of the love of pre-eminence.

They made contests for the throne, to see which should first obtain it. There was that meditated in secret and kept it close: there was that openly combated for it: and there was that with a bribe crept up to it: and there was that with fraud dealt wisely to obtain it.

The paths differed, the scope was one, and they were alike. Him that was young, and could not even think of it, because it was not time for him; and him that was hoary and shaped out dreams for time beyond; all of them by his craftiness did the wicked one persuade and subdue. Old men, youths, and even striplings, aim at rank!

4. His former books did Satan put aside, and put on others: the People who was grown old had the moth and the worm devoured and eaten and left and deserted: the moth came into the new garment of the new peoples:

He saw the crucifiers who were rejected and cast forth as strangers: he made of those of the household, pryers; and of worshippers, they became disputants. From that garment the moth gendered and wound it up and deposited it.

The worm gendered in the storehouse of wheat, and sat and looked on: and lo! The pure wheat was mildewed, and devoured were the garments of glory! He made a mockery of us, and we of ourselves, since we were besotted!

He showed tares, and the bramble shot up in the pure vineyard! He infected the flock, and the leprosy broke out, and the sheep became hired servants of his! He began in the People, and came unto the Gentiles, that he might finish.

5. Instead of the reed which the former people made the Son hold, others have dared with their reed to write in their tracts that He is only a Son of man. Reed for reed does the wicked one exchange against our Redeemer, and instead of the coat of many colors, wherewith they clothed Him, titles has he dyed craftily. With diversity of names he clothed Him; either that of a creature or of a thing made, when He was the Maker.

And as he plaited for Him by silent men speechless thorns that cry out, thorns from the mind has he plaited [now] by the voice, as hymns; and concealed the spikes amid melodies that they might not be perceived.

6. When Satan saw that he was detected in his former [frauds]; that the spitting was discovered, and vinegar, and thorns, nails and wood, garments and reed and spear, which smote him, and were hated and openly known; he changed his frauds.

Instead of the blow with the hand, by which our Lord was overcome, he brought in distractions; and instead of the spitting, cavilling entered in; and instead of garments, secret divisions; and instead of the reed, came in strife to smite us on the face.

Haughtiness called for rage its sister, and there answered and came envy, and wrath, and pride, and fraud. They have taken counsel against our Redeemer as on that day when they took counsels at His Passion.

And instead of the cross, a hidden wood has strife become; and instead of the nails, questionings have come in; and instead of hell, apostasy: the pattern of both Satan would renew again.

Instead of the sponge which was cankered with vinegar and wormwood, he gave prying, the whole of which is cankered with death. The gall which they gave Him did our Lord put away from Him; the subtle questioning, which the rebellious one has given, to fools is sweet.

7. And at that time there were judges against them, Luke 23:14-15 lo, the judges are, as it were, against us, and instead of a handwriting are their commands. Priests that consecrate crowns, set snares for kings.

Instead of the priesthood praying for royalty that wars may cease from among men, they teach wars of overthrow, which set kings to combat with those round about.

O Lord, make the priests and kings peaceful; that in one Church priests may pray for their kings, and kings spare those round about them; and may the peace which is within You become ours, Lord, You that are within and without all things!

About this page

Source. Translated by J.B. Morris. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 13. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1898.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

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