Written circa 373 AD by St Ephrem the Syrian
No one quite knows, Lord, what to call Your Mother. Should we call her “Virgin”?
-but her giving birth is an established fact;
or ‘married woman”?
-but no man has known her. If your Mother’s case
is beyond comprehension, who can hope
to understand yours?
She alone is your Mother,
but she was your sister, she was your bride too
along with all chaste souls. You who are
your Mother’s beauty,
Yourself adorned her with everything!
She was, by her nature, your bride already
before you came; she conceived in a manner
quite beyond nature after you had come
O Holy One, and was a Virgin
when she gave birth to you in most holy fashion…
If she could carry you, it was because you,
the great mountain,
had lightened your weight; if she feeds you,
it is because
you had taken on hunger; if she gives you
it is because you, of your own will, had thirsted;
if she fondles you,
You who are the fiery coal of mercy,
preserved her bosom unharmed.
Your mother is a cause for wonder;
the Lord entered into her
and became a servant; he who is the Word entered
-and became silent within her; thunder
-and made no sound; there entered the Shepherd
and in her he became the Lamb, bleating as
he comes forth.
Your Mother’s womb has reversed the roles;
the Establisher of all entered in his richness,
but came forth poor; the Exalted one entered her,
but came forth meek; the Splendorous one
but came forth having put on a lowly hew.
The Mighty one entered, and put on insecurity
from her womb; the Provisioner of all entered
-and experienced hunger; he who gives drink to
-and experienced thirst: naked and stripped
there came forth from her he who clothes all!