Monday, September 10, 2018


Cyrillona is a Christian poet of the 4th century AD who wrote in the Syriac language. He is a younger contemporary of Ephrem the Syrian (Ephrem of Edessa), and was perhaps his nephew. Although only five of his poems survive, it is of significance to have anything from him at all. He probably lived in Syria or Mesopotamia. Since the custom of the day was to deliver sermons in verse form, Cyrillona would have been seen more as a pastor by his contemporaries.

The above image is from a Cyrillona manuscript, housed in the British Museum.

The following translation is from Carl Griffin who has said, “Cyrillona’s work is important not only as a rare witness to early Syriac theology, biblical exegesis, and homiletics, but also as an example of the high artistry that Syriac poetry attained in its early, golden age.”

On the Washing of the Feet

[Jesus] came to Simon, and (Simon) was pricked in his heart.
-----He arose before him and asked him:
“The feet of the watchers, out of fear,
-----are covered in heaven lest they be burned,
and you have come to take in your hand, my Lord,
-----the feet of Simon, and to serve me?
All of this you have made manifest to us,
-----your humility as well as your love.
In all of this you have honored us;
-----do not alarm us again now, my Lord.
The seraphim have never even touched the hem of your garment,
-----and see how you wash the feet of lowly men!
You, my Lord, are washing my feet for me—
-----Who may hear of it and not be pricked?
You, my Lord, are washing my feet for me—
-----What land is able to bear it?
This report of what you have done
-----will strike awe in all creation.
This news of what has happened on earth
-----will strike terror into the assemblies of heaven.
Depart, my Lord, leave, for I shall not permit this!
-----I worship you, for I am a debtor.
On the surface of the sea I walked at your order
-----and at your command I traversed the waves,
and was not this first thing enough for me?
-----This latter thing which you endow me with, even greater—
It’s not possible, my Lord, that this should happen!
-----The report of it alone strikes terror in creation.
It’s not possible, my Lord, that this should happen!
-----For it is a great burden beyond measure.”

[Jesus replied:]
“If this is not possible,
-----you have no share with me on my throne.
If this is not possible,
-----give back to me the keys which I committed to you.
If this is not possible,
-----your authority is also taken from you.
If, as you have said, this is not possible,
-----you are not able to be a disciple.
If, as you have said, this is not possible,
-----you shall never taste a portion of my body.”

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.