Ante-nicene fathers



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To see how much suffering it bore nor cried out for help under their affliction.

Hung up and dragged along are their feeble bodies by their arms,

Yet is there deep silence, nor is there one that cries out for help or that murmurs.
Amazed were all who beheld their contests,

To see how calmly the outstretched forms bore the inflictions laid upon them.13

Amazed too was Satan at their spotless frames,



To see what weight of affliction they sustained without a groan.

Yea, and gladdened too were the angels by that fortitude of theirs,



To see how patiently it bore that contest so terrible that was.

But, as combatants who were awaiting their crowns,

There entered no sense of weariness into their minds.

Nay, it was the judge that grew weary; yea, he was astonished:

But the noble men before him felt no weariness in their afflictions.
He asked them whether they would consent to sacrifice;

But the mouth was unable to speak from pain.

Thus did the persecutors increase their inflictions,

Until they gave no place for the word to be spoken.

Silent was the mouth from the inflictions laid on their limbs;

But the will, like that of a hero, was nerved with fortitude from itself.

Alas for the persecutors! how destitute were they of righteousness!

But the children of light—how were they clad in faith!

They demand speech, when there is no place for speaking,

Since the word of the mouth was forbidden them by pain.

Fast bound was the body, and silent the mouth, and it was unable

To utter the word when unrighteously questioned.


And what should the martyr do, who had no power to say,

When he was questioned, that he would not sacrifice?

All silent were the old men full of faith,

And from pain they were incapable of speaking.

Yet questioned they were: and in what way, if a man is silent

When he is questioned, shall he assent to that which is said?

But the old men, that they might not be thought to assent,

Expressed clearly by signs the word which it behoved them to speak.

Their heads they shook, and, instead of speech, by a dumb sign they showed

The resolve of the new man that was within.

Their heads hung down, signifying amidst their pains

That they were not going to sacrifice, and every one understood their meaning.

As long as there was in them place for speech, with speech did they confess;

But, when it was forbidden them by pain, they spake with a dumb sign.

Of faith they spoke both with the voice and without the voice:

So that, when speaking and also when silent, they were alike stedfast.


Who but must be amazed at the path of life, how narrow it is,

And how straight to him that desires to walk in it?

Who but must marvel to see that, when the will is watchful and ready,

It is very broad and full of light to him that goeth therein?

About the path are ditches; full also is it of pitfalls;

And, if one turn but a little aside from it, a ditch receives him.


That dumb sign only is there between the right and the left,

And on “Yea” and “Nay” stand14 sin and righteousness.

By a dumb sign only did the blessed men plainly signify that they would not sacrifice,

And in virtue of a single dumb sign did the path lead them to Eden;

And, if this same dumb sign had inclined and turned down but a little

Toward the depth, the path of the old men would have been to Gehenna.

Upwards they made a sign, to signify that upwards were they prepared to ascend;

And in consequence of that sign they ascended and mingled with the heavenly ones.

Between sign and sign were Paradise and Gehenna:

They made a sign that they would not sacrifice, and they inherited the place of the kingdom.


Even while they were Silent they were advocates for the Son of God:

For not in multitude of words doth faith consist.

That fortitude of theirs was a full-voiced confession,

And as though with open mouth declared they their faith by signs;

And every one knew what they were saying, though silent,

And enriched and increased was the faith of the house of God;

And error was put to shame by reason of two old men, who, though they spake not,

Vanquished it; and they kept silence, and their faith stood fast.

And, though tempestuous accents were heard from the judge,

And the commands of the emperor were dreadful, yea violent,

And paganism had a bold face and an open mouth,

And its voice was raised, and silent were the old men with pain,



Yet null and void became the command and drowned was the voice of the judge,

And without speech the mute sign of the martyrs bore off the palm.

Talking and clamour, and the sound of stripes, on the left;

And deep silence and suffering standing on the right;

And, by one mute sign with which the old men pointed above their heads,

The head of faith was lifted up, and error was put to shame.

Worsted in the encounter were they who spoke, and the victory was to the silent:

For, voiceless they uttered by signs the discourse of faith.


They took them down, because they had vanquished while silent;

And they put them in bonds, threatening yet to vanquish them.

Bonds and a dungeon void of light were by the martyrs

Held of no account—yea rather as the light which has no end.



To be without bread, and without water, and without light,

Pleased them well, because of the love of the Son of God.


The judge commanded by their feet to hang them up

With their heads downwards, by a sentence all unrighteous:

Hanged up was Shamuna with his head downwards; and he prayed

In prayer pure and strained clear by pain.

Sweet fruit was hanging on the tree in that judgment-hall,

And its taste and smell made the very denizens of heaven to marvel.

Afflicted was his body, but sound was his faith;

Bound fast was his person, but unfettered was his prayer over his deed.

For, prayer nothing whatsoever turneth aside,

And nothing hindereth it—not even sword, not even fire.

His form was turned upside down, but his prayer was unrestrained,

And straight was its path on high to the abode of the angels.

The more the affliction of the chosen martyr was increased,

The more from his lips was all confession heard.

The martyrs longed for the whetted sword affectionately,

And sought it as a treasure full of riches.
A new work has the Son of God wrought in the world—

That dreadful death should be yearned for15 by many.

That men should run to meet the sword is a thing unheard of,

Except they were those whom Jesus has enlisted in His service by His crucifixion.

That death is bitter, every one knoweth lo! from earliest time:

To martyrs alone is it not bitter to be slain.

They laughed at the whetted sword when they saw it,

And greeted it with smiles: for it was that which was the occasion of their crowns.

As though it had been something hated, they left the body to be beaten:

Even though loving it, they held it not back from pains.

For the sword they waited, and the sword went forth and crowned them:

Because for it they looked; and it came to meet them, even as they desired.

The Son of God slew death by His crucifixion;

And, inasmuch as death is slain, it caused no suffering to the martyrs.


With a wounded serpent one playeth without fear;

A slain lion even a coward will drag along:

The great serpent our Lord crushed by His crucifixion;

The dread lion did the Son of God slay by His sufferings.

Death bound He fast, and laid him prostrate and trampled on him at the gate of Hades;

And now whosoever will draweth near and mocketh at him, because he is slain.

These old men, Shamuna and Guria, mocked at death,

As at that lion which by the Son of God was slain.

The great serpent, which slew Adam among the trees,

Who could seize, so long as he drank not of the blood of the cross?

The Son of God crushed the dragon by His crucifixion,

And lo! boys and old men mock at the wounded serpent.

Pierced is the lion with the spear which pierced the side of the Son of God;

And whosoever will trampleth on him, yea mocketh at him.
The Son of God—He is the cause of all good things,

And Him doth it behove every mouth to celebrate.

He did Himself espouse16 the bride with the blood which flowed from His wounds,

And of His wedding-friends He demanded as a nuptial gift17 the blood of their necks.

The Lord of the wedding-feast hung on the cross in nakedness,

And whosoever came to be a guest, He let fall His blood upon him.

Shamuna and Guria gave up their bodies for His sake

To sufferings and tomes and to all the various forms of woe.18

At Him they looked as He was mocked by wicked men,

And thus did they themselves endure mockery without a groan.


Edessa was enriched by your slaughter, O blessed ones:

For ye adorned her with your crowns and with your sufferings.

Her beauty are ye, her bulwark ye, her salt ye,

Her riches and her store, yea her boast and all her treasure.

Faithful stewards are ye:19

Since by your sufferings ye did array the bride in beauty.

The daughter of the Parthians, who was espoused to the cross,20

Of you maketh her boast: since by your teaching lo! she was enlightened.

Her advocates are ye; scribes who, though silent, vanquished

All error, whilst its voice was uplifted high in unbelief.


Those old men21 of the daughter of the Hebrews were sons of Belial,22

False witnesses, who killed Naboth, feigning themselves to be true.

Her did Edessa outdo by her two old men full of beauty,

Who were witnesses to the Son of God, and died like Naboth.

Two were there, and two here, old men;

And these were called witnesses, and witnesses those.

Let us now see which of them were witnesses chosen of God,

And which city is beloved by reason of her old men and of her honourable ones.

Lo! the sons of Belial who slew Naboth are witnesses;

And here Shamuna and Guria, again, are witnesses.

Let us now see which witnesses, and which old men,

And which city can stand with confidence23 before God.

Sons of Belial were those witnesses of that adulterous woman,

And lo! their shame is all portrayed in their names.

Edessa’s just and righteous old men, her witnesses,

Were like Naboth, who himself also was slain for righteousness’ sake.

They were not like the two lying sons of Belial,

Nor is Edessa like Zion, which also crucified the Lord.

Like herself her old men were false, yea dared

To shed on the ground innocent blood wickedly.





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