Tuesday, November 22, 2022

St. Ephrem on how God speaks through metaphors

St. Ephrem often speaks of God as "clothing himself in names (or metaphors)" in the Old Testament, as a prelude to his 'clothing himself in the human body' at the Incarnation. But we should not abuse God's condescension in making himself known to humanity in this way by taking these metaphors literally:

Let us give thanks to God who clothed himself in the names of the body's various parts:

Scripture refers to his 'ears', to teach us that he listens to us;

it speaks of his 'eyes', to show that he sees us.

It was just the names of such things that he put on.

Although in his true Being there is no wrath or regret,

yet he put on these names too, because of our weakness.

We should realize that, if he had not put on the names of such things.

it would not have been possible for him to speak with us humans:

he drew close to us by means of what belongs, to us; he clothed himself in our language,

so that , he might-clothe us ...in his mode of life.

He asked for our form (Philippians 2:7) and put this on;

then, as a father with his children, he spoke with our childish state.

It is our metaphors that he put on— though he did not literally do so!

He then took them off— without actually doing so:

when wearing them, he was at the same time stripped of them;

he puts one on when it is beneficial,

then strips it off to exchange it for another!

The fact that he strips off and puts on all sorts of metaphors

tells us that the metaphor does not apply to his true Being;

because that Being is hidden, he has depicted it by means of what is visible

(Hymns on Faith 31:1-3) St. Ephrem, d. 373

The Bible in the Syriac Tradition by Sebastian P. Brock, p. 56-57

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