Monday, July 18, 2016

St. Marina and Satan: A Syriac Dialogue Poem


Syriac authors took over and adapted the ancient Mesopotamian genre of precedence dispute, transforming it into a dispute or dialogue, with theological overtones, which is normally between biblical characters. A small number of these dialogue poems concern saints, rather than biblical characters, and it is one of these, where the protagonists are St Marina and Satan, which is re-published here in a critical edition, together with three soghyatha which concern the life of St Marina. All are taken from the Maronite Office for the Commemoration of St Marina (July 17th).


O discerning listeners, come and listen to the dispute between Marina and Satan, and sing praise to the Lord of all.

SATAN :
The Evil One said to Marina, the dearly beloved virgin,
‘Desert and Sown , in their envy, have spoken falsehood against you’.

MARINA :
‘Every word Desert and Sown have spoken against me is in falsehood:
in the name of the Lord do I put my hope to escape victorious from them’.

SATAN :
‘In the name of the Lord you shall escape if you pay attention and listen to me, my daughter:
reveal your identity, that you are a woman, and you will escape from all guile’.

MARINA :
‘Those men and women who have emerged victorious first entered into trials and were rescued
by the hope they held in the name of the Lord – and like them I too have hope’.

SATAN :
‘I have revealed and shown you the right path by which you shall be victorious, but you won’t listen;
I am greatly upset in my concern for you, and my pain won’t go away since you won’t listen to me’.

MARINA :
‘My skin cleaves to my bones [Lam.4:8]: I have greatly toiled in my labours so as to be numbered among males in order to steal righteousness from them’.

SATAN :
‘If you wish to be numbered among males, listen to what I have to say to you:
go and reveal your identity, how you are a woman, and then go and live in the world along with men’.

MARINA :
‘What you have to say is miles away from what I have in mind:
my desire is to die in the wild and I shall not do what you have said’.

SATAN :
‘This wild place shall be your tomb and you will not get away from trials,
for if you don’t listen to my words, you will die and perish, with your hope cut off’.

MARINA :
‘Great woe is reserved for you and for whoever listens to any of your words.
There is hope in God, and those who hope in him are not ashamed’. [Ps 25:3]

SATAN :
‘It is a double woe that you will have if you fail to listen to any of my words:
you will die in the wilderness and wild beasts and birds of prey will devour you’.

MARINA :
‘I will sing praise while I live, [Ps 146:2] while I have a place where to sing;
and whether I live or whether I die, it is to the Lord I belong all the time’.

SATAN :
‘Sing on then, and don’t stop for in a little while your song will come to an end;
you will go down to Sheol without hope and your lot will be a double woe’. [cf Ps 31:18, 55:16]

MARINA :
‘The Lord is living and holy is his name, and whoever hopes in him will not be ashamed: [Ps 25:3]from this monastery I will not depart. and will not go away from its gate’.

SATAN :
‘Savage animals are roaring, eager to rip you apart, and vultures too;
if you don’t carry out my advice they will tear you apart and drink up your blood’.

MARINA :
‘A great blessing will be mine if they tear my body apart and drink up my blood,
for my Lord is the Lord of all: he will not do what you have said’.

SATAN :
‘So torture you consider a blessing? What then do you think of eternal woe?
Flee from the error in your mind; follow my advice and live’.

MARINA :
‘Let the sea and land testify concerning me, the heavens too, and all that is in them,
that I renounce you and your words: cursed is your counsel, and accursed your name’.

SATAN :
‘I know that women don’t have much intelligence or brain, for they don’t know what they are saying,
and they do what is harmful to themselves’.

MARINA :
‘All the advice that you give is bad; your words are bad too because you are bad:
as our Lord said in his Gospel, “a tree that is bad bears bad fruit”’. [Matt7:17]

SATAN :
‘Check your words, stupid woman, and shut up: you don’t realize it is your duty to save yourself,
as far as you are able, and live a normal life, and not perish’.

MARINA :
‘Accursed are your words, Satan, and accursed is the instruction which you teach.
for your mouth is full of cursing and wickedness, and on your tongue are fraud and deceit’.

SATAN :
‘You haven’t read or learnt the Scripture; you are ignorant and you don’t listen.
My words and utterance are full of truth, and deceit is far from my heart’.

MARINA :
‘If I listen to you I will indeed perish, for you have set a trap that leads to perdition,
and I won’t be able to save myself if I listen to you and your counsel’.

SATAN :
‘My advice is crystal clear, its light is illumined by the sun,
but because the light of your mind is darkened you don’t see the light even when it shines out’.

MARINA :
‘Take a rest from laying your traps, for I shall break them all up:
I place my hope in Jesus’ name and no harm will come to me’.

SATAN :
‘You should give a rest to your words: that I should rest is not my wish.
It is a great sin that you commit if you remain in this wild place.

SATAN :
‘You will do yourself harm at the hands of marauding robbers:
if they realize you are a woman I don’t know what they will do to you!’.

MARINA :
‘The hope that I’ve placed in God will rescue me and I will not be harmed;
he is the hope of the poor and the orphans, and to all who hope on him’.

SATAN :
‘Escape from all sorts of harm while you still have a chance to escape:
don’t put the Lord, your Lord, to the test, hoping he will perform a miracle with you’.

MARINA :
‘It is from you that I will make my escape and I won’t touch your words of advice;
if I escape from you and your words, then will I be accounted blessed!’.

SATAN :
Satan replied and said ‘If you reveal that you are a woman all the abuse you are getting
will go away and then you can sing praise and rejoice’.

MARINA :
‘I will not give you any answer for all your talk is importunate:
all that you say is false. You give a lot of advice, but you are the one who needs it’.

SATAN :
‘Cruel crosses are set up in readiness for you on every side:
summer is preparing burning heat for you, and winter, snow and ice’.

MARINA :
‘Our Saviour endured the Cross because of our human race, and if he holds me
worthy to endure it, then this will be a great blessing for me’.

SATAN :
‘Get up and prepare yourself to receive crosses, sufferings and torments which evil people,
and the monks, will bring upon you – just as you are wanting!’.

MARINA :
‘I have already received these from you, and I will do so in future for I am ready for suffering:
whether from you, O Evil One, or from human beings, from wild animals, or from reptiles’.

SATAN :
‘It is pride that women love, and boasting is in their heart, but in a little while they grow weak and are defeated: then tears start coming, flowing from their eyes!’.

MARINA :
‘Yes, women love pride – as you have said in your pride; but they are humble before their Lord, while it is you and your pride they will trample down’.

Give peace to your Church and her children with that peace that pacifies all; rebuke the Evil One and his band: let them be scattered like smoke! [cf Ps 37:20]

Let peace reign in the midst of your Church; let fights and schisms be brought to an end: may they be brought under your yoke and do service before you. May your handmaid enter her monastery and in the Holy of Holies offer up to you a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving – and may both Desert and Sown be joined in peace.

May my supplication enter and be accepted in the presence of your divine tribunal; may the Evil One and his band feel shame, and may the Church be radiant in giving praise!

Source: Translated by Sebastian P. Brock.

.

.