Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Devil's Lament (St. Ephraim the Syrian)

Tetrasyllable Discourse
In Which the Devil Laments his Defeat at the Hands of the Ascetics

By St. Ephraim the Syrian

When the wicked devil had been overpowered and defeated, he sat down in lamentation, saying in the midst of his weeping:

“Woe is me, the wretch! What is this that I have suffered? How is it that I have come away in defeat?

I have brought this shame upon myself by waging war with them so often. I should have known right away, when I was vanquished on my first and second assaults, that Christ was with them. For I used to love waging war on the saints, and my hatred for them grew, until I was finally disgraced. For I went away defeated, in great shame. My head was wounded by their heavy blows. I set snares for them, to trap them, but they snatched them up and crushed my head. The sharp arrows that I hurled at them they caught, and they used them to slay me. I assailed them with a variety of passions, but they put me to flight by the power of the Cross.

Justly do I suffer these things, for there is none so irrational as I. I have proved them to be glorious. I have proved them, even against my will, to be glorious athletes. I should have remembered what I suffered at the hands of Christ: how he drained me of all my power. I did everything to have him crucified, and yet it was I that was handed over to death by his death. Then I suffered the exact same fate at the hands of the martyrs. I became a reproach, a disgrace, and a laughing stock. For I inspired kings to prepare tortures, that when they saw them they might be frightened and renounce Christ. But not only did they not fear the various punishments, they even confessed Christ to the point of death. And now, wishing to defeat these through my attacks, I have come away in defeat, in great shame. I can no longer bear the reproach that has come upon me. Though I boasted, I have been drained of my strength, and all my power, by mere men. I do not know what I will do, or what I will say. The lowly and unlettered have taken away the crown of victory, and I have returned in shame, like a wretch. I am darkened. I am afraid. My strength has failed me. I do now know what I will do, or where I shall turn.

Fleeing from those noble athletes I will run to my friends: those who are careless in their predisposition, where there is no work for me, and no need for craftiness. For I bind them in the very fetters that I find all around them. And once they have been bound in bonds which they themselves find pleasurable, I henceforward have them in my control. As my slaves, they will forever willingly execute my every wish. In this way, at least, I am victorious, and I come back to myself a little (Lk 15:17), boasting over them as a champion and a victor. For even though they fell into the pit through their own predisposition, I nevertheless rejoice in their destruction.

I gladly point the way to destruction, that I might have company in that unquenchable fire.”