Lent Meditation 1

“Meditation” is how I’m translating the ominous-sounding Aramaic word Madrasha – the root of this word is drash, which has to do with studying. These Meditations are short hymns found during Sunday and Feast Day vigil services where there’s lots of good content to pick from. If I’m not mistaken, they are attributed to St. Ephrem, which explains why they’re so concise.

Not all Sundays in the Chaldean Office (Hudhra) have a Madrasha, but all those of Lent do, so I figured this is a good a time as any to translate and post them on this thing (I translated the full cycle of the “Basilica Hymns” and commented on them a decade ago; they are available here). I have a lot to say about the Chaldean liturgical year, but one thing at a time I guess. Here’s the (clunky) translation:

  • (Refrain – Blessed is Christ who gave victory to mortals by his fasting, and humbled the power of the rebel before those who watched the contest.)
  • 1 – Satan went up, embarrassed, from the first contest, and instead of a place of battle, the armor of a second war: he awaited with a vain hope, between the fight and the fight, thinking there were many opportunities for him.
  • 2 – “Through the root of the love of money, which bears the likeness of greed, I shall fight him, for from it sprout evil things. Through the love of money, I will make battle with him.” Thus he desired, on the top of the mountain, to show off the beauty of his possessions.
  • 3 – The Creator gave him his desire, since he knew he wanted to take our Savior up a mountain wrestle him. Satan was humiliated by our Lord, and his hosts were scattered. The whole left hand sat in mourning over the defeat of the rebel.  

Notes:

  • The “refrains” were obviously written later by a different, more boring, author.
  • It looks pretty clear that the verses were selected from longer hymns, since fairly often the first verse is already mid-narrative, like in this one.

The basic idea of this hymn is that the focus of Lent (“The Great Fast” if you’re feeling Eastern-y) in the Chaldean Church is spiritual violence. It’s less about death and mortality and ashes and more about warfare against the devil and temptation. The Greek word agona is used several times in the hymn, and related words that evoke gladiators and WWE and Avengers: Endgame. So Christ’s 40 days in the desert is understood here as a battle royale with cheese.

I’m not sure I agree with the second verse, which says that the temptation on the mountain was about love of money. I think there’s something else going on there. But that’s a topic for another day.

Anyway this hymn was from last Sunday, so if I have time I’ll try to translate the next one tomorrow to catch up.

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