And on this day (May 19th) also died Yared, the poet and hymn writer, who was like unto the Seraphim. This man was a kinsman of Abba Gideon a priest of Aksum, which city held the first church that was built in the country of Ethiopia, and in [this church] was first preached the Faith of our Lord Christ, and it was consecrated (i.e. dedicated) in the name of our holy Lady, the Virgin Mary, the God-bearer. When this Abba Gideon began to teach the blessed Yared the Psalms of David, he was unable to keep (his attention) with him for many days at a time, and then when he beat him, and made him to suffer pain, he fled into the desert and took up his abode under a tree. And he saw a caterpillar which was climbing up the tree, and when it had climbed up half way it fell down upon the ground; and this it did many times, because of the difficulty of climbing the tree. And when Saint Yared saw the perseverance of the caterpillar, he repented in his soul and returned to his teacher and said unto him, “Forgive me, O father, and dispose of me as thou wish.”
And his teacher, a spiritual man, received him, and having asked God with tears, He opened the thoughts of Yared’s understanding, and he learned in one day the Books of the Old and the New Testaments; and then he was made a deacon. Now in those days there was no singing of hymns and spiritual songs in a loud voice to well-defined tunes, but men murmured them in a low voice. And God, wishing to raise up to Himself a memorial, sent unto him three birds from the Garden of ‘Edom, and they held converse with Yard in the speech of man, and they caught him up, and took him to the heavenly Jerusalem, and there he learned the songs of the Four and Twenty Priests of heaven. And when he returned to himself, he went into the First Church in Aksum, at the third hour of the day, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Hallelujah to the Father, Hallelujah to the Son, Hallelujah to the Holy Spirit.” The first Hallelujah he made the foundation, and called it “Zion.” In the second Hallelujah he showed forth how Moses carried out the work of the Tabernacle, and this he called a “Song of the heights.” And when they heard the sound of his voice, the king, and the queen, and the bishop, and the priests, and the king’s nobles, ran to the church, and they spent the day in listening to him. And he arranged hymns for each season of the year, for summer and winter, and spring and autumn, and for festivals and Sabbaths, and for the days of the Angels, the Prophets, the Martyrs and the Righteous, in three modes, that is to say, the first mode to be used on ordinary days, the second mode to be used on fast days and days of mourning, and the third mode to be used on the great festivals. And there were not lacking in these three modes any of the sounds that are made by men, and birds, and beasts.
One day whilst Saint Yared was singing by the footstool of King Gebre Meskel, the king (died A.D. 1344) was so deeply absorbed [in listening to] his voice, that he drove his spear into the flat part of Yared’s foot with such force that much blood spurted out; but Saint Yared was not aware of it until he had finished his song. And when the king saw this he was dismayed, and he drew his spear out of his foot, and said unto him, “Ask me whatever reward thou wishest for in return for this thy blood which hath been shed”; and Saint Yared said unto him, “Swear to me that thou wilt not refuse me.” And when the king had sworn Saint Yared said unto him, “Send me away that I may become a monk.” When the king heard this he was exceedingly sad, and his nobles likewise, but he was afraid to prevent him because of his oath. And when Saint Yared had gone into the church, he stood before the Tabernacle of Zion, and when he had said the prayer from the beginning, “Holy, and honorable, and glorious, and blessed, and praised, and exalted” to the end thereof, he was raised above the ground the space of a cubit. Then he departed to the desert of the south, and he lived there in fasting and prayer; and he mortified his flesh exceedingly, and finished his strife there. And God gave him the promise concerning the man who should invoke his name or celebrate his commemoration; and he died in peace and the place of his grave in the south is not known to this day. Salutation to Yared.
St. Yared the Hymnographer of Ethiopia, commemorated 19 May
icon at: http://www29.homepage.villanova.edu/christopher.haas/Abuna%20Yared-001.jpg