Hymn 10

St Ephrem here contrasts the climate of Paradise, and its cycle of seasons, with that of our earth. The earth's climate with its unruly storms during the bitterly cold winter months and the torrid heat of the summer, shares in the fallen character of humanity on earth, and so is incompatible with Paradise. In Paradise, by contrast, the months follow a gentle and orderly cycle of seasonal produce, and within each month the waxing and waning of the moon governs the development of plant life, a development which Ephrem compares to the human life cycle (in order to emphasize his theme of rejuvenation, he lists the course of the human cycle in reverse, starting with the aged and ending up with the child as yet unborn).

For penitent sinners living on the slopes below, mere proximity to Paradise has a healing effect. This thought however, makes Ephrem wonder whether he is not overbold in positing such a place in the eschatological Paradise situated "between the Garden and Hell's fire"; but in the final stanza he takes comfort in the thought that, as God's divine cloud hovers over the whole of creation, good and bad alike, so too the dew of his overflowing compassion will reach even to Gehenna in its effects.

What mouth
has ever described Paradise,

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what tongue
has told of its glory,
what mind has depicted
its beauty?
Indeed its hidden recesses
cannot be scrutinized;
I can only marvel at what is visible,
at those things which lie outside Paradise,
and so I realize how far I remain
from its hidden secrets.

Res: Grant us to see Your righteous ones in
Your Paradise

In the temperate atmosphere
that surrounds its outer boundary
the months that pass by there
are also temperate:
there dismal February
resembles radiant May,
January with its
icy blasts
is like August with its fruits
June is like April
and torrid July
has September's dews

Our feeble months take on Eden's delights*
in the atmosphere
that surrounds Eden,
for Eden makes them like itself.
The months blossom with flowers
all around Paradise
in order to weave
throughout every season
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a wreath of blossom
to embellish the slopes of Paradise,
being themselves not worthy
to provide a crown for the summit

Because the months
are stricken by storms
they cannot enter Paradise,
so still in its tranquility.
If all the months' tempests
are overcome
in that atmosphere
outside Paradise,
how can they pollute
the glorious air
whose heavenly* breath
restores humanity to life?

The air of this earth
is wanton as a prostitute
with whom the twelve months
each one in turn
makes her comply with its own whims
while she produces fruits
from them all;
whereas the chaste* and pure air
of Paradise
is unpolluted in its purity
by the dalliance of the months

There the abundant flow
of their produce is ceaseless,
for each month bears its own fruit,
its neighbor, flowers.

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There the springs of delights
open up and flow
with wine, milk, honey
and cream.
Grass flourishes in December,
after it January produces wheat;
February, divested of its cold and now radiant,
bears sheaves in Paradise

The months are divided
into four groups:
the firstfruits show themselves
in the first three months,
in the next three
come the luscious soft fruits,
the seventh to ninth months
the late fruits,
while at the end, the year's crown,
the pregnant buds
are bursting forth with joy

The phases of the moon
produce variation in the flowers;
at the beginning of the months
the branches open up their buds*;
at full moon they blossom,
ripening in every direction,
to subside once again
at each month's completion.
They sink down as one month ends
to sprout forth when the next begins;
the month furnishes the key
for the opening and closing of their buds
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Who has ever beheld
flowers with pregnant wombs
which each month brings to pangs of labor,
then, suddenly, to give birth?
As the month increases,
so do the flowers mirror its progress;
at full moon they reach maturity,
blossoming out,
while as the month advances
toward old age
the flowers too grow old,
only to be rejuvenated as the next is born.

Each month's fruits and flowers
possess individually
their own particular treasures,
but when these are cross fertilized, they multiply:
when two neighboring flowers,
each with its distinctive color
are crossed
to become one,
they produce a new color.
When fruits are thus crossed
they create a new and beautiful offspring
whose foliage is different.

In Paradise the life cycle of the trees
resembles a necklace:
when the fruits of the first
are finished and plucked,
then the second ones are ready,
with a third species following them.
Who has ever beheld
the autumnal fruits
grasping the heels
of the first fruits,

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just as Jacob grasped hold
of his brother's heel?l

That cornucopia full of fruits
in all stages of development
resembles the course
of human marriage;
it contains the old,
young and middle-aged,
children who have already been born,
and babies still unborn;
its fruits follow one another
and appear
like the continuous succession
of humankind

The river of humanity
consists of people of all ages,
with old, young,
children and babes,
infants in their mothers' arms
and others still unborn, in the womb.
Such is the sequence
of Paradise's fruit:
firstfruits issued forth
with the autumn harvest,
wave upon wave,
fecund with blossoms and fruit

Blessed the sinner
who has received mercy there
and is deemed worthy to be given access
to the environs of Paradise;
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even though he remains outside,
he may pasture there through grace.
As I reflected I was fearful again
because I had presumed
to suppose that there might be
between the Garden and the fire
a place where those who have found mercy
can receive chastisement and forgiveness

Praise to the Just One
who rules with His grace;
He is the Good One who never draws in
the limits of His goodness;
even to the wicked
He stretches forth in His compassion.
His divine cloud hovers over
all that is His;
it drips dew even on that fire of punishment
so that, of His mercy,
it enables even the embittered
to taste of the drops of its refreshment.

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