Hymn 11

Paradise can only be described in terrestrial terms, but it is essential to realize that these terms are purely metaphorical; to understand them in a literal sense is to abuse God's great condescension in revealing to us, through Scripture, something of Paradise's beauty and wonders. Yet, although Paradise belongs to a different mode of existence, outside time and space, it is still able to serve as a direct source of well- being for life on earth, a fact that the Genesis narrative expresses by means of the imagery of the fountain which issues forth from Paradise and divides itself up into the four great rivers of the world. Nowhere on earth was the fragrant breath of Paradise more
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evident than in the Upper Chamber where the Apostles were assembled at Pentecost.

The air of Paradise
is a fountain of delight
from which Adam sucked
when he was young;
its very breath, like a mother's breast,
gave him nourishment in his childhood.
He was young, fair,
and full of joy,
but when he spurned the injunction
he grew old, sad and decrepit;
he bore old age
as a burden of woes

Blessed is He who exalted Adam
and caused him to return to Paradise

No harmful frost,
no scorching heat
is to be found
in that blessed place of delight;
it is a harbor of joys,
a haven of pleasures;
light and rejoicing
have their home there;
gathered there are to be found
harps and lyres,
with shouts of Hosanna,
and the Church crying "Alleluia."

The fence which surrounds it
is the peace which gives peace to all;

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its inner and outer walls
are the concord which reconciles all things;
the cherub who encircles it
is radiant to those who are within
but full of menace to those outside
who have been cast out.
All that you hear told
about this Paradise,
so pure and holy,
is pure and spiritual

Let not this description of it
be judged by one who hears it,
for descriptions of it
are not at all subject to judgment,
since, even though it may appear terrestrial
because of the terms used,
it is in its reality
spiritual and pure.
Even though the name of "spirit"
is applied to two kinds of beings,
yet the unclean spirit is quite separate
from the one that is sanctified

For him who would tell of it
there is no other means
but to use the names
of things that are visible,
thus depicting for his hearers
a likeness of things that are hidden.
For if the Creator
of the Garden
has clothed His majesty
in terms that we can understand,
how much more can His Garden
be described with our similes?
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If someone concentrates his attention solely
on the metaphors used of God's majesty,
he abuses and misrepresents that majesty
and thus errs
by means of those metaphors
with which God clothed Himself for his benefit
and he is ungrateful to that Grace
which stooped low
to the level of his childishness;
although it has nothing in common with him,
yet Grace clothed itself in his likeness
in order to bring him to the likeness of itself.

Do not let your intellect
be disturbed by mere names,
for Paradise has simply clothed itself
in terms that are akin to you;
it is not because it is impoverished
that it has put on your imagery;
rather, your nature is far too weak
to be able
to attain to its greatness,
and its beauties are much diminished
by being depicted in the pale colors
with which you are familiar

For feeble eyes
cannot gaze upon
the dazzling sight
of its celestial beauties;
it has clothed its trees
with the names of the trees we know;
its figs are called
by the same name as our figs,
its leaves, which are spiritual,
have taken on bodily form;
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they have been changed
so that their vesture may resemble ours

More numerous and glorious
than the stars
in the sky that we behold
are the blossoms of that land,
and the fragrance which exhales from it
through divine Grace
is like a physician
sent to heal the ills
of a land that is under a curse;
by its healing breath it cures
the sickness that entered in
through the serpent

The breath that wafts
from some blessed corner of Paradise
gives sweetness
to the bitterness of this region,
it tempers the curse
on this earth of ours.
That Garden is
the life-breath
of this diseased world
that has been so long in sickness;
that breath proclaims that a saving remedy
has been sent to heal our mortality

What need was there
that from that land
a river should flow forth
and divide itself,
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except that the blessing of Paradise
should be mingled by means of water
as it issues forth
to irrigate the world,
making clean its fountains
that had become polluted by curses
--just as that "sickly water"
had ;been made wholesome by the salt.2

Thus it is with another spring,*
full of perfumes,
which issues from Eden
and penetrates into the atmosphere
as a beneficial breeze
by which our souls are stirred;
our inhalation is healed
by this healing breath
from Paradise;
springs receive a blessing
from that blessed spring
which issues forth from there.

A vast censer
exhaling fragrance
impregnates the air
with its odoriferous smoke,
imparting to all who are near it
a whiff from which to benefit.
How much the more so
with Paradise the glorious:
even its fence assists us,
modifying somewhat
that curse upon the earth
by the scent of its aromas.
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When the blessed Apostles
were gathered together3
the place shook
and the scent of Paradise,*
having recognized its home,
poured forth its perfumes,
delighting the heralds
by whom
the guests are instructed
and come to His banquet;
eagerly He awaits their arrival
for He is the Lover of mankind

Make me worthy through Your grace
to attain to Paradise's gift
--this treasure of perfumes,
this storehouse of scents.
My hunger takes delight
in the breath of its fragrance,
for its scent gives nourishment to all
at all times,
and whoever inhales it
is overjoyed and forgets his earthly bread;
this is the table of the Kingdom--4
blessed is He who prepared it in Eden.

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