St Ephrem continues both the alphabetic acrostic and the theme of the previous hymn: in our failure to recognize our captive state on earth we resemble the Hebrew slave who preferred continued slavery to the freedom to which he was entitled after seven years' service. Our misguided love for our present condition is rebuked by the examples of numerous Old Testament saints: all of them urge us to seek our true city in Eden. Particularly illogical are our laments over the deaths of children who now pasture in Paradise; humanity is in fact like a tree from which fruit is daily plucked as an offering. And what is most remarkable of all is that the unripe fruit-those who die young-- is even sweeter than the ripe!
All of us each day in many diverse ways
are under constraint
to learn by experience
not to be held captive here upon earth,
yet despite this experience
our minds remain down below.
Blessed is that person who has realized
how worthwhile it is
to lay in provisions
for receiving our Lord;
blessed indeed is he at whose merchandise
his Lord is pleased.
Grant us to welcome Your kingdom
with cries of "Hosanna."
How much we resemble
the slave who rejected
the liberty offered him
by the seventh year:
he allowed his ear to be pierced,
becoming a slave in perpetuity.
It is liberty that they receive
at their death,
those weary ones whom you have buried,
the chaste whose coffin you have followed.
Jeremiah was thrown into a pit2
that proved beneficial;
yet, though his reward was great,
he had no desire to tarry there.
But we, whose life here on earth
is blended with all kinds of ills,
still pray that we may be
allowed to remain here,
for we do not perceive
how we are being strangled.
O Lord, grant that we may recognize
the place where we are held prisoner.
We should learn from Daniel,9
that he might come up from Babylon
to the land of promise;
Babylon is the likeness of this earth,
full of curses.
God gave us this type which He depicted
so that we too
might pray that we return
to our dwelling in Eden.
Blessed is He who brings us forth
through grace to our goal
Noah too, in a mystery,
to be released
from the ark and to go forth,4
even though there was nothing within it
to cause him any harm.
How much more should we
turn our backs
on this abode,
this harbor of misfortunes.
Blessed is that person who has steered
his boat straight into Paradise.
Moses in Egypt
was held in great honor:
Pharoah's daughter called him her own son5
--yet rejecting this,
he chose to be just a shepherd,6
living in hardship.
How much more should we
rejoice at our departure
when we are released from this place of servitude
and discover our liberty.
Blessed is that person
who finds freedom in Paradise
Jacob led out his sheep
and brought them to his father's home;7
a symbol for those with discernment,
a parable for those with perception
is to be found in this homecoming:
let us too return to our Father's house,8
my brethren, and not become
captivated with desire
for this transient earth
--for your true city is in Eden.
Blessed indeed is that person
who has seen his dear ones in its midst
There all fruit is holy,
all raiment luminous,
every crown glorious,
every rank the most exalted--
happiness without toil,
delight that knows no fear,
a marriage feast which continues
for ever and ever.
By contrast, to my eyes this abode
seems one of torment:
blessed the person who says
"Lord, release me from here."
To the voices of the celestial beings,
to the melody of the spiritual,
to the seraphs with their chants,
to the cherubs with their wings:
to all their lovely music
there is no comparison here below.
Their delight is in
the praise which they render,
each one receiving
rich sustenance through his lyre.
Make us worthy to take delight, along with them,
in cries of "Hosanna."
If we momentarily throw aside
the veil from our eyes
and glance at that place,
we will rue our delay
which we have prolonged in this world,
the harbor of debts,*
where merchants each day
suffer great loss,
where ships are wrecked
and cargoes are seized.
Blessed are the children
who have passed through it without toil.
In Paradise these sheep
may pasture without fear,
while Satan laments
that he has left no mark on them;
lust too is downcast,
not having stained them,
but virginity rejoices
as she reigns
in these chaste temples
that were in no wise sullied.
Happy the person held worthy to reach
their place of meeting.
Their beauty never fades,
their radiance never dims;
their parents will regret
their misguided recriminations
and give thanks, once they are there,
to Him whom they decried here below.
Yes, they will thank
the Gracious One who endures
our wailing lamentation
and all our rent garments.
Blessed is He who, despite our provocation,
has brought to true stature those whom we love
Praise to the Husbandman*
who tends the tree of humanity,
who plucks off each day
fruit to serve as an offering
--fruits of all sizes,
kinds and varieties;
and what is so wonderful,
the unripe fruits
are even sweeter
than those that have ripened.
Blessed is He who has offered up to His Father
a crown of young children
There remorse overtakes
the many people
who were tested and did not persevere,
who were chastened and did not sustain it;
the Good One chose
only small and transient punishments
to wipe out their bill of debt,lÝ
but they would have none of it:
because they found fault with Grace,
now in justice they feel remorse.
Praise to You from all,
for You are entirely good to all
May Your grace bring me too back,
who am held in captivity;
my forefathers were taken away captive
from the Garden of Eden
to this land of thorns
through Satan's ill counsel;
it was he who has beguiled me
into dearly loving
this land of curses,
this place of chastisement.
Blessed is He who has brought us back from captivity
and slain him who took us away captive.
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