At Judgment the gate to Paradise will sift the good from the bad; its discerning powers allow in all those who, while still on earth, have forged a key to Paradise by the conduct of their lives whereas those who have neglected to do so find themselves excluded: their moral ugliness is incompatible with the spiritual beauties of Paradise. Those who prove worthy of Paradise will be given an abode appropriate to the character of their life on earth; like the Ark and like Mount Sinai at the Lawgiving, Paradise is divided into three different levels.
Blessed is he
for whom Paradise yearns.
Yes, Paradise yearns for the man whose goodness
makes him beautiful;
it engulfs him at its gateway,
it embraces him in its bosom,
it caresses him in its very womb;
for it splits open and receives him
into its inmost parts.
But if there is someone it abhors,
it removes him and casts him out;
this is the gate of testing
that belongs to Him who loves mankind. [ cf John 10:7 ]
Blessed is He who was pierced
and so removed the sword from the entry to Paradise. [ Gen 3:24; John 19:34 ]
Forge here on earth and take
the key* to Paradise;
the Door that welcomes you [ cf John 10:9 ]
smiles radiantly upon you;
the Door, all discerning,
conforms its measure to those who enter it:
in its wisdom
it shrinks and it grows.
According to the stature and rank
attained by each person,
it shows by its dimensions
whether they are perfect, or lacking in something.
When people see
that they have lost everything,
that riches do not endure
and carnal desires no longer exist,
that beauty and power
disappear and vanish,
then they recollect themselves
and are filled with remorse,
because, choked with care,
they heard with contempt those words,
"Your possessions are but a passing dream,
your inheritance, darkness."*
What they once possessed they have lost,
and found what they never had;
they desired happiness, but it flew away,
and the woe they had dreaded has arrived;
what they had hoped on has proved an illusion,
and what they never sought for they have now found.
They groan because they are brought low
and have been "robbed,"
for their way of life deceived them,
while their torment is very real;
their luxurious living* has vanished,
and their punishment does not come to an end.
The righteous, too, perceive
that their own affliction no longer exists,
their suffering does not endure,
their burden no longer remains,
and it seems as if no anguish
had ever assailed them.
Their fasts appear
as though a mere dream,
for they have woken as it were from sleep
to discover Paradise
and the Kingdom's table [ Luke 22:30 ]
spread out before them.
By those who are outside
the summit cannot be scaled,
but from inside Paradise inclines its whole self
to all who ascend it;
the whole of its interior
gazes upon the just with joy.
Paradise girds the loins
of the world,
encircling the great sea;
neighbor to the beings on high,
friendly to those within it,
hostile to those without.
At its boundary I saw
figs, growing in a sheltered place, [ Gen 3:7 ]
from which crowns were made that adorned
the brows of the guilty pair,
while their leaves blushed, as it were,
for him who was stripped naked:
their leaves were required for those two
who had lost their garments;*
although they covered Adam,
still they made him blush with shame and repent,
because, in a place of such splendor,
a man who is naked is filled with shame.
Who is capable of gazing
upon the Garden's splendor,
seeing how glorious it is in all its design,
how harmonious in its proportions,
how spacious for those who dwell there,
how radiant with its abodes?
Its fountains delight
with their fragrance,
but when they issue forth toward us*
they become impoverished in our country,
since they put on the savors
of our land as we drink them.
Indeed, that Will
for whom everything is easy
constrains these abundant
fountains of Paradise,
confining them with land,
like water channels;
He summoned them to issue forth
in our direction,
just as He bound up the waters [ Prov 30:4 ]
in the bosom of His clouds,
ready to be sent forth into the atmosphere
at the bidding of His Will.
When He made this intricate design
He varied its beauties,
so that some levels
were far more glorious than others.
To the degree that one level
is higher than another,
so too is its glory
the more sublime.
In this way He allots
the foothills to the most lowly,
the slopes to those in between
and the heights to the exalted.
When the just ascend its various levels
to receive their inheritance,
with justice He raises up each one
to the degree that accords with his labors;
each is stopped at the level
whereof he is worthy,
there being sufficient levels in Paradise
the lowest parts for the repentant,
the middle for the righteous,
the heights for those victorious,
while the summit is reserved for God's Presence.*
Noah made the animals live
in the lowest part of the Ark;
in the middle part
he lodged the birds,
while Noah himself, like the Deity,
resided on the upper deck.
On Mount Sinai it was the people
who dwelt below,
the priests round about it,
and Aaron halfway up,
while Moses was on its heights,
and the Glorious One on the summit.
A symbol of the divisions
in that Garden of life
did Moses trace out in the Ark
and on Mount Sinai too;
he depicted for us the types of Paradise
with all its arrangements:
harmonious, fair and desirable
in all things--
in its height, its beauty,
its fragrance, and its different species.
Here is the harbor of all riches,
whereby the Church is depicted.
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