Hymn 5

Although from one point of view the Biblical text may seem to be something static like a rock (Exodus 17:6), in fact this rock accompanies those who make use of it (1 Corinthians 10:4) and from it flow streams of vivifying water. St. Ephrem goes on to describe his own experience of being transported to Paradise as he read the Paradise narrative of Genesis. A practical question then raises itself in his mind: is there going to
Page 102
be enough space there for everyone at the final Resurrection? The analogy of a legion of demons inhabiting a single body (Mark 5:9), however, reminds him that the resurrected body will be of a different order from the physical, and so there is in fact no problem. As he is transported back into this world (stanza 11), he reflects on how misguided are those who weep to leave this world of sorrows when Paradise is so full of beauty (compare Hymn XIII).

I considered the Word of the Creator,
and likened it
to the rock that marched
with the people of Israel in the wilderness; [ I Cor 10:4 ]
it was not from the reservoir
of water contained within it
that it poured forth for them
glorious streams:
there was no water in the rock,
yet oceans sprang forth from it;
just so did the Word
fashion created things out of nothing.

Blessed is that person accounted worthy
to inherit Your Paradise

In his book Moses
described the creation of the natural world,
so that both Nature and Scripture
might bear witness to the Creator: [ cf. John 8:17 ]
Nature, through man's use of it,
Scripture, through his reading of it.
These are the witnesses
which reach everywhere,

Page 103

they are to be found at all times, present at every hour,
confuting the unbeliever
who defames the Creator

I read the opening of this book
and was filled with joy,
for its verses and lines
spread out their arms to welcome me;
the first rushed out and kissed me,
and led me on to its companion;
and when I reached that verse
wherein is written
the story of Paradise,
it lifted me up and transported me
from the bosom of the book
to the very bosom of Paradise

The eye and the mind
traveled over the lines
as over a bridge, and entered together
the story of Paradise.
The eye as it read
transported the mind;
in return the mind, too,
gave the eye rest -
from its reading,
for when the book had been read
the eye had rest,
but the mind was engaged

Both the bridge and the gate
of Paradise
did I find in this book.
I crossed over and entered:
Page 104
my eye indeed remained outside
but my mind entered within.
I began to wander
amid things not described.
This is a luminous height,
clear, lofty and fair:
Scripture named it Eden, [ Gen 2:8 ]
the summit of all blessings.

There too did I see
the bowers of the just
dripping with unguents
and fragrant with scents,
garlanded with fruits,
crowned with blossoms.
In accord with a person's deeds
such was his bower;
thus one had few adornments,
while another was resplendent in its beauty;
one was but dim in its coloring,
while another dazzled in its glory

I enquired into this too,
whether Paradise
was sufficient in size
for all the righteous to live there.
I asked about what is not written in Scripture,
but my instruction came from what is written there:
"Consider the man
in whom there dwelt
a legion of all kinds of demons; [ Mark 5:9; Luke 8:30 ]
they were there although not apparent,
Page 105

for their army is of a stuff finer and more subtle
than the soul itself

That whole army
dwelt in a single body.
A hundred times finer
and more subtle
are the bodies of the righteous
when they are risen, at the Resurrection:
they resemble the mind
which is able,
if it so wills, to stretch out and expand,
or, should it wish, to contract and shrink-
if it shrinks, it is in some place,
if it expands, it is in every place

Listen further
and learn
how lamps with thousands of rays
can exist in a single house,
how ten thousand scents
can exist in a single blossom;
though they exist within a small space,
they have ample room
to disport themselves.
So it is with Paradise:
though it is full of spiritual beings,
it is amply spacious for their disportment.

Again, thoughts,
infinite in number, dwell
even in the small space of the heart,*
yet they have ample room;
they neither constrict each other,
nor are they constricted there.
Page 106

How much more will Paradise
the glorious
suffice for the spiritual beings
that are so refined in substance
that even thoughts
cannot touch them!"

I gave praise as far as I was able
and was on the point of departing
when, from the midst of Paradise,
there came a sudden thunderous sound,
and, like the blare of trumpets
in some camp,
a voice crying "holy"
thrice over. [ Isa 6:3 ]
Thus I knew that the divinity
received praise in Paradise;
I had supposed it was empty,*
but I learn otherwise from the thunderous sound.

Paradise delighted me
as much by its peacefulness as by its beauty:
in it there resides a beauty
that has no spot;
in it exists a peacefulness
that knows no fear.
How blessed is that person
accounted worthy to receive it,
if not by right,
yet at least by grace;
if not because of good works,
yet at least through mercy.

I was in wonder as I crossed
the borders of Paradise
Page 107

at how well-being, as though a companion,
turned round and remained behind.
And when I reached the shore of earth,
the mother of thorns, [ Gen 3:18 ]
I encountered all kinds
of pain and suffering.
I learned how, compared to Paradise,
our abode is but a dungeon;
yet the prisoners within it
weep when they leave it!

I was amazed at how even infants
weep as they leave the womb--
weeping because they come out
from darkness into light
and from suffocation they issue forth
into this world!
Likewise death, too,
is for the world
a symbol of birth,
and yet people weep because they are born
out of this world, the mother of suffering,
into the Garden of splendors.*

Have pity on me,
O Lord of Paradise,
and if it is not possible for me
to enter Your Paradise,
grant that I may graze
outside, by its enclosure;
within, let there be spread
the table for the "diligent,"*
but may the fruits within its enclosure
drop outside like the "crumbs" [ Matt 15:27 and parallels ]
Page 108

for sinners, so that, through Your grace,
they may live!

Prev -- Next