Hymn 9

St Ephrem now turns to the joys of Paradise which the righteous will experience at the Resurrection; these can only be described by means of both analogy and contrast with life on earth. Just as air is essential for all life here, so too in Paradise is it the spiritual counterpart of air which sustains all transfigured existence there (throughout this hymn one should recall that in Syriac the term ruha means both "wind" and "spirit/Spirit"). In order to appreciate the spiritual beauty
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of Paradise we need to refine and purify our vision; provided we do this, God will meet our desire for Him in whatever way is most appropriate for each individual.

In the world there is struggle,
in Eden, a crown of glory.
at our resurrection
both earth and heaven will God renew,
liberating all creatures,
granting them paschal joy, along with us.
Upon our mother Earth, along with us,2
did He lay disgrace
when He placed on her, with the sinner, the curse;
so, together with the just, will He bless her too;
this nursing mother, along with her children,
shall he who is Good renew

Blessed is He who, in His Paradise,
gives joy to our gloom.

The evil one mixed his cup,
proffering its bitterness to all;
in everyone's path has he set his snares,
for everyone has he spread out his net;
he has caused tares to spring up
in order to choke the good seed.3
But in His glorious Paradise
He who is Good
will sweeten their bitter trials,
their crowns He will make great;

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because they have borne their crosses4
He will escort them into Eden

Should you wish
to climb up a tree,
with its lower branches
it will provide steps before your feet,
eager to make you recline
in its bosom above,
on the couch of its upper branches.
So arranged is the surface of these branches,
bent low and cupped
--while yet dense with flowers--
that they serve as a protective womb
for whoever rests there

Who has ever beheld such a banquet
in the very bosom of a tree,
with fruit of every savor
ranged for the hand to pluck.
Each type of fruit in due sequence approaches,
each awaiting its turn:
fruit to eat,
and fruit to quench the thirst;
to rinse the hands there is dew,
and leaves to dry them with after
--a treasure store which lacks nothing,
whose Lord is rich in all things

Around the trees the air is limpid
as the saints recline;
below them are blossoms,
above them fruit;
fruits serve as their sky,
flowers as their earth
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Who has ever heard of
or seen
a cloud of fruits providing shade
for the head,
or a garment of flowers
spread out beneath the feet?

Such is the flowing brook of delights
that, as one tree takes leave of you,
the next one beckons to you;
all of them rejoice
that you should partake of the fruit of one
and suck the juice of another,
wash and cleanse yourself
in the dew of yet a third;
anoint yourself with the resin of one
and breathe another's fragrance,
listen to the song of still another.
Blessed is He who gave joy to Adam!

Scented breezes blow
with varied force;
like Martha and Mary,
they hasten with delicate foods,
for the guests at this banquet
never have to depart at all.
Weary Martha5
made so bold
as to complain to Him
who invites us to His Paradise
where those who minister
never weary in their service.
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The breezes of Paradise
hasten to attend to the just:
one blows satiety,
another quenches the thirst;
this one is laden with goodness,
that one with all that is rich.
Who has ever beheld breezes
acting as waiters,
some offering foods,
others diverse drinks,
one breathing dew,
another fragrant scents?

In a spiritual way do these breezes
suckle spiritual beings:
this is a feast where no hand labors
or ever grows tired;
the teeth do not weary,
the stomach never grows heavy.
Who has ever reclined and enjoyed himself
without anyone slaving away?
Who has eaten to satisfaction without any food,
or drunk and become merry without any drink?

In seedlings you can observe
symbols clearly marked.
When the wind gives suck
to wheat and to the ears of corn,
it nourishes them as it blows,
by its force it fattens them up.
How much more should those winds
full of blessing
give suck to the seedlings of Paradise
which are both rational and spiritual?
For that which is spiritual
has the Spirit's breath as its nourishment.
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Breezes full of discernment
nourish the discerning;
this breeze provides you with nourishment in
that one delights you as it blows,
one causes your countenance to shine,
while another gives you enjoyment.
Who has ever experienced
delight in this way,
eating, without employing his hands,
drinking, without using his mouth?
As both cupbearer and baker
do these delightful breezes act

Even today on this earth of thorns6
we can see in the field
the spikes of wheat which God,
despite those curses, has given:
cradled within them, the grains receive their birth,
thanks to the wind;
at the good will of the Most High,
who can perform all things,
does the breeze suckle them,
like a mother's breast it nurtures them,
so that herein may be depicted a type
of how spiritual beings are nourished

If the grain of wheat
which gives sustenance to our bodies
(though most of it, as refuse,
the body evacuates)
--if the grain is nourished by the air,
fattened by the wind,
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how much more, in their refinement,
can the breezes
from Eden's treasure store
bestow on spiritual beings
etherial juices
and foods that are spiritual

Learn too from the fire
how the air's breath is all-nourishing;
if fire is confined
in a place without air,
its flame starts to flicker
as it gasps for breath.
Who has ever beheld
a mother give suck
with her whole being to everything?
Upon her hangs the whole universe,
while she depends on the One
who is that Power which nourishes all

The Chaldeans* are thus put to shame:
for they exalted the stars,
saying that it is they alone
which give to the world all its nourishment.
But it is the air which gives suck
to the stars as well as to seedlings,
to reptiles and to man.
This we are taught by the fire
which itself is nourished by air,
--and fire has a close affinity
with those heavenly luminaries

For if the soul
flies away when air is absent--

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since air is the body's pillar
upon which our frame is supported,
being the bread of our bread,
on which our own "field" grows fat--
how much the more, then,
can this blessed air
give to spiritual beings pleasure
as they partake and drink of it,
fly about and swim in it--
this veritable ocean of delights?

Instead of bread, it is the very fragrance of Paradise
that gives nourishment;
instead of liquid,
this life-giving breeze does service:
the senses delight
in its luxuriant waves
which surge up
in endless variety,
with joyous intensity.
Being unburdened,
the senses stand in awe and delight
before the divine Majesty

Today our bodies grow hungry
and have to be fed,
but yonder it is souls,
instead of bodies, that crave food.
The soul receives sustenance
appropriate to its needs;
it is by the Nourisher of all
that the soul receives its fill,
and not by any other
variety of food;
it pastures on His beauties,
full of wonder at His treasures
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with their flow of blood,
receive refinement there
after the manner of souls;
the soul that is heavy
has its wings refined
so that they resemble
resplendent thought.
Thought, too, whose movements
are ever in a state of disturbance,
will become unperturbed,
after the pattern of that Majesty

Far more glorious than the body
is the soul,
and more glorious still than the soul
is the spirit,
but more hidden than the spirit
is the Godhead.
At the end
the body will put on
the beauty of the soul,
the soul will put on that of the spirit,
while the spirit shall put on
the very likeness of God's majesty

For bodies shall be raised
to the level of souls,
and the soul
to that of the spirit,
while the spirit will be raised
to the height of God's majesty;
clinging to both awe
and love,
it neither circles too high,
nor holds back too much,
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it discerns when to hold back,
so that its flight is beneficial

But if you are greedy
Moses will reproach you;
he took no provisions
as he ascended to the mountain summit;7
he was richly sustained because he hungered,
he shone with much beauty because he thirsted.
Who has ever beheld
a famished man
devour a vision and grow beautiful,
imbibe a voice and be sustained?
Nourished with the divine glory
he grew and shone forth

All that we eat
the body eventually expels
in a form that disgusts us;
we are repelled by its smell.
The burden of food debilitates us,
in excess it proves harmful,
but if it be joy
which inebriates and sustains,
how greatly will the soul be sustained
on the waves of this joy
as its faculties suck
the breast of all wisdom

Torrents of delight
flow down through the First Born
from the radiance of the Father
upon the gathering of seers:
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they indulge themselves there
upon the pasture of divine visions. Who has ever beheld the hungry
find satisfaction, fare sumptuously and become inebriated
on waves of glory flowing from the beauty
of that sublime Beauty?

The Lord of all
is the treasure store of all things:
upon each according to his capacity
He bestows a glimpse
of the beauty of His hiddenness,
of the splendor of His majesty.
He is the radiance who, in his love,
makes everyone shine
--the small, with flashes of light from Him,
the perfect, with rays more intense,
but only His Child is sufficient
for the might of His glory

Accordingly as each here on earth
purifies his eye for Him,
so does he become more able to behold
His incomparable glory;
accordingly as each here on earth
opens his ear to Him,
so does he become more able to grasp
His wisdom;
accordingly as each here on earth
prepares a receptacle for Him,
so is he enabled to carry
a small portion of His riches.
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The Lord who is beyond measure
measures out nourishment to all,
adapting to our eyes the sight of Himself,
to our hearing His voice,
His blessing to our appetite,
His wisdom to our tongue.
At His gift
blessings swarm,
for this is always new in its savor,
wonderfully fragrant,
adaptable in its strength,
resplendent in its colors

Who has ever beheld gatherings of people
whose sustenance is the giving of praise?
Their raiment is light,
their countenance full of radiance;
as they ruminate
on the abundance of His gift
there burst forth from their mouths
springs of wisdom;
tranquillity reigns over their thought,
truth over their knowledge,
reverence over their enquiry,
and love over their offering of praise

Grant, Lord, that I and those dear to me
may together there
find the very last remnants8
of Your gift!
Just the sight of Your Dear One
is a fountain of delight;
whoever is worthy
to be ravished thereby
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will despise ordinary food;
all who look upon You
will be sustained by Your beauty.
Praises be to Your splendor!

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