St. Ephrem The Syrian, "Hymns on Paradise"

St Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Paradise, trans. Sebastian Brock (Crestwood NY: St Vladimir?s Seminary Press, 1990).
    Page 119

    Strophy 7.1

    In times of temptation
    console yourselves with God’s promises,
    for there is no deceit
    in the word of Him who repays all,
    and His treasure house is not so paltry
    that we should doubt His promise;
    He has surrendered His own Son for us
    so that we might believe in Him;
    His Body is with us, His assurance is with us,
    He came and gave us His keys,
    since it is for us that His treasures lie waiting.

    Res:
    Blessed is He who, with His keys,
    has opened up the Garden of Life

    7.2

    In the evening the world sleeps,
    closing its eyes,
    while in the morning it arises.
    He who repays is distant
    as it were but a night’s length away;
    now light dawns and He is coming.
    Weary not, my brethren,
    nor suppose
    that your struggle will last long,
    or that your resurrection is far off,
    for our death is already behind us,
    and our resurrection before us

    7.3

    Bear up, O life of mourning,
    so that you may attain to Paradise;
    its dew will wash off your squalor,
    while what it exudes will render you fragrant;
    its support will afford rest after your toil,
    its crown will give you comfort,


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    it will proffer you fruits
    in your hunger,
    fruits that purify those who partake of them;
    in your thirst
    it will provide for you a celestial draught,
    one that makes wise those who drink of it

    7.4

    Blessed is the poor man
    who gazes on that place;
    riches are poured in profusion
    outside and around it;
    chalcedony and other gems
    lie there cast out
    to prevent their defiling
    the glorious earth of Paradise;
    should someone place there
    precious stones or beryls,
    these would appear ugly and dull
    compared with that dazzling land

    7.5

    Both men and women
    are clothed in raiment of light;
    the garments provided to cover their nakedness
    are swallowed up in glory;
    all the limbs’ vile emotions
    are silenced,
    the fountains of lust
    are stopped up,
    anger is removed
    and the soul purified
    and, like wheat, it flourishes in Eden,
    unchoked by thorns

    7.6

    There virginity dances
    because the serpent,


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    who secretly poured venom into her ears,
    is now destroyed;
    the fig rushes up to her
    and full of joy exclaims:
    “Put away your ignorant
    childhood–
    the day when you became naked
    and hid in my bosom.
    Praise to Him who has clothed
    your nakedness with the robe!”

    7.7

    There youth exults
    because of what it has achieved;
    in Paradise it beholds
    and cast away the lust
    that flared up among the senseless;
    it sees too the child who overcame the asp
    in its hole.
    Samson overcame a lion,
    but a viper conquered
    and smote him, causing him straightway to lose
    his Nazirite locks.

    7.8

    There the married state
    finds rest after having been anguished
    by the pangs of giving birth, brought on by the curse,
    and by the pain of childbearing;
    now it sees the children
    whom it had buried amid laments,
    pasturing like lambs
    in Eden;


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    exalted in their ranks,
    glorious in their splendors,
    they are like kindred
    of the spotless angels.

    7.9

    Thanks be to the Merciful One
    who plucked them while still young–
    the children who are
    the late fruits
    to become in Paradise
    the first fruits of all.
    A novel sight may be seen there:
    these “fruits” pluck
    the fruiting produce,
    the firstlings pluck the firstfruits.
    In their purity both plucked
    and plucker are alike.

    7.10

    Bind up your thoughts, Old Age,
    in Paradise
    whose fragrance makes you young;
    its wafting scent rejuvenates you,
    and your stains are swallowed up
    in the beauty with which it clothes you.
    In Moses He depicted for you
    a parable:
    his cheeks, ashen with age,
    became shining and fair,
    a symbol of old age
    that in.

    7.11

    No blemish is in them,
    for they are without wickedness;


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    no anger is in them,
    for they have no fiery temper;
    no mocking scorn is in them,
    for they are without guile.
    They do not race to do harm–
    and so themselves be harmed;
    they show no hatred there,
    for there they are without envy;
    they pronounce no judgment there,
    for there no oppression exists.

    7.12

    People behold themselves
    in glory
    and wonder at themselves,
    discovering where they are.
    The nature of their bodies,
    once troubled and troublesome,
    is now tranquil and quiet,
    resplendent
    from without in beauty,
    and from within with purity,
    the body in evident ways,
    the soul in hidden ways.

    7.13

    In Paradise the cripples,
    who had never walked, leap around;
    the deformed, who had never even crawled,
    fly about through the air;
    the eyes of the blind and deaf,
    who had yearned from the womb,
    hungering for the light
    which they had failed to see,
    now rejoice to behold
    the beauty of Paradise,
    and the mighty sound of its harps
    gives comfort to their ears.


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    7.14

    At him who has uttered
    no curse or abuse
    does Paradise’s blessing
    rejoice all the more;
    upon him whose eyes’ glance
    remained always chaste
    does Paradise’s beauty
    gaze the more;
    in the limbs of him
    who quelled the venom of his thoughts
    do its springs of sweetness
    well up

    7.15

    The virgin who rejected
    the marriage crown that fades
    now has the radiant marriage chamber
    that cherishes the children of light,
    shining out because she rejected
    the works of darkness-
    To her who was alone
    in a lonely house
    the wedding feast now grants tranquility:
    here angels rejoice,
    prophets delight,
    and apostles add splendor

    7.16

    Fasters, who have chosen Daniel’s
    meager diet of vegetables
    –and before Daniel kings with their crowns
    bowed down and did reverence
    fasters like these do the trees,
    not kings, extol,
    bowing down in all their beauty
    and inviting them


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    to turn aside to the place where they grow,
    and take up their abode amid their boughs,
    bathe in their dew
    and rejoice in their fruits.

    7.17

    Whoever has washed the feet of the saints
    will himself be cleansed in that dew;
    to the hand that has stretched out
    to give to the poor
    will the fruits of the trees
    themselves stretch out;
    the very footsteps of him
    who visited the sick in their affliction
    do the flowers make haste
    to crown with blooms,
    jostling to see
    which can be first to kiss his steps.

    7.18

    The man who abstained,
    with understanding, from wine,
    will the vines of Paradise
    rush out to meet, all the more joyfully,
    as each one stretches out and proffers him
    its clusters;
    or if any has lived
    a life of virginity,
    him too they welcome into their bosom,
    for the solitary such as he
    has never lain in any bosom
    nor upon any marriage bed.

    7.19

    Those who have been crowned for our Lord’s sake
    with the martyr’s death by the sword
    shine out in glory there
    with their crowns


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    because their bodies despised
    the persecutors’ fire.
    Like stars do they blossom
    in Paradise,
    those seven sons of light
    with their radiant mother,
    who, in their deaths,
    spurned the wrath of the impious king.

    7.20

    The happiness of this place
    gives joy to the women who labored
    in the service of the saints:
    there they see that widow
    who took in Elias
    savor Eden’s delights;
    instead of those two fountains
    –the jar and the cruse–
    which gave her her livelihood,
    now the boughs of the trees
    provide this in Eden
    for all women who have given livelihood to the poor.

    7.21

    Nothing there in Paradise
    is useless:
    both grass and roots
    bring benefit and profit;
    whoever tastes them is rejuvenated,
    whoever breathes in their scent grows fair;
    in the bosom of its blossoms and flowers
    is hidden


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    a veritable treasure,
    a gift for those who pluck it;
    the fruits of Paradise bear rich wealth
    for those who gather them.

    7.22

    None toil there,
    for none go hungry there;
    none endure shame there,
    for none do wrong there;
    none feel contrition there,
    for there is no cause to repent there.
    Those who run the course
    find rest and quiet.
    None grow old there,
    for none die there;
    none are buried there,
    for none are born there.

    7.23

    They know no worry,
    for they have no suffering;
    they have no fear,
    for no snare awaits them;
    they have no adversary,
    for they have passed through the contest.
    They count themselves
    blessed
    unendingly,
    for their warfare is over;
    they have taken up their crowns
    and found rest in their new abode.

    7.24

    I saw that place, my brethren,
    and I sat down and wept,
    for myself and for those like me,
    at how my days have reached their fill,


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    dissipated one by one, faded out,
    stolen away without my noticing;
    remorse seizes hold of me
    because I have lost
    crown, name and glory,
    robe and bridal chamber of light.
    How blessed is the person
    who of that heavenly table is held worthy!

    7.25

    May all the children of light
    make supplication for me there,
    that our Lord may grant them
    the gift of a single soul.
    Thus would I have renewed occasion
    to praise Him
    whose hand is, to be sure,
    stretched out in readiness.
    May He who gives
    both in justice and in grace
    give to me, in His mercy,
    of the treasure store of His mercies.

    7.26

    And if none who is defiled
    can enter that place,
    then allow me to live by its enclosure,
    residing in its shade.
    Since Paradise resembles
    that table,
    let me, through Your grace,
    eat of the “crumbs” of its fruit
    which fall outside,
    so that I too may join
    those dogs who had their fill
    from the crumbs of their masters’ tables.


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    7.27

    And may I learn how much I will then have received
    from that parable of the Rich Man
    who did not even give to the poor man
    the leftovers from his banquet;
    and may I see Lazarus,
    grazing in Paradise,
    and look upon the Rich Man,
    in anguish,
    so that the might of justice outside
    may cause me fear,
    but the breath of grace within
    may bring me comfort.

    7.28

    Allow me to dwell by the enclosure
    of that Garden, so that I may be
    a neighbor to those within,
    envied by those outside.
    Yet who is able to look, at the same time,
    on delight and torment,
    to behold both Gehenna
    and the Garden?
    May the crown of those within
    rebuke me for all my sins;
    may the punishment of those without
    teach me how great is Your mercy toward me.

    7.29

    Who can endure
    to look on both sides,
    whose ears can stand
    the terrible cries of the wicked,
    who proclaim, in Gehenna,
    that the Just One is righteous,
    while the good utter praise
    in the Garden?


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    7.19

    The two sides gaze on each other
    in amazement,
    the works of each side, revealed,
    serve to admonish the other.

    7.30

    May my sins not be revealed
    to my brethren on that day,
    –yet by this we show
    how contemptible we are, Lord;
    if our sins are revealed to You,
    from whom can we hide them?
    I have made shame
    an idol for myself;
    grant me, Lord, to fear You,
    for You are mighty.
    May I feel shame and self-reproach
    before You, for You are gentle.

    7.31

    A man’s neighbor has become his god:
    every moment he seeks to please him;
    if he does wrong, he feels shame before him,
    if he does him an injury, he is afraid;
    or if he does him some good,
    then he has spoiled that good by his thirst for praise.
    Such a man has become an abject slave
    in all these ways.
    The Good One gave us freedom,
    but we have reduced this to slavery.
    May we exchange, for Your lordship,
    this overlord we have made for ourselves!

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