Monday, June 18, 2007

Hymn on Paradise

St. Ephrem was born in a christian family in Nisibis, a town located in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. There, he was a deacon and a teacher. In 363, the town was handed over to the Persians and the christians from the city had to leave. St. Ephrem took refuge in Edessa where he lived until his death in 373, porbably on June 9th (although alternative dates have been recorded, including June 18th). He fought against the heresies of Marcion, Arius and others and most of his works were written during his time in Edessa. He wrote beautiful hymns and is called the "Harp of the Holy Spirit". None other than St. Jerome and St. Basil were impressed by his erudition. In the year before his death, the land being subject to a severe famine, he took care of the starving people.
He is honored as a Doctor of the Church.

Since we are now in the season of Ordinary time and on the brink of summer, I like to think about everything green. This morning reading from the Liturgy of the Hours (Psalm 1, Sirach 15: 14-17) bring to mind the Garden of Eden. St. Ephrem wrotes 15 Hymns on Paradise, they are well worth our attention and meditation.
Note the similarities between Psalm 1 and this second hymn:

Hymn on Paradise II

1. Blessed is he for whom Paradise yearns.
but, 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.
Response: Blessed is He who was pierced and so removed the sword from the entry to Paradise.

Translation by Sebastien Brock. Hymns on Paradise. St Vladimir's Seminary Press. 1990

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