St Ephraim the Syrian: Do You Resemble the Holy of Holies?

Feast of St Domnica the Righteous of Constantinople

Creation_Adam___Eve_Square_1.jpegTHE JUST ONE saw how Adam had become audacious because He had been lenient, and He knew that he would overstep again if He continued thus; Adam had trampled down that gentle and pleasant boundary, so instead God made for him a boundary guarded by force. The mere words of the commandment had been the boundary to the Tree, but now the cherub and the sharp sword provided the fence to Paradise.

Response: Deem me worthy that through Your grace we may enter Your Paradise.

Adam in all his filth sought to enter the Holy of Holies which loves only those who resemble it; and because he made bold to enter that inner tabernacle, God did not allow him to enter the outer one either. When that sea full of life saw a corpse in its midst, it did not leave it there but cast it forth.

Moses depicted the type among the people of the Hebrews: when a man becomes leprous within the encampment he is driven from its midst and cast outside; while if he sloughs off his leprosy and makes supplication (Lev. 13.46), the priest purifies him with hyssop, blood and water (Lev. 14.1-9), and he returns to his former abode and enters into his inheritance.

Adam had been most pure in that fair Garden, but he became leprous and repulsive because the serpent had breathed on him. The Garden cast him from its midst; all shining, it thrust him forth. The High Priest (cf. Heb. 9.11), the Exalted One, beheld him cast out from Himself: He stooped down and came to him, He cleansed him with hyssop, and led him back to Paradise.

Adam had been naked and fair, but his diligent wife labored and made for him a garment covered with stains. The Garden, seeing him thus vile, drove him forth. Through Mary, Adam had another robe which adorned the thief (Lk. 23.43); and when he became resplendent at Christ’s promise, the Garden, looking on, embraced him in Adam’s place.

Moses who doubted saw but did not enter the land of God’s promise; the Jordan served as a boundary. Adam went astray and left the Garden of Life; the cherub became a fence. Both boundaries were set by the hand of our Lord, but at the Resurrection they both entered: Moses, into that land, and Adam, into Paradise.

The tongue cannot relate the description of innermost Paradise, nor indeed does it suffice for the beauties of the outer part; for even the simple adornments by the Garden’s fence cannot be related in an adequate way. For the colors of Paradise are full of joy, its scents most wonderful, its beauties most desirable, and its delicacies glorious.

Even though the treasure that adjoins the fence is lowly, yet it surpasses all other treasures in the world entire; and by as much as the slopes, too, are lowly in comparison with that treasury of the summit on high, so the blessed state by the fence is more glorious and exalted than all that we experience as blessed, who live in the valley below.

Be not angry that my tongue has presumed to describe a theme too great for it, and so, through its own inadequacy, has diminished that greatness. As there is no mirror adequate to reflect its beauty, nor paints which may portray it, then may my attempt not be rejected, for I have labored to compose in my description of Paradise a means whereby we may gain profit.

The mourner can find comfort therein, the child be educated thereby, the chaste become radiant through it, the needy find provision from it. And so let each one of them throw me his little coin, and may they all make supplication for me in Eden, so that I may enter that place whereof I have spoken in so far as I am able; and so that the downcast may become desirous of the riches that it promises.

May my purpose not be judged by You, O Knower of all things; may my search not be held blameworthy by You, concealed from all; for I have not made bold to speak of Your generations, hidden from all; in silence I have bounded the Word. Yet because I have honored Your birth, allow me to dwell in Your Paradise. From all who love You be praised to Your hiddenness!

—St Ephraim the Syrian, Hymns on Paradise

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