Halfway Between Awe and Love

Moses, who instructs all men
      with his celestial writings,
He, the master of the Hebrews,
      has instructed us in his teaching—
the Law, which constitutes
      a very treasure house of revelations,
wherein is revealed
      the tale of the Garden—
described by things visible,
      but glorious for what lies hidden,
spoken of in few words,
      yet wondrous with its many plants.

      Praise to Your righteousness
      which exalts those who prove victorious

I took my stand halfway
      between awe and love;
a yearning for Paradise
      invited me to explore it,
but awe at its majesty
      restrained me from my search.
With wisdom, however,
      I have reconciled the two;
I revered what lay hidden
      and meditated on what was revealed.
The aim of my search was to gain profit
      the aim of my silence was to find succor.

Joyfully did I embark
      on the tale of Paradise—
a tale that is short to read
      but rich to explore.
My tongue read the story’s outward narrative,
while my intellect took wing
      and soared upward in awe
as it perceived the splendor of Paradise—
      not indeed as it really is,
but insofar as humanity
      is granted to comprehend it.

St Ephrem the Syrian, beginning of Hymn 1 of the Hymns On Paradise, translated by Sebastian Brock


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