Friday, August 18, 2006

Paradise Lost and Found


Dilmun, paradise of old, now has as a symbol for the current kingdom a great pearl perched upon a multi-pronged tower.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.


Matthew 13:45-46



When Adam was cast out of paradise, he was sent back to the place where he was formed to earn his bread from tilling the soil:

Genesis 2:7
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.

Genesis 3:23-24
Therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

In musing whilst on this trip something interesting occured to me. In the Gospel of Mark it says that Jesus, after being baptized in the Jordan River by the Prophet and Forerunner John, was "immediately" driven out into the wilderness by the Spirit to face temptation. Thus, the Spirit does to our Lord that which was done unto Adam, and does this immediately after the moment of glory when the Spirit has come down and the voice from heaven has said "this is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased - listen to Him."

Our Pearl of Great Price - our Life, Jesus, our Paradise, comes out into our desert to us, and brings paradise with him . . . indeed he is paradise. No longer is paradise a place (if ever it was), but it is a man - the Word of God, the Only-Begotten made flesh. He goes forth to find his lost sheep.

St. Ephraim of Syria, in his Hymns of The Pearl has these images to share down the centuries with us:

HYMN I.

** 1. **

On a certain day a pearl did I take up, my brethren;
I saw in it mysteries pertaining to the Kingdom;
Semblances and types of the Majesty;
It became a fountain, and I drank out of it mysteries of the Son.

I put it, my brethren, upon the palm of my hand, That I might examine it:
I went to look at it on one side,
And it proved faces on all sides.
I found out that the Son was incomprehensible,
Since He is wholly Light.

In its brightness I beheld the Bright One Who cannot be clouded,
And in its pureness a great mystery,
Even the Body of Our Lord which is well-refined:
In its undivideness I saw the Truth Which is undivided.

It was so that I saw there its pure conception,
The Church, and the Son within her.
The cloud was the likeness of her that bare Him,
And her type the heaven,
Since there shone forth from her His gracious Shining.

I saw therein his Trophies, and His victories, and His crowns.
I saw His helpful and overflowing graces,
And His hidden things with His revealed things.

** 2. **

It was greater to me than the ark,
For I was astonied thereat:
I saw therein folds without shadow to them
Because it was a daughter of light,
Types vocal without tongues,
Utterances of mystery without lips,
A silent harp that without voice gave out melodies.
The trumpet falters and the thunder mutters;
Be not thou daring then;
Leave things hidden, take things revealed.

Thou hast seen in the clear sky a second shower;
The clefts of thine ears,
As from the clouds,
They are filled with interpretations.
And as that manna which alone filled the people,
In the place of pleasant meats,
With its pleasantnesses,
So does this pearl fill me in the place of books,
And the reading thereof,
And the explanations thereof.
And when I asked if there were yet other mysteries,
It had no mouth for me that I might hear from,
Neither any ears wherewith it might hear me.
O Thou thing without senses, whence I have gained new senses!

* * *

HYMN IV.

** 1. **

The thief gained the faith which gained him,
And brought him up and placed him in paradise.
He saw in the Cross a tree of life;
That was the fruit,
He was the eater in Adam's stead.
The fool, who goes astray,
Grazes the faith, as it were an eye,
By all manner of questions.
The probing of the finger blinds the eye,
And much more doth that prying blind the faith.
For even the diver pries not into his pearl.
In it do all merchants rejoice
Without prying into whence it came;
Even the king who is crowned therewith
Does not explore it.

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