Hymns on Paradise: St. Ephrem the Syrian

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In his cycle of 15 Hymns on Paradise, St. Ephrem the Syrian weaves a profound theological synthesis around the Biblical narrative of Genesis 2 and 3. In this fine Christian poetry, the author expresses his awareness of the sacramental character of the created world, and of the potential of everything in it to act as a witness and pointer to the Creator. God's two witnesses, says Ephrem, are, "Nature, through man's use of it, [and] Scripture, through his reading it." In his writing, Ephre m posits an inherent link between the material and spiritual worlds.

St. Ephrem's mode of theological discussion is essentially Biblical and Semitic in character. He uses types and symbols to express meanings or relations, to reveal something that is otherwise hidden, particularly in expressing the connections between the Old Testament and the New, between this world and the heavenly, between the New Testament and the sacraments, and between the sacraments and the end of the world. Because his theology is not tied to a particular cultural or philosophical background, but operates by means of imagery and symbolism basic to all human experience, the theological vision expressed in his hymns has a freshness and immediacy even today.