St. Ephrem the Syrian in one of his poems takes us on a tour from Paradise to earth. Paradise is superlatively better than earth, and yet humans cling to the earth and don’t want to leave it. He compares our attitude to death to that of the infant in the mother’s womb – both the dying person and the unborn infant are reluctant to leave the world they know, even if they are entering into an even greater experience or life.
I was in wonder as I crossed
the borders of Paradise
at how well-being, as though a companion
turned round and remained behind.
And when I reached the shore of earth,
the mother of thorns,
I encountered all kinds
of pain and suffering.
I learned how, compared to Paradise,
our abode is but a dungeon;
yet the prisoners within it
weep when they leave it!
I was amazed at how even infants
weep as they leave the womb–
weeping because they come out
from darkness into light
and from suffocation they issue forth
into this world!
Likewise death, too,
is for the world
a symbol of birth,
and yet people weep because they are born
out of this world, the mother of suffering,
into the garden of splendors.
Have pity on me,
O Lord of Paradise,
and if it is not possible for me
to enter your Paradise,
grant that I may graze
outside, by its enclosure;
within, let there be spread
the table for the “diligent,”
but may the fruits within its enclosure
drop outside like the “crumbs”
for sinners, so that, through Your grace,
they may live!
(Hymns on Paradise, pp. 106-108)