Paradise and Pomegranates

Thy plants are a paradise of pomegranates with the fruits of the orchard.

Canticle of Canticles, 4:13

According to nutritionists, the pomegranate is a “superfood,” containing a high concentration of nutrients with a panoply of beneficial health effects. The fruit is also visually spectacular, as the above photo illustrates.

Sacred scripture chooses the pomegranate as an image of paradise: specifically, the paradise we find within our souls when we are wholly consumed by love of our heavenly Bridegroom.

Gregory of Nyssa notes that “the pomegranate is difficult for a thief to grasp because of its thorny branches, and its fruit is surrounded and protected by a rind bitter and harsh to the taste.”

“Once the pomegranate ripens in its own good time,” however, “and once the rind is peeled off and the inside revealed, it is sweet and appealing to the sight much like honey to the taste.” Even better, “its juice tastes like wine and affords much pleasure to the palate.”

The Bride of Christ, rather than becoming “soft by indulgence and enjoyment of this present life,” chooses “a life that has become toughened by continence. Thus virtue’s fruit is inaccessible to thieves,” who would have paradise on their own terms, “and is protected by the bitter covering of self-control.”

Beneath this rind of self-discipline, however, there lies concealed a fruit whose taste is sweeter than honey and more pleasing than wine.

Fittingly, the pomegranate is also chosen for the cover of this superb recording of Jan Dismas Zelenka’s sonatas, which prove him to be a master of baroque counterpoint second to none:

While there is no uninterrupted paradise on this earth, a foretaste of heaven becomes accessible even here below when we love the Lord, and rejoice in the blessings he bestows upon us now and in eternity.

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