The Cross and the Death of Christ

Great Lent Sunday of the Cross 2010

“…whereas Adam’s sin allowed death to usurp the reign of man over the world, the work of Jesus Christ has restored ‘those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness to their proper role as truly human beings.  Thus the contrasts between Adam and Christ in (Rom 5) vv. 15-17 show that the task of the last Adam was not merely to begin something new, but to deal with the problem of the old; not merely to give life, but to deal with death. …  the realization that God’s anointed had died on a cross, not as the result of a horrible accident but as the paradoxical and unexpected revelation of the righteous of God …  (Christ’s) role was that of obedience, not merely in place of disobedience but in order to undo that disobedience.”  (N.T. Wright, THE CLIMAX OF THE COVENANT,  p 38)

The cross is the sign of the Son of God’s own obedience to the Father’s will.   We are to imitate Christ and to take up our cross to follow Him.  We are to love one another as Christ loved us (John 13:34, 15:12).

“For behold, through the Cross, joy has come into all the world.”

Matins Texts of The Expulsion of Adam & Eve (3)

In this series of blogs I will be quoting and commenting on hymns from the Sunday before Great Lent begins which commemorates the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.   The first blog in the series was entitled The Expulsion of Adam & Eve from Paradise (Hymns).  The blog immediately preceding this one is Matins Texts of The Expulsion of Adam & Eve (2).

 The Matins Canon for the Sunday commemorating the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise explores the issues of what effect sin has had on all of humanity.  It is not looking just at the original sin of Adam and Eve, as if that occurred in some vacuum.  Rather the texts understand Adam and Eve as prototypical (and thus typical!) of all human beings.  The sin of any of us and all of us has the effect of sin on all of us.  The texts below are from the “Sessional” Hymns of Matins.









AND NOT WEEP AS HE DID OUTSIDE OF PARADISE.                           

On the most literal level, the sin of Adam and Eve involved their own passion – their desire for the forbidden food which led them to break the “fast” God had imposed on them in Paradise.   God gave them one rule in Paradise – eat all you want of any of the trees except for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; for if you eat the fruit of this one tree, you will die.   The appetite of Eve and Adam got the better of them.  Nowhere in Genesis is there any indication that they ate of any other fruit of God’s Garden – they were given free rein to eat any, all as much as they desired of the rest of the fruit.  They were told to abstain from the fruit of the one tree, and that is the very fruit they grabbed and ate in defiance of God.   Thus for the Patristic and monastic hymnographers, abstinence, fasting, self control and self deny are the antidote for what ails humanit.

NOW THE SEASON OF VIRTUES HAS COME,                                                  

AND THE JUDGE IS AT THE DOOR.                                                       

LET US NOT HOLD BACK WITH A DARKENED FACE,                                         

BUT OFFERING TEARS, CONTRITION AND GIVING OF ALMS                                   

LET US KEEP THE FAST, AND LET US CRY:                                               



             SAVIOR OF ALL!

The activities prescribed for Great Lent for all who want to be disciples of Christ instead of just children of Adam and Eve:  repentance, contrition, tears, almsgiving, fasting and begging mercy from God.  Now we know the result of sin.  Unlike Eve and Adam, we have no excuse if we continue sinning.  God has offered us all a way back to Him through repentance.  We will be judged based upon whether we accept His offer or not.

We also can see in these texts why fasting was of such significance to early Christians.  Based upon their reading of the Genesis text, they saw the human sin as not only disobedience to God, but also as humans selfishly and self-centeredly following their own desires, passions, wants, and cravings.  Fasting is the effort to say “No!” to oneself. 

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. … For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?  (Matthew 16:24-26)

Next:   Matins Texts of the Expulsion of Adam & Eve (4)

God Questions His Creation: Genesis 4:16-18 (b)

See:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 4:16-18 (a) 

4:16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden. 17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad was the father of Me-hu’ja-el, and Me-hu’ja-el the father of Me-thu’sha-el, and Me-thu’sha-el the father of Lamech.

“Cain knew his wife…’   Even in the 4th Century the Patristic writers puzzled over from whence Cain’s wife could have come since the scriptures are silent about their origin.  Some thought God simply populated the earth with other people, some felt she must have been a daughter of Eve and that incest was justified at that time in order to secure the continuation of the human race.  The text seems to be following only a particular people, keeping the others outside the purview of the story.  It’s not denying that there are other humans created by God, but they are clearly secondary characters in relationship to those the Bible focuses on.

“…he built a city..”   The notion of Cain building a city seems to contradict the curse that God placed on him in verse 14 where is made into a wanderer.  Such contradictions may indicate different traditions have been blended into the final text (so Source Theory would argue) or that the text is not meant to be read with an inflexible literalism.

The first mention of a city occurs in the lineage of Cain.  “Civilization” is not presented in the best of light in this passage.  The “city” is seen as founded by sinful and violent men.    There is no mention of God in the city.  The fact that a “city” would be built suggests there are many more people in existence than our Genesis story is accounting for.  Cities can only exist if people (the farmers) have learned how to produce more food than they need for their own survival.  City life assumes the residents can purchase needed food or otherwise everyone would live on their own farms to sustain life. City life implies a certain level of social development – life developed beyond that of nomadic tribesmen.  The story doesn’t tell us what constitutes a “city” at this point, so we have no way of knowing what building a city requires; it probably implies, however rudimentary, some architecture, engineering and building skills, and also the tools and simple machines to do the job.   In Sirach 38 we read the following ancient ideas about what it takes to establish a city:   “So too is every craftsman and master workman who labors by night as well as by day; those who cut the signets of seals, each is diligent in making a great variety; he sets his heart on painting a lifelike image, and he is careful to finish his work.  So too is the smith sitting by the anvil, intent upon his handiwork in iron; the breath of the fire melts his flesh, and he wastes away in the heat of the furnace; he inclines his ear to the sound of the hammer, and his eyes are on the pattern of the object. He sets his heart on finishing his handiwork, and he is careful to complete its decoration. So too is the potter sitting at his work and turning the wheel with his feet; he is always deeply concerned over his work, and all his output is by number. He moulds the clay with his arm and makes it pliable with his feet; he sets his heart to finish the glazing, and he is careful to clean the furnace.  All these rely upon their hands, and each is skilful in his own work. Without them a city cannot be established, and men can neither sojourn nor live there. But they keep stable the fabric of the world, and their prayer is in the practice of their trade”  (38:27-33).

Unusual in the genealogy of Cain is that his death and that of his descendents is not recorded, nor are their ages listed.  Did the inspired author of Genesis want their memories forgotten as soon as is possible?

The names of Cain’s descendents are going to be paralleled almost exactly in the family tree of Seth (Genesis 5:15-25).   The names Enoch, Me-hu’ja-el, Me-thu’sha-el, and Lamech all have corresponding names in the genealogy of Seth in the same order of birth.  The significance of the repeated list is not known.  One theory of scholars is that the list of names is unquestionably ancient but through time oral tradition which carried the memory of these forefathers became unclear as to whether it was Cain or Seth’s lineage.  So both possibilities were recorded in Scripture.   We see perhaps a similar issue in the New Testament in which the names in the ancestry of Christ in Luke 3:23-34 and Matthew 1:3-16 do no completely coincide. 

Next:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 4:19-24