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.
ADAM WAS CAST OUT FROM THE DELIGHT OF PARADISE:
WHEN HE BROKE THE COMMANDMENT OF THE MASTER IN UNCONTROLLED DESIRE,
HIS TAKING OF FOOD BECAME BITTER,
AND HE WAS CONDEMNED TO WORK THE EARTH
FROM WHICH HE HIMSELF WAS TAKEN.
HE ATE HIS BREAD IN TOIL AND SWEAT:
THEREFORE LET US LOVE ABSTINENCE,
THAT WE MAY ENTER THROUGH THE GATE,//
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:
OUR SINS ARE MORE IN NUMBER THAN THE SANDS OF THE SEA,//
BUT FORGIVE EACH OF US, THAT WE MAY RECEIVE AN INCORRUPTIBLE CROWN,
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)