The Expulsion of Adam in the Writings of St. Symeon the New Theologian (C)

This is the 35th blog in this series which began with Adam & Sin, Paradise and Fasting.  The previous blog is The Expulsion of Adam in the Writings of St. Symeon the New Theologian (B).

For St. Symeon (d. 1022AD) the very thing humans uniquely are capable of doing is loving God.  Love is only possible if you have free will and can choose.  If we reacted to God in love only because God made us that way, than we would not really be loving God because we had no choice but to love Him.  However, as creatures with free will we decide how to act towards God, we don’t just react to Him.  God put us in Paradise and gave us opportunity to choose to love Him.  If we chose love as our relationship with the Creator, we would grow ever closer to Him and ever more like Him.   However, that is not the choice our first ancestors made.  So Eve and Adam did not become more Godlike by choosing love, instead they lost their relationship with God through their self willfulness. By listening to the talking serpent  they found choosing love of God to be more than they were willing to do; so they fell from love and became afraid of God.

“As holy Scripture says, God willed from the very beginning to make His own good ours as well.  He bestowed free will on the first created couple, our ancestors, and through them on us.  This was in order that, not from sorrow or necessity, but as moved by a favorable disposition they should follow His commandment and do it with joy.  Thus they would be accounted as having acquired the virtues by their own efforts, in order to offer them up as their gift to the Master and so progressively be led up by them to the perfect image and likeness of God, and approach the Unapproachable without suffering bodily death or the danger of being consumed by His fire, and one by one, generation upon generation, draw near to Him.  But since the first couple submitted first to the will of the enemy and became transgressors of God’s commandment, they not only fell away from the greater hope, which is to say, from entering into the Light itself which neither fades nor has an evening, but were changed as well into corruption and death.  They fell into lightless darkness and, becoming slaves to the prince of the dark and ruled over by him, they entered through sin into the darkness of death.  Later we, too, who were born of them stepped to the will of this tyrant and were enslaved.  This did not happen by compulsion, as is show clearly by those who lived before the Law and under the Law. . . .    Then the Lord Who loves mankind… Who is able to do all things and is beneficent, undertook to accomplish this world through Himself.  For the man whom He had made by His own invisible hands according to His image and likeness He willed to raise up again, not be means of another but by Himself, so that indeed He might the more greatly honor and glorify our race by His being likened to us in every respect and become our equal by taking on our human condition.  O what unspeakable love for mankind!  The goodness of it!  That not only did He not punish us transgressors and sinners, but that He Himself accepted becoming such as we had become by reason of the Fall: corruptible man born of corruptible man, mortal born of a mortal, sin of him who had sinned, He Who is incorruptible and immortal and sinless.  He appeared in the world only in His deified flesh, and not in His naked divinity.  Why?  Because He did not, as He says Himself in His Gospels, wish to judge the world but to save it.”   (St. Symeon the New Theologian, ON THE MYSTICAL LIFE  Vol 1, pp 143-145)

God, according to St. Symeon, continued loving humans despite our rebelliousness and abandonment of the way of love.

God so loved the world as to save it.  God so loved humans that He became incarnate – God became human – precisely to let divine love reign in us.

He healed human nature of its brokenness by becoming exactly what we are, taking on Himself our sins and our sinful nature, in order to make us capable of loving again.

Next:  Using the Patristic Authors to Understand Adam

Spiritual Warfare: Acquiring Virtue

To become or be a Christian requires that one practices one’s faith.  PRACTICE.   Just like one practices playing a piano in order to learn how to do it well.  Repetitiously one practices.  It is what musicians do, what sports stars do, what people who want to become the best they can be do.   They repeatedly and continually practice a behavior until it becomes second nature to them and they no longer have to consciously struggle with doing this behavior, but find it has become part of their inner self.  So too Christians have to practice prayer – the Jesus prayer for example is to be said without ceasing.  Christians also have to practice virtues – love, forgiveness, humility, generosity, repentance, peace, patience, self control.   We have to choose to practice these daily.  And frequently in life, sometimes everyday, we are given small tests of these virtues to show ourselves how we are doing.

“We can see the same thing happening in every craft. For, when someone approaches a master in order to learn a craft, at the beginning one toils and is clumsy, sometimes even destroying one’s work. Nevertheless, one is not discouraged by this, but simply tries again. Even if the work is destroyed a second time, still one does not give in but shows the master one’s attempts. In fact, if one is discouraged and gives up, then one learns nothing at all. If one destroys the labor and work, then one will learn the technique with God’s grace and will start doing everything easily and confidently, to the point where one may even make a living from it.

 The same applies to spiritual work. If one undertakes the task of acquiring virtue, one should not imagine that one might achieve this immediately; for, this is impossible. Rather, one should make an effort, and not give up if it does not work out, simply because one cannot achieve something. Instead, one should try again, just like the one who wants to learn a craft. Moreover, by being very patient and not being discouraged, God will recognize one’s labor of desire and grant that one be able to do everything effortlessly. This is what is meant by the words of Abba Moses: ‘The strength of those who wish to acquire the virtues lies in this: that, should they fall, they do not lose heart, but stand up and try again.’”  (John Chryssavgis, In the Heart of the Desert – The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, pgs.136-137)