Humility as Being Human

“’What is humility?’ had a simple but penetrating answer: ‘It is when your brother sins against you and you forgive him before he comes to ask forgiveness.’ One story, which illustrates this, suggests that it was only through realizing this kind of humility in practice that one could become reconciled to another with whom one had a disagreement.

A brother was angry with another brother for something he had done. As soon as the second one learned of this, he came to ask the brother to forgive him. But the first brother would not open the door to him. So the one who had come to ask for forgiveness went to ask an old man the reason for this and what he should do. The old man told him,
‘See if there is not a motive in your heart such as blaming your brother or thinking that it is he who is responsible. You justify yourself and that is why he is not moved to open the door to you. In addition, I tell you this: even it is he who has sinned against you, settle it in your heart that it is you who have sinned against him and justify your brother. Then God will move him to reconcile himself with you.’

Convinced, the brother did this; then he went to knock at the brother’s door and almost before he heard the sound the other was first to ask pardon from the inside. Then he opened the door and embraced him with all his heart.”

(Douglas Burton-Christie, The Word in the Desert, pp. 252-253)

Forgiveness Sunday: Starting the Journey Home

Great Lent is often metaphorically described as a journey.  It is not a journey that we embark on by ourselves, but we do sojourn with our community of fellow believers.  It is a strange journey though.  Often when groups start on a sojourn more people begin the journey than finish it, as some always drop out along the way.  Lent is not like that.  For today we will begin the Lenten journey, officially it begins at Forgiveness Vespers tonight.  And while we all should be there to wish each other a good journey, sadly only a few well wishers will show up.  But at Pascha, the end of the journey, suddenly everyone wants to be there even if they didn’t sojourn at all.

The Lenten Journey is strange for another reason – for all of the spiritual hymns suggest that we are not beginning our journey today, but rather are headed home.  We are now far away from home, we are in exile in this land we call home – like the Prodigal Son, we find ourselves far away from home.  Where we are is a land of exile, even if earth is the only planet we’ve ever been on – and yes even the United States of America turns out to be a land of exile, not paradise.  And we only have to pay attention to the news to remember this – this is a land in which we use guns to murder our children.

But out true home is God’s paradise, and that is where we are headed, to the kingdom of God.    We are not leaving home, but going home.  And the foods we will eat on the way – Lenten foods – are not foreign foods, but the foods of paradise.  We have been away from home so long that we have forgotten what God gave to us.   Our Lenten sojourn is to revive in us that sense that we are in exile here and we need to find our way home, to our heavenly Father’s home.  In the Narnia books, if you read them, you might remember that the witch gave the children a candy delight which they loved so much that they forgot their true home.  That is the world which seduces us into wanting this to be the only world there is.  We think America is great again, so we aren’t even looking for our true home.

In a few hours we will embark on that noble journey which will last 7 weeks.  Few of us are ever willing to travel for seven weeks to get somewhere.  But Great Lent is a 7 week sojourn which is worth every minute, if we make it so.   We will be challenged by the duties we are to perform – forgiving one another, fasting, repenting, praying, maintaining sobriety, loving, being spiritually vigilant, attending the weekday church services.

Sometimes when we think about this great voyage of Lent, the image which comes to mind is that Pascha is all light, the light at the end of the tunnel.  The tunnel which we must pass through to get to the light is darkness.  This is often how we feel about Great Lent.  But the image is not correct.  In today’s Epistle we heard these words:

Romans 13:11-14:4
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

The imagery of today’s epistle is not that we are moving into darkness, but rather we are putting the darkness behind us.  The darkness is ending and the light is dawning on us.

In Lent we are moving into the Light.  So one of the hymns of Vespers tonight says:

The Lenten Spring shines forth, the flower of repentance!

Let us cleanse ourselves from all evil, crying out to the Giver of Light:

Glory to You, O lover of mankind!

We are to awaken from our spiritual hibernation and joyfully embrace the Light of Great Lent who is Jesus Christ.

One image to keep in mind – it is said in dealing with alcoholism and other addiction that the definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over but to expect that one will get a different result.  Nothing changes unless we do something different.  Great Lent is the time to stop the insanity, to stop our addictions and to do things differently:  repent, forgive, pray and love.

Forgive others from your heart and God will forgive you.   Treat people as if you have forgiven them.  Do it not to change them but to change yourself.

This past week in our country we had yet another instance of gun violence in which 17 people died in in one shooting incident.  A  young man with a gun inflicted untold pain on so many families in Parkland, Florida, but really across our nation.

Today is forgiveness Sunday and I want us to think about another story of a young person who lost her life to violence in an event that happened over 100 years ago in Italy.

Maria Goretti, an 11 year old Italian girl who was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.  Maria’s father died when she was 9 years old, and her mother and siblings lived in poverty, sharing a house with another family.  On July 5, 1902, Maria was home sewing and watching her younger siblings when the teenage son of the family whom they shared the home with attacked Maria with the intent of raping her.  Maria resisted her assailant and he stabbed her 14 times.  She lived about 24 hours after the assault and before she died she forgave her attacker who because he was a teenager was spared the death sentence and instead was sentenced to 30 years in prison.   While in prison, her assailant had a vision of Maria who came to him to say she had forgiven him.  She handed him a bunch of lilies but as soon as he took them in his hand they wilted and died.  He repented of his sin against Maria and when after 30 years  he was released from prison he became a lay monk and even attended the service in which Maria was declared to be a saint.

We are to forgive those who trespass against us – we forgive the sinner, we don’t forgive the trespass, for we cannot always undo the trespass.  Maria forgave her assailant but not what he did to her, for in the end he murdered her.

Maria understood the words of today’s Gospel that we are to forgive.  Maybe you feel someone you know has offended you and you can’t forgive them, maybe they even stabbed you 14 times by their deeds and comments.  Eleven year old Maria Goretti shows us it is possible to forgive such a person.

Our sojourn begins with forgiveness.

Forgiveness Sunday (2018)

If Lent is to be a truly Christian fast, it must be accompanied by love and forgiveness. Thus, before Lent begins, we are called to forgive everyone who has injured or offended us from the bottom of our hearts. Only then can we have a truly Christian Lent. Only then can our fast be pleasing to God.”   (Vassilios Papavassiliou, MEDITATIONS FOR GREAT LENT: Reflections on the Triodion, Kindle Loc. 281-83)

St. John Chrysostom tells us that we should consider forgiving others and reconciling with them as an essential part of spiritual lives – not something optional if it is convenient and easy, but something critical and necessary no matter what what the obstacles or what the cost.

If the Emperor had laid down a law that all those who were enemies should be reconciled to one another, or have their heads cut off, should we not every one make haste to a reconciliation with his neighbor? Yes, truly, I think so!

What excuse then have we, in not ascribing the same honour to the LORD that we should do to those who are our fellow servants? For this reason we are commanded to say, ‘Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’. (Matt. 6:12) What can be more mild, what more merciful, than this precept! He has made you a judge of the pardon of your own offenses! If you forgive few things, he forgives you few! If you forgive many things, he forgives you many! If you pardon from the heart, and sincerely, God in like manner also pardons you…

Do not tell me, ‘I have besought him many times, I have entreated, I have supplicated, but I have not effected a reconciliation.’ Never desist till you have reconciled him. For he said not, ‘Leave your gift, and go your way’. Although you may have made many entreaties, yet you must not desist until you have persuaded. God entreats us every day, and we do not hear; yet he does not cease entreating. And do not then disdain to entreat your fellow-servant. How is it then possible for you ever to be saved? In proportion as the good work is accomplished with greater difficulty, and the reconciliation is one of much labour, so much the greater will be the judgment on him, and so much the brighter will be the crowns of victory for your forbearance. (Prayer Book – In Accordance with the Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Kindle 2950-62)

Forgive us as We Forgive Others

“For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  (Matthew 7:2)

In our Orthodox Church we begin Great Lent with Forgiveness Vespers and within the parish mutually asking each other for forgiveness and forgiving others.    If Great Lent is a season of repentance – seeking God’s forgiveness, Christ would tell us the first step along this path is to forgive others.   Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev expands on this theme while commenting on one line in the Lord’s Prayer.

“ ‘And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Prayer is inextricably bound up with a person’s way of life. The reason for the difficulties a person experiences in prayer lies in an incorrect, unspiritual, and non-evangelical life. We sense this especially when we say the ‘Our Father’. Each petition of this prayer places us in front of a given reality, as if we were being judged – judged by our own conscience. And this prayer, if we pray from our soul and heart – if we really think about what is written here – should constantly force us to change our lives.

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Mt 18:21-35)

We say:

‘And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,’

that is, we ask God to forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are in debt to us. When we speak these words, we should ask ourselves: do we forgive our neighbors? Are we ready to place our own forgiveness by God in dependence on whether we forgive others? Isn’t this too frightening? Isn’t this too much responsibility?”

(Prayer: Encounter with the Living God, pp 117-118)

It indeed is both frightening and tremendous responsibility.  The way we will be judged by God is totally dependent on how we treat other people.  God judges us by our own criterion of judgment.   This is no doubt why in the church we pray constantly, “Lord, have mercy.”  God’s judgments are righteous, we constantly ask Him to remember to be merciful.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35)

The Expulsion of Adam from Paradise

In the long history of Christianity, many insightful meditations have been offered giving Adam voice to explain his free choice and to lament the loss of Paradise after sinning against God and being expelled from God’s hand-planted Garden of Eden.  Below is a modern meditation from Archimandrite Aimilianos who has Adam fearfully explaining himself, ignoring the merciful nature of the God whom Adam knew from the beginning.

“And so it was with Adam: ‘I’m over here, hiding, because I was afraid to see you, because I have sinned. I’m afraid that you wouldn’t accept my excuses; that You’d say it was all my fault. I was afraid that you would no longer acknowledge me as Your child.’

To be sure, Adam’s desire to justify himself, the various excuses he contemplated, were the signs of certain death. And this is why St. Makarios says: ‘When Adam fell away from God, he died spirtually,’ Seeking to justify himself, Adam condemned himself to life without God. Until then, the damage wasn’t fully done; the blow could have been blunted, the tradgedy averted. This was the critical moment which we all must face, when it becomes clear whether we’ll choose God or our self. As a general rule, we choose our self. Every day we repeat the sin of Adam. He fell when he opened his soul to the poison of the serpent, but there was still hope that he might turn and embrace God.

He could have raised his arms to God and cried: ‘God, I am your voice, your self-expression; I am your creation, your child, and I have sinned. Bend down and hold me; save me before I perish completely!’ Instead, he said, in effect: ‘What do You want, God? Have you come here to judge me?’” (Archimandrite Aimilianos, The Way of the Spirit, p 239)

Interestingly in the Gospels, it is the demons who have nothing but fear for Christ; they are terrified that He is there to judge them, yet they do not repent.  For example in Mark 1:24, the demons possessing the man cry out:

“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

Adam feared God and God’s judgment, yet it did not bring him to repentance, to seek reconciliation with God.  Instead, Adam blames Eve and God for his sin and fails to ask the merciful God for forgiveness and reconciliation.

Also in the various versions of the Gospel lesson of the Gadarene swine and the demoniacs (Mt 8:28-34; Mk 5:1-20; Lk 8:26-39), the demons squeal in fear that Christ is there to torment them before the Judgment Day, yet they do not seek to be reconciled to God.  So too in Archimandrite Aimilianos’ meditation, Adam fears God’s judgment, yet fails to seek reconciliation with the merciful Lord.

So often many want a just God who punishes sinners, yet so seldom do we willingly seek God in confession.   We believe sinners should fear God like the demons, yet what we should be doing is offering all an example by our own repentance.

In the next post we will consider words from St Silouan as he too gives Adam a voice of lament for sinning against his Creator:  Adam Laments His Exile.

Forgiving Others: The Greatest Lenten Practice

Liturgically, we Orthodox enter Great Lent at Forgiveness Vespers.  The first thing, the most important thing we do for Great Lent is to forgive from our hearts our fellow parishioners and our family members.

The sign of sincere love is to forgive wrongs done to us. It was with such love that the Lord loved the world.   (St. Mark the Ascetic, THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 3609-10)

St. Peter of Damaskos reminds us that it is forgiving others, more than anything else we do as Christians, which will lead to God forgiving us.  Nothing, not fasting, nor even repentance more quickly brings about God forgiving us than our forgiving others!

Moreover, if we do not forgive others their debts, the Father will not forgive us our debts (cf. Matt. 6:14). Indeed, nothing leads more swiftly to the forgiveness of sins than this virtue or commandment: ‘Forgive, and you will be forgiven’ (cf. Matt. 6:14).” (THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 26234-40)

We of course read in the Orthodox Church the Matthew 6 Gospel about forgiveness on the day before Great Lent begins.  We are reminded of the utmost importance of forgiveness to our own spiritual lives.   The way to being forgiven our sins, the way to repentance, the way to Pascha, the way to the Kingdom of God is to forgive others.

The Expulsion of Eve and Adam from Paradise

The Sunday before we enter into Great Lent has the theme of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.   Early church writers imagined that Paradise was a temple which God had built so that we could worship Him.  God’s expelling Eve and Adam from the Edenic temple was not done for punishment but rather to make us long for God and our lost relationship with Him.  On earth, we experience the absence of God and so seek for Him.  Liturgy and the church sanctuary are where we look to find God.

So repentance and the prayer life are natural ways which God provided for us on earth to seek Him and to work to re-establish the proper relationship with Him.   Priest and Professor Baby Varghese writes about the wisdom of St. Ephrem the Syrian regarding the Fall:

“When Adam and Eve trusted the word of Satan instead of God’s commandment, God ceased to be the center of their life. Thus man ceased to be a liturgical being and priest of the creation. He was incapacitated to offer worship pleasing to God. God expelled Adam precisely to give him an opportunity to repent and to make him aware of his former glory. God wanted that we should supplicate to regain our lost inheritance and dignity:

The Good One in His love wished to discipline us for doing wrong,

and so we had to leave Paradise with its bridal chamber of glory;

He made us live with the wild beast which caused sorrow,

So that we might see how little our honor had become,

and so would supplicate Him and beg to return to our inheritance.

In fact the goal of prayer is to return to our former inheritance:

We should learn from Daniel, who prayed

that he might come up from Babylon to the land of promise;

Babylon is the likeness of this earth, full of curse.

God gave us this type which He depicted so that we too

might pray that we return to our dwelling in Eden.

Blessed is He who brings forth through grace to our goal.

[…]For Ephrem, Adam’s fall means estrangement from God and consequently the cessation of the worship of true God. The very goal of incarnation was to bring man back to God and to restore the worship of true God:

The All-Knowing saw that we worshipped creatures.

He put on a created body to catch us by our habit,

To draw us by a created body toward the Creator.”

St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly Vol. 56, Number 1, 2012, pp 22 & 24)

Forgiveness Sunday (2014)

The forgiving father embraces his prodigal son.

Forgiveness is a bookend on both sides of the Great Lenten season.  The Sunday immediately before Great Lent begins is called “Forgiveness Sunday.”  On this day, we Orthodox take time to mutually ask forgiveness of our fellow parish/community members and to grant them forgiveness for any ways they may have offended us.  We are to enter Lent in a forgiving spirit.  And no doubt even if we poorly keep the food fast of Lent, if we manage to forgive from our hearts someone who has offended us, we have spiritually accomplished more than all the food abstinence could ever do for us.   Satan never eats and never forgives.   For the fast to be spiritually purposeful, we have to do more than Satan!  We are to forgive others from our hearts.

The other “bookend” of Great Lent is Pascha itself – this is the Feast in which we celebrate God’s forgiving us humans our sins as demonstrated in the death and resurrection of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.   All of Lent, the season of repentance and forgiveness, prepares  us for celebrating our being forgiven by God for our sins . . .  with this caveat:  we must be willing to forgive those who sinned against us.  More important than denying ourselves food, Lent is a time for us to let go of grudges, to forgive those who have offended us, to free ourselves from such resentments, so that we can in fact celebrate the resurrection of Christ, the destruction of sin and the forgiveness of sinners.  The abstinence from food is a way to learn to deny ourselves – even when we don’t want to forgive and don’t want to give up our ‘righteous’ anger – we teach ourselves to overcome our passions in order to love neighbor.

The Gospel Lesson for Forgiveness Sunday is Matthew 6:14-21, in which Jesus lays down for us the Gospel command regarding forgiveness:

Then the Lord said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your   trespasses.”And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Icon for the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

So we find in the desert fathers a meditation on God’s forgiveness of our sins and how we should be joyously willing to forgive others:

“ ‘If you say [to God], ‘Have mercy on me,’ God says to you, ‘If you want me to have mercy on you, do you also have mercy on your brother; if you want me to forgive you, do you also forgive your neighbor’ [Mt. 6:14]’

A basic question about forgiveness was whether one could be forgiven by God for one’s sins. A story is told of a soldier who came to Abba Mius and asked him ‘if God accepted repentance.’ The old man responded to the soldier with great tenderness by putting a question to him in the soldier’s own language: ‘Tell me, my dear, if your cloak is torn, do you throw it away? He replied, ‘No, I mend it and use it again.’ The old man said to him, ‘If you are so careful about your cloak, will not God be equally careful about his creature’ [John 4:10]’

On another occasion, a brother, probably a new convert to Christianity, asked Abba Poemen a very similar question, ‘If a brother is involved in a sin and is converted, will God forgive him’ Poeman responded with a question of his own, ‘Will not God, who has commanded men to act thus, do as much himself and even more? For God commanded Peter to forgive till seventy times seven [Mt. 18:22].’”

(The Word in the Desert, Douglas Burton-Christie, pg. 276)

Forgive as You Wish to Be Forgiven

A Lesson for Forgiveness Sunday

The Gospel:   St. Matthew 6:14-21

Then the Lord said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

A story from St. Silouan the Athonite (d. 1938AD)

“Among the stewards was a certain monk, Father P., who was outstandingly capable, yet somehow always unlucky – his initiatives usually met with no sympathy among the fathers, and his undertakings often ended in failure. One day, after such an enterprise had resulted in disaster, he was subjected to sharp criticism at the stewards’ table. Father Silouan was present with the others but took no part in the ‘prosecution’. Then one of the stewards, Father M., turned to him and said:

‘You are silent, Father Silouan. That means you side with Father P. and don’t care about the interests of the Monastery…You don’t care about the damage he has caused the community.’

Father Silouan said nothing, quickly finished eating and then went up to Father M., who by that time had also left the table, and said to him, ‘Father M. – how many years have you been in the monastery?’

‘Thirty five.’

‘Have you ever heard me criticize anyone?’

‘No, never.’

‘Then why do you want me to begin on Father P.?’

Disconcerted, Father M. replied shamefaced:

‘Forgive me.’

‘God will forgive you.’

(Archimandrite Sophrony, St. Silouan the Athonite, pg. 61)


Expelled from Paradise: I’m Adam

The day before Great Lent begins is variously called in current Orthodox parlance: Cheesefare (though in my parish they refer to it as cheesecake Sunday since that is the fellowship hour theme for the day), Forgiveness Sunday, and the Commemoration of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.   Cheesefare refers to the fact that those keeping a strict fast will not eat dairy products once Lent begins until Pascha.  Forgiveness Sunday is the theme as we each in the parish ask forgiveness of one another before entering Great Lent and seeking God’s forgiveness for our sins.  The Expulsion of Adam from Paradise is the main theme of the hymns of Matins for this day. 

In this blog I will draw attention to several of the hymns from the Matins Canon commemorating the expulsion of Adam from Paradise.

Many of the hymns from the canon are spoken in the first person, “I”.  The hymns are Adam’s lamentation over what he had done and what he had lost through disobedience.    There also is some ambiguity in the canon hymns as to whether the “I” is Adam speaking or whether it is  each of us (who are reading or hearing the text) recognizing the effects of the Fall on our lives.  The hymn suggests that the importance of the narrative of Adam is not so much as a historical account of the first human as it is a prototypical story – the story of each of us.  Adam’s story is the story of each human being – Adam’s story is my story.  I’m in the world I’m in and I’m in the relationship to God that I’m in because I have lived and behaved exactly as Adam lived and behaved.  I stand in  the shoes of Adam or Eve (so to speak – if they had any) and I come to realize I’m him or her and they are me.  Adam’s lamentation over his loss and his exile needs to become my lamentation in this world, if I’m ever to learn what it is to be truly and fully human.

The trouble is, of course, that having been born in this world, I may not have that sense of loss and of being in exile because I’ve not known any world accept this one.   However, to truly appreciate Christ and salvation and to embrace a spiritual life, I need to have that sense that I am not home here but am a sojourner.  Certainly I cannot understand Christ and His sacrifice if I don’t realize that I am Adam in this world and as a result of my own sin, I’m exiled from the presence of God.   Great Lent and the fast are to teach me how to experience this exile and to realize what a true human should experience in his or her daily life.  Which is why the fast – practicing self-denial and abstinence is said to be joyous rather than a burden – I’m learning about my true nature, my true history, and my true home.

Great Lent works in a certain reverse way to teach me the sense of exile and loss.  For by keeping the fast, and denying myself the things of this world, I come to feel the sense of loss for this world, and I begin to feel exile from the life I love.   Only when I feel the loss of the comfort of this world and am indeed feeling exiled, do I come to realize the reality is this world which I love and cling to so much is the exile.  Here on earth I’m not blessed with the life in Paradise – that Garden of Delight from which Adam, and I, are really exiled.  This world which I’m so reluctant to give up during Lent – its foods, comforts, entertainment, pleasures – are in fact part of the exile from the true existence which God created us for!   I’ve fallen in love with and become addicted to the world of exile!   Great Lent is trying to remind me of that spiritual reality which I have lost.  Great Lent is trying to help me become Adam and Eve lamenting over their great loss, so that I can learn not to live for this world alone, but to long for that Paradise in which I will be with God as Eve and Adam once were.

Long ago the crafty serpent envied my honor and whispered deceit in the ear of Eve.  Woe is me!  I was led astray and banished by her from the dance of life.

I was fashioned out of the earth by the hand of God and told in my wretchedness that to the earth I should return again.  Who would not weep for me!  I am cast out from God’s presence, exchanging Eden for hell.

I weep, groan and lament as I look upon the cherubim with the sword of flame set to guard the gate of Eden against all transgressors.  Woe is me!  I cannot enter, unless You grant me freedom to approach, O Savior.  I boldly put my trust in the abundance of Your mercies, Christ my Savior, and in the Blood that flowed from Your divine side; for through Your Blood, loving Lord, You have sanctified the nature of mortal man, and have opened to those who worship You, the gates of Paradise that were closed of old to Adam.

Adam is presented in the hymns of having the awareness to lament over his loss – this is repentance, his changing his heart and mind to embrace the goodness that God gave him in the beginning.  We are being called to recognize Adam’s loss as our own.    If we are ever to love Christ and follow Him, we have to embrace the notion of our exile in this world, rather than embracing the pleasures of this world and rejecting Paradise!

Now all of creation, including Paradise itself weep over our loss – all of creation groans awaiting our restoration and return (Romans 8:19-23).  It is we who have to learn what it is we have lost through sin and how sin keeps us far from the beauty of that spiritual Garden of Delight.

Ranks of angels,

beauty of Paradise

and all the glory of the garden:

weep for me,

for I was led astray in my misery

and rebelled against God.

Blessed meadow, trees and flowers planted by God,

O sweetness of Paradise:

let your leaves, like eyes, shed tears on my behalf,

for I am naked and a stranger to God’s glory.