Blogit

Blogit

The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise

We find ourselves at the fourth Sunday of Triodion which is known as Forgiveness Sunday or Cheesefare Sunday. It is the last day we are permitted to consume dairy products until Pascha and a day that we ask forgiveness from each other. 
 
Great Lent begins tomorrow on Clean Monday (Καθαρά Δευτέρα) and hence the title, we want our souls to be pure as we begin the Lenten journey. Today we remember the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. Why were they expelled from Paradise? Adam and Eve were told not to partake from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They were given a simple fast from God not to eat the fruit from that one tree. However, Satan, disguised as a serpent, tempted Eve into partaking of the fruit. She ate the fruit and then gave some to Adam. 
 
Then the eyes of the two were opened and they knew they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. Then they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden that afternoon, and Adam and his wife hid themselves within the tree in the middle of the garden from the presence of the Lord God. (Gn 3:7-8). Adam and Eve were hiding because they realized what they did was wrong and were afraid to face God.
 
It was the feeling of shame that Adam and Eve realized they were naked. Embarrassment, guilt and humiliation are related to shame but not the same. Shame, in contrast to these, is the feeling of disconnection or isolation and to be fundamentally flawed. Guilt would be: I committed a sin; whereas shame is: I am sinful. The former refers to a particular action, the latter, a condition. 
 
Adam and Eve realized their nakedness once they sinned, not before. The emphasis of nakedness is not merely a lack of clothing but rather exposure of their sin. The same applies to that the eyes of both were opened. This signifies that Adam and Eve acquired awareness, a knowledge of good and evil and an acknowledgment of their sin. The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate (ibid, 12). Does this not sound familiar? We too blame others for our shortcomings instead of accepting responsibility. We blame others in order to relieve ourselves of the pain of shame. 
 
Yes, Eve was the one who first partook of the fruit but Adam was the one directly commanded by God to avoid it. When we sin our defense mechanisms become activated as a result of our pride. We try to deflect or deny that we are responsible for our sins.
 
The sin of Adam and Eve became known as the Ancestral Sin or the Original Sin. It was the disobedience to God, breaking a covenant He had established with mankind. Adam and Eve are then expelled from Paradise and God provided them garments of skin. This underscores that they are now mortal and will till the earth until they return to it. The Lord who created me took dust from earth and He formed me; then with His lifegiving breath, He made me a living soul, animating me, honoring me to rule visible creation and to share in the angelic life. But Satan the crafty one used the serpent as his own instrument, and tricking with forbidden fruit, separated me from the glory of God. Thus he has returned me to earth by death in regions dark and deep. "O Master, being compassionate, call me back again, I pray” (Sticheron from Triodion, Great Vespers).
 
We are reminded of the Ancestral Sin in order for us to reflect on our own sinfulness and how we can restore our covenant with God. As we heard last week on Meatfare Sunday, we are righteous before God when we do good to our fellow man. That is why on Cheesefare Sunday we make it a point to offer forgiveness to others and likewise ask them to forgive us. How can we ask God to forgive us, if we cannot forgive others? As we recite in the Lord’s Prayer: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
 
At the vespers on the evening of Cheesefare Sunday, it is custom at many parishes for all the people to gather together in a line, asking forgiveness from each other. This vesper service, also known as Forgiveness Vespers is actually the first service of Great Lent. 
 
Forgiving others is a great struggle for us all, but there is a prayer composed by St Ephraim the Syrian that is recited throughout Great Lent to help us: O Lord and Master of my life, do not permit the spirit of laziness and meddling, the lust for power and idle talk to come into me. Instead, grant me, your servant, the spirit of prudence, humility, patience and love. Yes, Lord and King, give me the power to see my own faults and not to judge my brother. For you are blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
 
If we see our own sins and not judge others then it becomes easier for us to forgive them and ask for their forgiveness as well. Great Lent is indeed an arduous journey but most certainly an opportunity for us to improve our relationship with God.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to hide from God out of fear and guilt. Let us not do likewise but rather seek God through prayer and confession. 
 
As we heard in one of the Αίνοι (Lauds) of the Matins this morning: Adam was evicted from Paradise as one disobedient, after partaking of its luxury. Moses saw God, after cleansing the eyes of his soul by fasting. Hence if we desire to become residents of Paradise, let us divorce ourselves from baleful delights, and desiring to see God, as did Moses let us fast the Four Times Ten. By sincerely persevering in prayer and supplication, let us suppress the passions of our souls; let us avert the swellings of the flesh; thus lightened, let us set off on the journey to things above, where the choirs of angels in unbroken song sing praise to the undivided Trinity, to see the irresistible beauty of the Master. O Son of God and Giver of Life, we who set our hope on You entreat: Make us worthy of dancing with the armies of angels, O Christ, at the intercession of Your Mother, the Apostles, Martyrs and all the Saints. 
 
Prayer, almsgiving and fasting are essential for each of us not only during Great Lent but throughout our entire lives. Let not these actions be Pharisaic but rather sincere like the Publican. Moreover, we must not judge the prayer, almsgiving and fasting habits of others. We cannot focus on our own sinfulness if we are more concerned with someone else’s. This is a common temptation we all fall into. Perhaps the hardest fast of all is refraining from judging others. We enter Great Lent remembering the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise but they are first to be redeemed in Christ’s Resurrection. 
 
A Blessed Lent to All!  Καλή Σαρακοστή!
 
-John Athanasatos 
 

A graduate of Long Island University, College of Pharmacy, and Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, John works to share the richness and beauty of the Orthodox Faith with the wider community.

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