A week ago this past Sunday, we had the Gospel Lesson of the Publican and Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14) . There were two hymns from the Matins Canon that caught my attention for their theological content. The first states a simple truth in the Orthodox understanding of what it is to be human. Humans in this view were not created perfect, but were created with the possibility of perfection, if they chose that way of life.
Adam and Eve are seen in this theological understanding more as innocent children who did not fully understand the consequences of their behavior because they lacked real world experience with evil. This is why Satan was able to deceive Adam and Eve. The first two humans were not created with a fatal flaw, nor did they have evil inside themselves. They were innocent or immature and thus easily led astray by the allurement of temptation. So the first hymn says:
I was created naked in innocence and simplicity;
then the enemy clothed me with the garment of sin and passionate flesh.
But now I am saved, Maiden, through your intercession.
The sin of Adam and Eve was not to trust God in both protecting them from evil but also leading them toward a beautiful maturity. Satan promised them something more immediate and they trusted that Serpent whom they hardly knew at all. God knew the path for Eve and Adam to reach the maturity of theosis, but humans rejected God’s plan and decide to follow the Serpent’s plan to deification.
The second hymn is not actually related to the first, except that both have the the Virgin Mary as part of the plan of salvation. In this hymn we see clearly expressed the theological interpretation of the Old Testament that Mary herself is the ladder climbing to heaven which Jacob saw (Genesis 28:10-17). She connects earth to heaven because God descends through her in the Incarnation not only into the earth but also into the place of the dead.
You are the beauty of Jacob, Holy Virgin;
the divine ladder he saw in the days of old, stretching from earth to heaven,
for you bring down the Incarnate God from on high,
and bring mortal men up to heaven.
Mary’s role in salvation is thus foretold by the Old Testament. God promised to give us the means by which it would be possible for God to be united to humanity and for humanity to gain access to heaven itself. This promise turns out to be the Theotokos. In her the incarnation takes place, thus in her is realized the salvation of the world which God had promised from the earliest days of human existence.