If our forefather Adam had kept the fast, we would not have been deprived of Paradise. The fruit which killed us was beautiful to see and good to eat, so let us not be fooled by our eyes, for after food is eaten it is worthless. Let us flee from intemperance, so that we may not be conquered by passions after having eaten our fill. Let us sign ourselves with the Blood of the One Who, for our sake, was voluntarily led to death, so that the destroyer might not touch us. Let us partake of the sacred Pascha of Christ unto the salvation of our souls.
This hymn chanted towards the end of today’s Matins is intimately connected with the first reading from Genesis read at Vespers today, the first Friday of Great Lent—the account of the Fall. Yesterday we learned how the Fast enriches us; yet our first parents mistakenly believed that the breaking of the fast, transgressing the God-appointed commandments, would make them gods. Aiming incorrectly by their consumption of the forbidden fruit, they missed the target. And not only did they not obtain the knowledge which they desired, not only did they not become like their Creator and Father, they became alienated from Him by their own choice. They were deceived in their choices, mistaking poverty for riches and corruption for immortality. They were deceived and distracted. They were distracted by improper impulses, lower desires, and emotions, their minds confounded by the confusion sown by the serpent: God does not want you to be like Him.
When in fact the opposite was true. God’s desire for Adam was that he grow his communion with his Creator, that he enliven the bond with his Father. Adam being conquered by the passions and lusts for power and authority, which were foreign to his nature, entered into communion with death and corruption. These were not sentences passed on him by God, but the natural results of his vain distractions. And to redeem Adam, to find Adam, God decides to become as Adam: Man, and perfect Man at that, without sin. He decides to take on Adam’s nature and to clothe Himself in mortality so as to swallow up death by the ultimate immortality of the Divinity, as evidenced in the Resurrection—after having suffered the Passion and the Crucifixion, descending into Hades and finally, Arising as One victorious, raising up Adam with Himself from the grave.
We, possessing Adam’s sinful nature also by virtue of the inclinations that constitute this sinful existence, aim at lower things. We love our health, we love our possessions, we love our money, we love our power and our status and our influence. We assume happiness and true joy are to be located in these destinations of self-centeredness; and yet having aimed wrongly, we return empty—empty in soul, heart, mind, and conscience, without God. And since we cannot find God in these things we cannot find ourselves, and we cannot find our brethren. Like Adam, we are exiled into our own personal Fall, condemned to communion with death, devoid of the Resurrection.
Our aim at things lower blinds us. These inclinations do not allow us to perceive the Heavenly truth and realities. The cynicism and hypocrisy that plague our Christian society are not, according to philosopher Jordan Peterson, excuses to “re-create” our Christianity or to replace it; we must return to our traditions, to the ancient ways held sacred and in common by all the saints through the millennia; this is where we find nourishment for our souls and the stability that we desperately need in these turbulent times. Great Lent is a time for simplicity, which if lived leads to stability and true repentance. Following Christ to His voluntary death through the Great Fast we are led to the source of Life. Let us anoint ourselves with His Blood—the Blood of the Spotless Lamb slain for the Life of the World—in an interior manner, an intimate manner, a mystical manner. Then we will be seen by death as unapproachable. Having tasted death at our life’s end but for a moment, we will attain to the blessed rest of those that love Him with their whole essence, and being redeemed from Adam’s curse, we will again become citizens of Paradise.