Today in our reading of Genesis 3:21-4:7, we hear the lamentation of Adam and Eve who are driven out of the Garden of Eden because of their sin. This is the season to confess that we too have rejected the love, we have offended the righteousness, and we have turned our back on the goodness of our God. It is the time to wake up to the truth that like our first ancestors, we stand outside the gates of Paradise and must weep for what we have done.
We should lament because of the remembrance of what we once had and lost. We should be like the People of God who wept when they remembered Zion (Psalm 137:1). Likewise, we should mourn for the Garden of blessings for our homeland, for our security and protection, for our city, for closeness with the Lord, and for our Father’s house.
Lament Over the Affront to God
Yet, on a deeper level, should not merely lament for things that we once had or for the goodness of former days. Adam and Eve’s lament reached the agonizing realization that they had offended the source of their blessings. Their disobedience had broken their relationship with their Creator, Benefactor, Guide, and Protector. They left the Garden estranged, alienated, and distant from the Giver of Life. From then on, the story of the human race would be the story of the desperate quest to overcome this rupture of the relationship between the human and the divine.
The Most Profound Lament
The realization of our most grievous fault should cut like a knife into our souls. We should say with the Palam of David, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight” (Psalm 50 (51):4). We have not plumed the depths of repentance until we have come to this basic lament. Sin separates us from the Holy, Righteous, and Merciful God. Therefore, true repentance means that we “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). Nothing in all creation compares to the glory, goodness, and greatness of God. Thus, the most profound lament is not for the loss of anything but the Creator Himself.
Our Lenten lamentation can be of two types. The first is the mourning of despair which is entirely fixed in the past. The second is remembrance mixed with hope for the future. The latter type is the confident grief that prays in Vespers: “And may the Master open unto me the gates which I closed by my transgression; may He count me worthy to partake in the tree of life once again and of the joy which was mine when I dwelt in Thee from the beginning”1 (quoted in Fr. Thomas Hopko).
Indeed, the Lord promises that He will let Himself be found when we look for him in repentant longing. He said through the prophet, “And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart (OSB Jeremiah 29:13). In fulfillment of that promise, the Son of God left the Paradise of heaven and joined the human race outside the gate of exile. On the other side of the wall, He entered the land of toil, suffering, death, and corruption.
This Lent, therefore, let us return to the Lord with bold confidence in the mercy of God. May we lament our offenses against the Holy God with tears of mourning. But may these sighs of grief carry us into the presence of the merciful God. And having received the forgiveness of God, may we then resolve to struggle against the passions that we might no longer grieve our loving Heavenly Father.
1Quoted in Fr. Thomas Hopko: “Forgiveness Sunday: the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise.” 2014. https://www.pravmir.com/forgiveness-sunday-expulsion-adam-paradise/.
Great insight. Thank you.