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Daily Meditations

Members of One Another (Part VII): Adam, Our Father

February 14th, 2019

St Silouan’s consuming desire for the salvation of all stands out in yet sharper relief when we take into account his teaching about what may be termed the ‘total Adam’. This is not, I think, a phrase that he himself employs, but it accurately sums up his point of view.

For St Silouan, Adam is ‘our father’, the ‘father of all mankind’. Following St Paul (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45), the Starets sees Adam the first-formed man as the collective head of the human race, containing and recapitulating within himself the whole of humankind.

There are obvious parallels here between St Silouan and St Irenaeus of Lyon, even though the Starets was probably unfamiliar with the Irenaean writings. This solidarity and recapitulation in Adam renders all human persons ‘consubstantial’ and ‘ontologically one’, as Fr Sophrony puts it. This ontological unity is not merely abstract and theoretical but specific and actual, ‘for the whole Adam is not an abstraction but the most concrete fullness of the human being’, to quote Fr Sophrony once more. It was the denial of this ‘consubstantiality’ that constituted, as we saw earlier, the essence of Adam’s fall.

This unity in the ‘total Adam’ is movingly expressed in the best-known of all St Silouan’s writings, ‘Adam’s Lament’. Here the Starets takes up and develops in his own way the liturgical texts for the Sunday before Lent, the ‘Sunday of Forgiveness’, on which the Orthodox Church commemorates the expulsion of Adam from paradise. In particular, he has used the ikos appointed for that day:

Banished from the joys of paradise, Adam sat outside and wept, and beating his hands upon his face, he said: ‘I am fallen, in Thy compassion have mercy on me.’…

O paradise, share in the sorrow of thy master who is brought to poverty, and with the sound of thy leaves pray to the Creator that he may not keep thy gate closed for ever. I am fallen, in Thy compassion have mercy on me.

As we read St Silouan’s prose-poem ‘Adam’s Lament’, it becomes clear that this is the lament not just of Adam but of Silouan himself, and not of him alone but of the whole human race. Adam’s sorrowful repentance is our repentance also:

The soul that has lost grace yearns after the Lord, and weeps as Adam wept when he was driven from paradise…. O Lord, grant unto us the repentance of Adam.

Nor is this all. It is the lament not of humankind alone but of the entire creation, for all created things are involved in Adam’s fall:

Thus did Adam lament,

And the tears streamed down his face onto his beard,

onto the ground beneath his feet,

And the whole desert heard the sound of his mourning.

The beasts and the birds were hushed in grief.

Lo, the whole earth is in travail.

~Adapted from Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, We Must Pray for All: The Salvation of the World According to St Silouan (http://www.bogoslov.ru/en/text/2314168.html).