“By this one phrase, ‘I have sinned,’ Adam would have redeemed all the multitude of years which he spent in hell”

In the beginning God created man as the king of everything earthly, and not only of every­thing earthly, but of everything under the vault of heaven; for the sun also and the moon and the stars were created for man. And so being king of all this visible world, did man endure from this any kind of harm for his virtue? No, he did not. On the contrary, if he had always given thanks for this to God Who had created him, and had dedicated all of this to Him, he would have advanced yet more in virtues. And if he had not transgressed the commandment of God, of course, he would not have lost the kingdom which he had, and he would not have fallen away from the glory of God. But since he transgressed the commandment of God, he was justly banished from paradise and began to live in labors and cares, and died in banishment.

And now listen, and I will tell you something which no one has yet expressed with complete clarity. The Divine Scripture says: “God said to Adam: ‘Adam, where art thou?'” (Gen. 3:9). Why did the Creator of all things say this? Of course, it was in order to dispose Adam to come to his senses, to acknowledge his sin and repent. This is why He said, “Adam, where art thou?” As it were he said, “Adam, enter into yourself, acknowledge your nakedness and understand what a garment and what glory you have lost. Adam, where are you?” In a certain way, as it were, He awakens him and says: “O Adam, come to yourself and confess with humility your sin. Come out of the place where you are hiding. Do you think to hide yourself from Me? Say: ‘I have sinned.'” But he did not say this (or rather, I the wretched one do not say this, because this is my own passion). But what did he say? “I heard the sound of Thee walking in paradise, and I was afraid, because I am naked; and I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10). And what did God then say to him? “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee not to eat of it alone?” Do you see, beloved, the compassion of God? When God said to Adam: “Where art thou?” and Adam did not confess his sin, but said, “I heard the sound of Thee walking in paradise and I was afraid, because I am naked; and I hid myself” — He did not become angry at him immediately and did not turn away from him, but again asked him, saying: “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee not to eat of it alone?”

Do you understand the depth of God’s wisdom? When Adam said, “I am naked,” God said to him: “Why do you say that you are naked, and hide your sin? Do not think that I see only your body, but do not see your heart and your thoughts.” For Adam was deceived and truly thought that God did not know about his sin, saying to himself as it were: “I will say that I am naked. God, not knowing the reason for this, will ask, ‘How did you become naked?’ And I will reply to him, ‘I do not know.’ Thus I will deceive Him and again receive my previous covering. And even if I do not receive this, at least He will not banish me now from paradise and will not send me to a different place.” This is what Adam thought, as now also many people think — and first of all I myself — when we hide our sins.

But God, not desiring that the sin of Adam should be weighed down by this unawareness, said to him: “How did you know that you were naked, if you did not eat of the tree of which it was forbidden to eat?” He, as it were, said to him: “Do you think to hide yourself from me? Do you think I do not know what you have done? Why do you not say: ‘I have sinned?’ Say O miserable one: ‘Yea, O Master, in truth I have sinned, transgressing Thy commandment; I have obeyed the counsel of my wife and have committed a great sin, acting according to her word and transgressing Your own word. Have mercy on me, O God, and forgive me.'”

But he did not say this, did not humble himself, did not become contrite. His heart was hardened, just as mine is, the wretched one. But if he had said this, he would have remained in paradise and would not have been subjected to those deprivations which he later experienced. By this one phrase, ‘I have sinned,’ he would have redeemed all the multitude of years which he spent in hell. Here is what I have promised you to say! But listen a little longer, and you will understand how true my words are. God said to Adam: “In the day that thou eatest of it (that is, of the forbidden tree) thou wilt die the death” (Gen. 2:17) — that is the death of the soul. This happened immediately: Man was stripped of the garment of immortality; God said nothing more than that decree, nor did anything special happen after that. God, foreseeing that Adam was to sin, and desiring to forgive him if he repented, did not say anything more than the above. But Adam refused to acknowledge his sin and did not repent even when he was accused by God; for he said, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me — she deceived me” (Gen. 3:12).

O woe to his blinded soul! Saying this, he as it were said to God: “Thou Thyself art guilty, because the woman whom Thou gavest me hast deceived me.” This very same thing I myself now suffer, wretched and miserable, when I do not desire to be humbled, and to say with my whole soul that I myself am guilty of my perdition. But on the contrary I say: “That person over there inspired me to do or say this. He advised me and knocked me off the path.” Woe to my poor soul which speaks such words filled with sin! O most shameless and irrational words of a shameless and irrational soul!

And after Adam had said this, God said to him: “In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread, till thou returnest to the earth, for out of it thou wast taken. For dust thou art, and to the dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:19). As it were he said to him: “I told you to repent in order to remain in your previous condition, but since you are hard of heart and unrepentant, therefore depart from Me. This your departure from Me will be a sufficient chastisement for you; you are dust; and to the dust you will return.” Do you understand now that Adam, because he did not repent and did not say “I have sinned,” was banished from paradise, condemned to lead a life in labors and sweat, and to return to the earth from which he was taken?

Then, leaving him, God went up to Eve, desiring to reveal whether she should be justly condemned with Adam to banishment because she did not wish to repent. And He said to her: “What is this you have done?” — so that at least she might say, “I have sinned.” For what other reason did God say to her such words unless to inspire her to say, “O Master, it was from my lack of understanding that I did this, poor and miserable as I am, and disobeyed Thee, my Lord. Have mercy on me and forgive me!” However, she did not say this, but what did she say? “The serpent beguiled me” (Gen. 3:13). O stony insensitivity! You also, Eve, after you agreed to converse with the serpent, who spoke to you words which were against your Master and God, preferred him to God your Creator. You found his counsel better than the commandments of your Lord, and considered it truer than the commandment of God. And you do not acknowledge that you did badly, and you do not repent. Thus, inasmuch as she also did not wish to say, “I have sinned,” therefore she also was banished from the paradise of delight and removed from God. Penetrate to the depth of the mysteries of the man-loving God, and know from this that if they had repented, they would not have been banished from paradise and condemned to return to the earth from which they had been taken. How this may be, now listen.

St Symeon the New Theologian

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29 Responses to “By this one phrase, ‘I have sinned,’ Adam would have redeemed all the multitude of years which he spent in hell”

  1. Jnana Hodson says:

    Yeah, but the book would have ended there, just two or three pages in.

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  2. I need to read more of him, I liked this.

    There is a particular ceremony for lifting an anathema for someone already deceased written by St. Symeon. My friend and canon lawyer thinks St. Symeon wrote it specifically with Origen in mind.

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  3. Jonathan says:

    Is there in Eastern Christian thought an analogous concept to the Western “felix culpa”?

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    • rephinia says:

      I would say felix culpa is quite unchristian, so I hope not. Maybe because the East is always aware that death and suffering was the result of the fall of man through our Liturgy, I would be surprised if a spirituality of necessary/blessed suffering arose.

      What you would find though, is that given the reality of the fall, many mystics and ascetic would speak of the necessity of overcoming the passions which is a difficult ordeal. Maybe see Isaac or Evagrius or the Philokalia

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      • Jonathan says:

        Okay, but just so you know the phrase felix culpa appears in the Easter Vigil liturgy of the Roman Church. Whatever else one wants to say about the idea, I don’t think it’s “unchristian.”

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        • rephinia says:

          I don’t know the context of the use of the phrase in Catholic liturgy, but I still stand by it being unchristian. If one believes that evil is the privation of the good, then there’s no space for felix culpa.

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          • rephinia says:

            At least not in its hard version, it might be a useful ‘homiletic strategy’

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          • Jonathan says:

            Augustine is famous for stating evil as privatio boni, and he was also in league with Ambrose to give us felix culpa. So maybe it’s worth asking why this shape of story, if you want to think of it that way, has seemed so important to so many Christians and compatible with orthodox (intentional small o) Christian doctrine concerning evil. Or we could turn the question around and put it this way: Why, according to Eastern Christian thought (or whatever other position supposedly rejects the idea of felix culpa out of hand but accepts other parameters of Christian anthropology), did God create a human being able and even perhaps doomed to fall in a world where such a thing as the Fall was possible? What I am getting at is that one thing the felix culpa idea does is perform a kind of theodicy. It proposes a form of story in which the end or a sudden turn transfigures all that goes before it or, as Tolkien says of “eucatastrophe” in his essay on fairy stories (which is basically a restatement using a neologism of the felix culpa idea), shines a glory “backwards” on all that has occurred in the story up to that point. If you want to know the Catholic context, at the most pivotal moment in the Christian liturgical year, it is this: “O happy fault that merited for us such and so great a Redeemer.” A very great deal of Western thought and art has come from this idea for about 1700 years. I’m not interested in pitting one version of Christianity against another, but I do think interesting ideas can arise where we identify salient differences and divergences — and perhaps this is one such place.

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          • Jonathan says:

            And just to make my position — or lack of one — clearer, I’m not saying I believe the felix culpa idea, whatever “believe” would mean here, any more than I believe or understand the idea of the Fall or original sin, etc. Paradise and all that follows from that story in Christian and Jewish tradition (and for all I know Islamic — but I am largely ignorant there) is just that — story. It is a certain shape or kind of story that captures a certain kind of longing or desire. The desire is the thing I know is for sure real.

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        • Grant says:

          In terms of why would God create humans that could fall (or angels, spirits and so on) I think it is a necessary possibly (and I stress only possiblity) for a created rational spirit called from nothing into divinity that it might fall back towards nothing. For a full development of that point DBH is much better than I am out outlining that point as here:

          https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2021/01/20/if-god-is-going-to-deify-everyone-anyway-why-not-deify-everyone-immediately/#comments

          In terms of God using or working through evil to bring about His good purposes (the evil actions both fallen celestial and earthly human in Christ’s crucifixion, and all the evil leading up to it) than I have no real problem with it. But I do and would agree with rephinia that I have a problem with saying evil is itself redeeming (it isn’t) or anything of death helps in itself to bring God’s purposes into being, to brings about something eternally good that could not happen without it. That makes death not God’s enemy, nor evil privitation but a tool of God’s creative work, to forge and realize God’s ultimate purpose, His assistant and handmadien, Satan as His faitfhul angel, with Paradise founded on the torture of the child (and so it would not be Paradise, but hell instead). A such a God is not Love nor the Good as Christianity proclaims Him and as Christ reveals Him That or death or nothingness is a shadowy rival and equal to God, or God is not God but just a god, working with resistant material to laws he is subject to. And again Christianity would be a lie. As the second creation myth presents it, the Fall is an event or state that need not have been and Adam (being all humanity in St Gregory’s sense and the angelic and spiritual and celestial orders) could have move or chosen otherwise in arising from non-being, and think that this is correct and vital for Christianity at least to be coherent.

          In anycase I go into that in my comments with Robert Fortuin and David in the discussion thread to DBH’s quote and in the discussion thread here:

          https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2020/11/14/st-maximus-the-confessor-on-the-cosmic-fall/

          On it’s basis, I largely agree with the sophiological solution by Bulgakov as developed by Gottshall here (though think the angelic and spiritual were part of the Fall with humanity) :

          https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/sergius-bulgakov-on-evolution-and-the-fall-a-sophiological-solution/

          This being mostly a reflection on the thought of humanity or creation at large doomed to be or go through death-bound, suffering and fallen state.

          In terms of disagreeing with St Augustine well there is nothing necessarily new there, I like allot and accept much of what he said, but I reject his misreading of Romans and his pre-destination concept as ruinious in Western Christian thought.

          But if by felix culpa is that we see God saving grace was at work and with us in the evil, to overcome, heal and destroy by that healing and restoration, that I have little problem with it, being something of a reflection of where we are in the holocaust we find ourselves in.

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          • Jonathan says:

            Thank you, these remarks (which for some reason I’ve only just seen) and those by some others have certainly been illuminating. I’m interested in why and in what form certain ideas and stories work for some people and not for others. I admit, I have never had a great love or desire for coherence (I always remember poor mad Ezra Pound’s last cries in the Cantos: I cannot make it cohere!), nor do I find much of it anywhere in life. Not the kind of coherence I think you mean, at any rate, the moral, logical sort. There is a wonderful and mysterious coherence, perhaps, in the ever-flowing Way, the incredible potency and pathos of life and time, perhaps Mechtild’s flowing light of the godhead. But for me, the tale is the thing (or the painting or the music… or the place) where contradictories can hold together, if they will. The Christian story is one such coincidentia oppositorum. But it doesn’t work for me to gloss over that tension, to “explain” it with some or another proposition that takes the form of, “If God be X, then Y and Z must follow.” What do I really know — in that propositional way — about God? That kind of thing is not truth for me, and I often recall that when Jesus was asked what is truth he answered nothing verbal. If indeed death is trampled down by death, then I don’t see how anything — not even that which is not — is just one thing or exists in one way only. The earth is cursed and the earth is sacred. We are fallen and all creation with us, if one wants to put it that way, and yet (to quote another poet, perhaps also a bit mad in his way, at times), “We are blest by everything, / Everything we look upon is blest.”

            And so maybe it follows (so to speak logically enough!) from this way of looking at things that I have little interest in who got what right, what positions people stake out, usually in an effort to appear coherent, at least to themselves or the groups and traditions to which they feel they owe some fidelity. In my own opinion — not that I expect it to matter to anyone — the Gospel would be better served if more of its professed adherents frankly admitted and embraced the contradictions upon which it is so plainly built. In other words, if they just told the story and let it do its work. Or told stories about the stories, as the rabbis once did. The Christian (and Jewish) liturgies are full of stories, because they are full of the Bible, the book of books and story of stories; and the liturgy itself is a story or the reenactment, the re-presentation of one. For me it has been a great loss that my family and I no longer participate in the liturgy (the liturgy that gives me that most enticing and pregnant of phrases, felix culpa, the liturgy in which I was baptized)—but so it goes. At least we tried for a little while, and may again someday.

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          • Grant says:

            But to me putting for a narrative that proclaims to completely contradictory statements, that being one God is against death, is it’s enemy, that it (and all evil of it) doesn’t come from Him, that He is light and in Him there no darkness, but also that He at the same time intends or brings into creation into being to have death, and thus is it’s author, as God also brings into being creation (if He is the God Christian narrative also presents Him as being, the transcend source of all Being) freely under no complusion, restrictions other than His own nature (and logical requirements, no square circles, married batcholrs and so on). No matter claims to secondary causes, as something meant to happen, a Fallen universe to bring about the ‘greater good’ (how I hate that phrase, with a burning passion) of the Kingdom is that death is part His creation and intention, temporary or otherwise (and of course, as something He intends why should we think therefore it won’t be a feature of the ulitmate destiny He would have planned?).

            But in anycase, you have presented a narrative that denies itself, and is not paradoxical or mystical, but just nonsense. Nor is it a nonsense founded on a prior acceptance of logic (say and Lewis Carroll sort) but just contrdictory nonsense, however beautifully or skillfully put forth, and is just saying something that cannot be both true. The New Testamental presentation of rescue from the celestial realms from captivity to dark and rebellious archons and powers, and of creation languishing and suffering under the tyranny of those and the power of death, that Christ, the Heavenly One of God from above comes to defeat and overcome (and whose affect He will deliver and end) is consistent in it’s picture. The other is not.

            A narrative which says God is Love and Good and against evil suffering and death (and that He is the Good and Love in any way that we and the Christian narrative protrays that to be, to have any analogous relationship with it) but also intends and dooms it to come into being, even temporary makes that statement a lie. It isn’t a enemy, it’s a tool, and a faithful one at that, the narrative of Job with Satan as God’s faithful prosector doing his part of God’s will is accurate, and evil therefore is not truly than evil. It’s part of God will, suffering is part of HIs will, part of what is forging creation into it’s ulitmate form, the means and fulcrum by which He achives His will. And again not out of necessity, but out of freely creative choice, which makes all acts of suffering land right back upon Him, evil is a revelation of God is view, and insight into part of the heart of what reality is, it isn’t against it or a deviation, it is part of the truth of ulitmate reality.

            That young Yazidi disabled child, chained out the desert in extreme heat to die agonising of thrist for wetting her matress while her mother was chained to watch, people being devoured by cancer, old, young, men, women, children, dying in agony, Spanish flu, COVID, mental illness, old age striping people of health, wits, dignity and bring suffering, all disablities, an animal eating alive by a python, luckly if suffocates to death before it feels the digestive juices coming upon it, mass disease, volcanoes, fly eggs embeded in living hosts until the young eat their way out, mass extinctions, whole classes of life wiped out, all life doomed to die in pain, suffering and loneliness.

            A narrative that says that is somehow intended, yet He who intended it is also against it, is talking nonense not paradox to me, or to claim that the Heart of reality is Love (as meaning anything related to how we understand it) is talking nonense in my estimation, quite obviously so. And if the claim is made that it isn’t Good or Love as we understand it, well then you just saying it isn’t Love or Good. And again, the narrative becomes meaningless.

            Now you can affirm a narrative to theism (or some similar transendant view or reality on that) but is isn’t one that agrees with the essential points of the Christian claims to God and that are at the heart of the very narrative it puts forth (I can’t comment on other traditions to well, as I’m to ignorant about them in any depth to comment).

            I’m am aware of course of Tolkien’s assertion that things greater than otherwise would be possible in his mythology, and this probably reflects some of his speculation. It is of course worth remembering that even within his sub-creative world, the Silmarillion isn’t a text descended from the Timeless Halls, but rather are stories transmitted from the Valar in a manner they understood it to the Elves (in a manner they could understand it) to Men (in a manner they could understand it) and then transmitted via various points until it arrived in the hands of the modern narrator (the fictional Tolkien in the fictional frame of his mythology). So it doesn’t have infallablity within his fictional frame, but in terms of the point itself, that says God is not God, that He requires external forces and evil to bring about His desires and intentions, that He needs evil to forge the world He desires. Therefore this being is more like the demiurge of Plato than God, and furthermore needs to make a faustian with death to bring about His World to Come.

            And so that World to Come is founded on the tortured masses to get there, Social Darwinian and the ideology behind say Nazism and Stalinism is essential aligned with God’s own view, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. And Paradies is founded on the torture of child.

            This isn’t intended as an attack on you Jonathan, or to say you belief or think along these lies, but more my distaste with the wider thinking at large that somehow thinks an intended Fall is in anyway reconcilable with Christian claims of God, and that it doesn’t do immense violence to Christianity.

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          • Jonathan says:

            I’ve been talking in the main about the Christian story as a story and the way it is expressed in a particular liturgy, the only one of which I have extensive practical, experiential knowledge, and so a sense for how it feels, what kind of consciousness goes into it or that it comes from. And by practical here I mean in part that I have brought my experience of the felix culpa idea and it’s liturgical consciousness to bear on thinking about story, and also in writing one, a forthcoming novel.

            What I have attempted to articulate is the mysterious idea not of a story which contradicts or denies itself (I don’t even know what that would mean) but of a story which is capacious enough to contain unresolved contradiction. If you dismiss out of hand that such a story can exist, then the discussion is of course over; though I have suggested at length here that tales of Faërie contain just such unresolved contradiction or paradox. In order to wrap my head around that to the extent it is possible to do so, I have also suggested that things/events/phenomena/what have you may be real or true on different levels of being, when viewed from different points of view. I am hardly the first to suggest this, and the idea should not be confused with a suggestion that God wills evil when it is nothing but evil, meaningless privation.

            My original query in this post was made in an effort to discover whether readers here perceive a significant difference in shape or quality between the version of the Christian story and its enactment or presence in actual life (not just as an intellectual construct) that involves the felix culpa idea and some other version or versions of it that do not. I feel like the discussion became sidetracked almost at once when it was assumed that felix culpa is a denial of the idea of evil as privatio boni.

            The basic question with the apparently necessary concession regarding privatio boni can be restated thus: Assuming that evil is not substantial and that God wills no evil, in what sense, if any, may the Fall (which is a story, like Tolkien’s myths, as you point out) be said to be happy?

            My most recent comments below, in the context of Dame Julian’s utterance regarding sin as “behovely,” may be a more succinct and palatable version of what I’ve been getting at — if it’s of any further interest.

            As it happens, Symeon’s hymns on Divine Eros contain, if I remember, some wonderful lines regarding the sanctity of the flesh, this natural body. If that is so, and if we only have these bodies by dint of the Fall into this existence which is “devastation,” then, well… I’m right back to the question as I’ve just restated it.

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          • Grant says:

            Well the Fall is in no way happy, it’s a disaster we fell into to take the second myth story, it is a disaster that could be avoided, it would have been better had Adam and Eve there had chosen otherwise, and so for our path from non-being would have been better otherwise. In our immaturity we moved badly and fell into a nightmare, being saved and delivered from that, healed and restored and the passing of death, is the good thing that comes out of it. But it would have been better hand it not been, not to have been enslaved is better than to be enslaved and then rescued. Will the story end express the glory that God wishes in different way due to our actions, sure, and looking to Brian’s qoute it He and it will bring great and just as glorious things in resolution out of the rescue and healing from that terrible mistake and disaster.

            But the glories would have been just as great had we not fallen and progresses peacefully into divinity, but than isn’t the reality that happened. But the Fall is not happy, and is a pious sillness to say that it is in my opinion, it’s the disasterous stumble into non-being from which we are being rescued from. We can affirm at the end it was truly good to have been created despite the horrors endured, but that God’s grace works through evil doesn’t change not only that it is evil, a lesser good than it should be, but also doesn’t change it would in that sense have been better otherwise. On balance it’s better I don’t have the fall that breaks my leg, or an accident that blinds me, all other things being equal.

            As to Faërie which is a seperate issue, the ambigiuty there is not suprising, as it is often an investigation and preception of the truer reality of the created world around us. It is to precieve beyond the limits to precieve the greater granduer of a glorious but fallen, or dangerous reality. It is the Perilous Realm, full of great terrors and dangerous, and of unexpected resources, beauty, grace from unknown sources and aid. To stray upon it could just as easily lead to great fortune, or terrible disaster, the love and blessing of the Elven queen, or to be condemned to torturous torment.

            Such is an insight into the greater realities of the reality we inhabit, as many myths and folk lore reflects, but a tradition such as the Christian stories pierces beyond that, to the reality the lies ‘above’, the true heart of reality itself, and revelation of that truth, not just of graces found within but the source and truth of those graces. It proclaims what and what that truth beyond the current state and Faërie is, and so although things in Faërie might point to this (and truth proclaimed in similar traditoins) a tradition here is one that goes beyond Faërie or the Chaotic world of the gods, both beyond it, and against the current nature of those terrors (the celestial rebel archons as St Paul saw them).

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      • Myshkin says:

        Origin charges the Christian to see the Gospel in all things; Felix Culpa is a means of seeing the fall as gospel.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Jonathan, there is, of course, the full form of the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” And before receiving Communion we pray:

      I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Therefore I pray Thee: have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen.

      Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss; but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord in Thy Kingdom.

      May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, but to the healing of soul and body. Amen.

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      • Jonathan says:

        I find the Jesus prayer to be one of the purest articulations of the repentant consciousness. It is maybe a fundamental point of confusion for me, how repentance (which I take to be maybe the most essential attitude of Judaism and Christianity) can be squared with the felix culpa idea. Of course Augustine wrestled with this paradox, how one can repent of sin which has led one to turn to god and to know god more fully than one ever could have done without sinning.

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        • Jonathan says:

          You get this same paradoxical coincidence of repentance and joy (to use Tolkien’s favorite word for the felix culpa effect) in Hasidism. I think it’s a really basic tension or paradox of the Jewish and Christian experiences, however it gets worked out in individual liturgical and prayer and literary traditions. I guess I’m wondering if those different ways are maybe more than just different ways, or how much those differences of language and story really matter. Clearly some people, like Rephinia above, feel they matter a lot. I have nothing against such a position, even if it’s not one I myself could adopt.

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          • Michael Robbins says:

            Just to note, citing Augustine will not usually gain much traction with Eastern Orthodox Christians, at least around here. He’s the one who started the whole tragic course of Western Christianity’s misprision of the gospel. (Not that I am denying Eastern Orthodoxy’s various misprisions. I find that “Christianity” names a number of different religions, none of which square entirely with my own understanding.)

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          • Michael Robbins says:

            (To clarify I refer to Augustine on the Fall specifically, not in general.)

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    • rephinia says:

      Sorry if my comment came across as ruder than I meant it to be, I didn’t mean to be divisive here.

      My point was something that I think Western Christian tradition agrees with – that evil is the privation of good, has no intrinsic ontological essence. And as such, it can play no positive role in God’s plan for creation whatsoever. Evil is entirely unnecessary to achieve God’s good ends in creation. Christianity sees death, evil, and suffering as enemies, things to be destroyed.

      When it comes to the problem of evil – I’m quite anti-theodicy. That is I don’t believe that the evil in history (to repeat myself) is part of God’s plan. I don’t believe that evil is elusively a willed by God, or created by him, or is a manifestation from him. I do believe that the resurrection shines a light over history through which we can interpret it – and I think this light reveals that much of history is false and will be discarded. The history of suffering isn’t the unfolding of God’s will that will one day all come to make sense and be morally intelligible. I’d recommend reading Ivan Karamazov’s Rebellion here and really coming face to face with the challenge it poses.

      I also reject the idea that the fall increases the beauty of redemption – hell I even reject the idea that the crucifixion was necessary for the incarnation because I believe that the Logos would have been incarnate even without any death or evil or suffering.

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  4. brian says:

    I am usually sympatico with Rephinia’s sensibilities. I guess this is one place where my Western Christian background instills a divide. I don’t see the felix culpa notion (eucatastrophe) as an alienating problematic, in any event. I am going to share two quotes from Christos Yannaras’ Variations on the Song of Songs that I think properly locate the deep sense of repentance:

    “To share out of your soul freely, that is what metanoia (a change of mind, or repentance) really refers to: a mental product of love. A change of mind, or love for the undemonstrable. And you throw off every conceptual cloak of self-defense, you give up the fleshly resistance of your ego. Repentance has nothing to do with self-regarding sorrow for legal transgressions. It is an ecstatic erotic self-emptying. A change of mind about the mode of thinking and being.”

    “Falls and contrition, humiliations and wretchedness, countless disappointments — all for a person to gain the ability to distinguish between the real and the fantastic. To acquire the innocence of the mature which allows the vision of unseen things.”

    Perhaps I ought to further clarify that “the fantastic” may very well be what is generally taken to be the prosiac ordinary, the self-evident, or the positivist, quantified conceptions of modern method. Literary fantasy may very well be a window into the the hidden realities of “the unseen.”

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    • Jonathan says:

      You know I love that book. I wonder sometimes about the relationship between repentance and detachment — by which I mean Eckhart’s “Abgeschiedenheit,” which I wrote about in Church Life Journal back during Advent (by way of talking about Jon Fosse’s novel Septology — you might like that book, Brian). That seems to me to have something to do with the idea of a sorrow that is not “self-regarding.”

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  5. John H says:

    Perhaps sin, as Julian of Norwich noted, is behovely or convenientia. Meaning that it is integrated into the tale of salvation in a fitting and harmonious fashion. So the Fall is not happy or necessary so much as consistent with the story of Christ’s ultimate triumph over sin and death, which, of course, we humans do not fully see in the metronomic time of our current devastation. For Julian also emphasized that in the end all shall be well. But only in the end will we see clearly how that is so and indeed why sin was “behovely.” Denis Turner wrote a great piece on this very theme but I can’t find it at the moment.

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    • Jonathan says:

      The philology of “behovely” as I’ve studied it at any rate doesn’t yield much other meaning than needful or necessary. But it’s not an abstract or metaphysical force, like Anangke. We’re talking about medieval England here, not classical Athens or Alexandria. It’s really more like saying inevitable, except again not in the sense of predestined or determined. All Julian means is that you can’t get through this life without sinning, a pretty basic biblical point which is why repentance is such a fundamental Christian and Jewish idea. If I may say so, I find that the English have always been a very practical (or earthy) and realistic people and their language has reflected this; and Julian is no exception. (The English Catholic poet Elizabeth Jennings has a wonderful essay about this: about Middle English in general and about Julian specifically.) Certainly for Julian everything, including all that unavoidable sinning, is under Christ. And that is the same sense in the liturgical use of “felix culpa.” No one is postulating that evil is substantial and somehow in its own right good. In the liturgy, the culpa is felix explicitly because of the Redeemer. It’s right there in the grammar. Catholicism is fairly well not Manichaean or dualistic. Whatever other beef people have with Augustine and the Catholic tradition supposed to come down from him (that would include Julian), the good Bishop of Hippo is himself pretty clear on getting over that temptation in his youth. My point all along has been more about how in the basic Christian vision or story, the eschatology is greater than the protology. In my end is my beginning: but the end is greater than the beginning. I don’t see how that isn’t one of the most essential aspects of the Christian understanding of the story of the cosmos and what gives time, for the Christian (or post-Christian) and all its uncountable stories and fantasies, transcendent value and meaning.

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    • Jonathan says:

      What I was thinking of in the last sentence I just wrote, above, was Tolkien’s rather amazing, radical idea that in “sub-creation” humankind participates in the “effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation.” That is just a metaphysically astounding idea, but it will only fly in a felix culpa world, so to call it, where what is recapitulated in the end is more than what was lost in the beginning.

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      • brian says:

        The generosity of God is such that he allows human beings to bring something new; our lives, even the bad ones, because they are all wanderings, somehow by the gift of Christ’s grace are allowed to increase the absolute Plenitude. This seems antinomic, but many contradictories for finite being are not so for eternal Being. Jonathan, you have a good translation of Claudel’s “The Day of Gifts” that hints at “subcreation” at the lowest level imaginable; and yet God weaves something out of even a disastrous life into a new song.

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