According to the Bible’s Book of Genesis, God created the first man and woman and invited them to live in a heavenly place called the Garden of Eden. This couple, known as Adam and Eve, lived there in bliss until they took the advice of a serpent and disobeyed God’s command not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As punishment for their disobedience, God expelled them from the Garden, thus compelling them to work for their living, suffer pain, and eventually die. Medieval Christians honored Adam and Eve as the father and mother of all people and commemorated their story on December 24, the day before Christmas.
Eastern Christians, that is, those Christians whose traditions of belief and worship developed in the Middle East, eastern Europe, and north Africa, were the first to honor Adam and Eve as saints. Their cult spread from eastern lands to western Europe during the Middle Ages, becoming quite popular in Europe by the year 1000. Although the Roman Catholic Church never formally adopted the pair as saints, it did not oppose their veneration. Commemorating the lives of Adam and Eve on December 24 promoted comparison of Adam and Eve with Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Medieval theologians were fond of making such comparisons, the point of which was to reveal how Jesus and Mary, through their obedience to God’s will, rescued humanity from the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Indeed, the Bible itself refers to Jesus as the “second Adam” (Romans 5:14). Whereas humanity inherited biological life from the first Adam, it would imbibe spiritual life from Jesus, the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15: 22, 45, 49). Some theologians took this to mean that Jesus’ coming could restore humankind to a state of grace lost when Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden. In like manner, Mary would undo the effects of Eve’s disobedience. When the angel Gabriel visited Mary and delivered the message that she would bear a divine son, Mary replied, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, also Annunciation.) Medieval commentators relished the fact that in Latin, Eve’s name, Eva, read backwards spelled Ave, meaning“hail.” Ave Maria, or “Hail Mary” were the first words that the angel Gabriel spoke to the Virgin Mary. The spelling of these two shortwords seemed to them to symbolize God’s plan to reverse the consequences of Eve’s deed by bring a savior into the world through theVirgin Mary.
Medieval Christians celebrated Adam and Eve’s feast day with a kind of mystery play referred to as the paradise play. This little folk drama retold the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It ended with thepromise of the coming of a savior who would reconcile humanity with God. The paradise play was often staged around a single prop called a paradise tree. Actors adorned an evergreen tree with apples and sometimes also with communion wafers. Decked out in this way it served to represent the two mystical trees in the Garden of Eden: the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life.Although the church officially banned the performance of mystery plays in the fifteenth century, the people of France and Germany’s Rhine river region kept on decorating paradise trees for Christmas. Some writers believe that the paradise tree evolved into what we now know as the Christmas tree. Indeed, as late as the nineteenth century people in some parts of Germany customarily placed figurines representing Adam, Eve, and the serpent under their Christmas trees. In some sections of Bavaria, people still hang apples upon their evergreens at Christmas time and refer to the decorated trees as paradise trees.
As the Middle Ages receded into history, so too did the western European feast of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve have retained a bit more of their ancient importance among certain Eastern Christians. The Greek Orthodox Church still honors Adam and Eve on the Sunday before Christmas.
The previous link did not work so am re-posting one that I hope will. Thanks to Michael Marsh who first posted this though. Some of you will obviously get this through twice!
After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And that company does not mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises.
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head held up and your eyes open.
With the grace of an adult
Not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrows ground is too uncertain
For your plans.
After a while you learn that even sunshine
Burns if you have too much.
So plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting for someone to buy you flowers.
And you will learn that you can endure
That you are really special
And that you really do have worth.
Live to learn and love yourself.
In doing so, you will learn to live.
Speaking personally, I am now well into those Autumn years and am filled to over-bursting with reverence. I remember blissful innocence in young tender years and the heady mix of exuberance in those often turbulent summer years…and am busy qualifying for perseverance!!
I have recently been reading again [did not manage to finish it the first time] a delightful book entitled The Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer. The majority of my husband’s and my prayer practise revolves around this ever-deepening prayer, only 12 words long. It is a transformative ever evolving and deepening experience. I have posted several times on this Prayer of the Heart which is the one prayer monks and nuns of all traditions, and especially the Orthodox branch of the Christian Faith use silently throughout the day. I digress….
Towards the end of the book I came across something I had not known and wonder if many of you do…there is a church at the South Pole! Run by the Russian Orthodox Church it is a delightful church and I have found a small clip about it on Youtube.