Adam’s Lament

Creation of Adam (Monreale Cathedral, 12th c.)
Creation of Adam (Monreale Cathedral, 12th c.)

Adam, father of all mankind, in paradise knew the sweetness of the love of God; and so when for his sin he was driven forth from the garden of Eden, and was widowed of the love of God, he suffered grievously and lamented with a mighty moan. And the whole desert rang with his lamentations. His soul was racked as he thought: “I have grieved my beloved Lord.” He sorrowed less after paradise and the beauty thereof – he sorrowed that he was bereft of the love of God, which insatiably, at every instant, draws the soul to Him.

In the same way the soul which has known God through the Holy Spirit but has afterwards lost grace experiences the torment that Adam suffered. There is an aching and a deep regret in the soul that has grieved the beloved Lord.

Adam pined on earth, and wept bitterly, and the earth was not pleasing to him. He was heartsick for God, and this was his cry:

“My soul wearies for the Lord,

and I seek Him in tears.

How should I not seek Him?

When I was with him my soul was glad and at rest,

and the enemy could not come nigh me.

But now the spirit of evil has gained power over me,

harassing and oppressing my soul,

so that I weary for the Lord even unto death,

and my spirit strains to God,

and there is nought on earth can make me glad.

Nor can my soul take comfort in any thing,

but longs once more to see the Lord,

that her hunger may be appeased.

I cannot forget Him for a single moment,

and my soul languishes after Him,

and from the multitude of my afflictions I lift up my voice and cry:

‘Have mercy upon me, O God. Have mercy on Thy fallen creature.‘”

Expulsion from Paradise (Monreale Cathedral, 12th c.)

Thus did Adam lament, and tears streamed down his face on to his beard, on to the ground beneath his feet, and the whole desert heard the sound of his moaning. The beasts and the birds were hushed in grief; while Adam wept because peace and love were lost to all men on account of his sin.

Adam knew great grief when he was banished from paradise, but when he saw his son Abel slain by Cain his brother, Adam’s grief was even heavier. His soul was heavy, and he lamented and thought:

Cain and Abel (Monreale Cathedral, 12th c.)
Cain and Abel (Monreale Cathedral, 12th c.)

“Peoples and nations will descend from me, and multiply, and suffering will be their lot, and they will live in enmity and seek to slay one another.”

And his sorrow stretched wide as the sea, and only the soul that has come to know the Lord and the magnitude of His love for us can understand.

I, too, have lost grace and call with Adam: “Be merciful unto me, O Lord! Bestow on me the spirit of humility and love.

This text is based on the texts by St. Silouan the Athonite. It has been translated into more than twenty languages. This particular translation, by Rosemary Edmonds, is used in the famous “Adam’s Lament” of Arvo Pärt and was performed as part of St. Vladimir’s Seminary Arvo Pärt Project concert at Carnegie Hall. Emphases added.

Author: Synaxis

Synaxis is a blog of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.