Hymn of the 9th Ode of the Small Paraklesis to the Theotokos
Being created in the image and likeness of God, man was not originally made to feel pain, to be sick and to die. The Fathers agree on this: for example, St Maximus the Confessor says that “When God created human nature, he did not create sensible pleasure and pain along with it.” 1
Sin darkened the minds of the first created, Adam and Eve, and their nature was inexorably changed. Since pain, suffering and ultimately death became part of their nature it was passed down in a hereditary fashion to all their descendants. St Cyril of Alexandria is definitive: “Human nature became ill and subject to corruption through the transgression of Adam, thus penetrating man’s very passions.” 2
Instead of our two-fold nature, body and soul, cooperating to orientate us towards God, we now have a tendency deep within us to allow our body, that is, its members and its senses, to enslave our soul to created things and to the pleasures they give to us. This is a perversion of our nature, which in the patristic literature is called “the malady of the senses.”3
It is a tendency but not a compulsion. God always helps us if we freely choose to call upon Him in our struggle against sin. Saint Macarius of Egypt explains: “The effectual working of God depends upon the will of man.” 4
This is why our Church, during the first 15 days of August, in the Paraklesis Service to the Theotokos, calls on us to pray to the Mother of God, she who is “more honourable than the Cherubim, incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim”, so that she may intercede for us to God, to offer us refuge from our own sick nature. We believe she can help us because our tradition tells us her intercessions are especially powerful, full of great boldness and assurance, just like a Mother would have with Her Son.
- St Maximus the Confessor, “Questions To Thalassios, 61” CCSG 22:85 trans. Blowers, P.M. & Wilken, R.L.
from “On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ” SVSP, Crestwood NY 2003 p.131.
- St Cyril of Alexandria, “Commentary to the Holy Gospel of John” PG 74 788-789
- St Isaac the Syrian, “The Ascetical Homilies”, Homily 1, HTM, Boston, 2011 trans. by pub. p. 114
- St Macarius of Egypt, “Fifty Spiritual Homilies”, Homily 37,10 from http://www.ecatholic2000.com/macarius/untitled-55.shtml
Source: August-September 2015 Lychnos Edition