Myth does not share the status of history. It is not a factual chronicle of primordial events but a poetic insight more profound than an account of incidences ab origine , lost to us in time. Its dignity lies in what Jacques Maritain called creative intuition: “that intercommunication between the inner being of things and the inner being of the human Self which is a kind of divination.” Poems originate in the individual self; myth commences in communal instinct, the collective Self. At the core of myth is man’s quest to apprehend the hidden truths of existence. The myth of Original Sin is one such truth.

 

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Masaccio. The Expulsion from Paradise. Brancaccii Chapel, Florence.

 

That brings me to a broadcast letter from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in Yonkers. It came during Lent as part of the seminary’s annual Paschal Appeal. I have kept the letter for its quotation from Alexander Schmemann, theologian, liturgist, and establisher of an autonomous Orthodox Church in America. Father Schmemann finished writing a text on the eucharist shortly before he died in 1983. These words radiate the character of his theological reflection—on the eucharist and the myth of the Fall:

In our perspective, the original sin of man is not primarily that he disobeyed God; the sin is that he ceased to be hungry for Him and for Him alone, ceased to see his whole life depending on the whole world as a sacrament of communion with God. The only real fall of man is his non-eucharistic life in a non-eucharistic world.

 

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Max Beckmann. Adam and Eve (1917); Museum of Modern Art, NYC

 

We rise from the pew to take the Eucharist easily. But what it means to live a eucharistic life has no ease about it. If we fully grasped what it signifies—if we are even capable of it—we would crawl to communion on our knees.

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