The Garden of Eden from the Très Riches Heures...
How long were our first parents in paradise? Cornelius a Lapide mentions a few opinions in his Commentary on Genesis. One man suggests a day; another a week. Some suggest 40 days, so that our Lord atoned for Adam’s sin of gluttony by fasting for the same period. Some even suggest 34 years, saying that our Lord atoned for original sin by His whole life.
But Lapide himself prefers the opinion that he finds in St Irenaeus, St Epiphanus, one of the Sts Cyril and St Ephraim, namely that they fell on the very day of their creation, that is, ‘on the Friday, and in fact, at the very hour that Christ died on the cross outside Jerusalem, and restored the thief and ourselves to paradise.’
He gives three arguments for this conclusion. First, Scripture itself suggests no passage of time. It doesn’t say, ‘It came to pass on a certain day, that…’. The serpent is mentioned immediately after the marriage of Adam and Eve. The only reference to time is that the Lord God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.
Secondly, why would the devil have lost any time in tempting Eve? He was a murderer ‘from the beginning’, as our Lord says.
The third reason is particularly interesting. The theory of the fall on the same day as creation is supported, says Lapide, ‘by the perfection of nature in which Adam was established, by which, like an angel, he immediately determined himself and so chose one option or the other’. Of course Adam’s choice was not irrevocable, as was the angelic choice. Yet there is an analogy between his state of original justice and the original state of the angels. He, like them, was incapable of venial sin. He had no disordered attachments or emotions or bad habits to confuse or distract his mind. Nor did Eve. They could not slide gradually into mortal sin.
Citing St Ephraim again, Lapide holds that Adam was created at the third hour. This would be appropriate, since this was the time when the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples to remake them in the likeness of the second Adam.
Just six hours, and so many years ago. Yet how well I remember it.