The curse, which is henceforth to lie so heavily on every human being, has been expressed in the sentence pronounced against Eve; the curse, to which the earth itself is to be subjected, is Adam’s sentence. “Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work (that is, on account of what thou hast done).” (Genesis 3:17) Adam had excused his sin. God does not admit his excuse; yet He mercifully makes allowance for him, seeing that he sinned not so much to gratify himself as to please the frail creature that had been formed out of his own substance. He is not the originator of the disobedient act. God, therefore, sentences him to the personal humiliation of labor and toil, and of eating his bread in the sweat of his brow. (Genesis 3:17, 19) Outside the garden of Eden, there lies the immense desert of the earth. It is to be the valley of tears; and there must Adam dwell in exile for upwards of nine hundred years, with the sad recollection in his heart of the few happy days spent in paradise! This desert is barren: Adam must give it fruitfulness by his toil, and draw from it, by the sweat of his brow, his own and his children’s nourishment. If, in after ages, some men shall live without toil, they are the exception confirming the general law and chastisement. They rest because others have labored long and hard for them; neither will God ratify their exceptional dispensation from labor, except on the condition that they give encouragement, by their charity and other virtues, to their fellow men, in whom Adam’s sentence is literally carried out. Such is the necessity of toil, that if it be refused, the earth will yield but thorns and thistles; (Genesis 3:18) such, too, the importance of this law imposed on fallen man, that idleness shall not only corrupt his heart, it shall also enervate his bodily strength.
Before his sin, the trees of paradise bent down their branches, and man fed on their delicious fruits; but now he must till the earth and draw from it, with anxiety and fatigue, the seed which is to give him bread. Nothing could better express the penal relation between him and the earth, from which he was originally formed, and which is henceforth to be his tomb, than this law to which God sentences him, of being indebted to the earth for the nourishment which is to keep him in life. And yet here also divine mercy shall show itself; for when God shall have been appeased, it shall be granted to man to unite himself to his Creator by eating the Bread of life, which is to come down from heaven, and whose efficacy for the nourishing of our souls shall be greater than ever the fruit of the tree of life could have been for the immortalizing of our bodily existence.
My desire blinded me; and the fruit that grew on Eden’s tree of knowledge seemed to me to be sweet to eat; but it has been turned into bitterness. Unhappy man, I have been driven from my home of paradise by intemperance!
O God of the universe! O merciful Lord! look with pity upon my lowliness, and suffer me to dwell near thy divine Eden, that so my eyes may turn towards the fair land I have lost, and I, by my tears, regain it.
I weep, and sigh, and am afflicted, as I behold the Cherubim guarding, with a flaming sword, the gate of paradise, which is shut against all sinners. Alas! how can I enter, unless thou, my Savior, grant me admission?
O Christ, my Savior, my hope is in thy great mercy, and in the Blood which flowed from thy sacred Side, whereby thou didst sanctify mankind, and open, O good Jesus, to them that serve thee, the gate of paradise, which heretofore was shut against Adam.
(O gate of life! Spiritual gate, which God has kept for himself! O Virgin-Mother of God, espoused to none but him! Open to me, by thy prayers, the once closed gate of heaven; that so I may glorify thee, who, after God, art my helper and sure refuge!)
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)