Holy Mothers of Orthodoxy

by

Eva Catafygiotu Topping


Blame It On Eve

Byzantium’s hymnographers faithfully echoed the attitudes and teachings of the Church Fathers. From hundreds of liturgical hymns the faithful heard that paradise had been lost because of Eve. "Blame it on Eve" rings in an endless chorus chanted as though by a single voice. In this chorus there is no sound of a discordant note, whether in the elaborate kontakion or the simple troparion. Throughout the liturgical cycle, hymns were sung in which Eve was maligned. The sacred poets who blamed everything on Eve included not only mediocre hymnographers but also the genius, St. Romanos the Melodos. Romanos called Eve "more serpent than the serpent." Eve was fated never to find a friend either among the church's poets or its theologians.

In compositions spanning a thousand years the same hostile vocabulary and imagery is used. Always Eve is associated with sin, grief and evil. Certain words were attached repeatedly with Eve's name to create formulas that become inevitable: Eve the agent of death and corruption; Eve's curse; Eve's pains; Eve the deceiver and the transgressor. These harsh phrases project in the hymns an unfavorable, negative and prejudiced icon of Eve and her sex. Except for the Theotokos, the Mother of God, all of Eve's daughters resembled their erring mother. Nor are woman saints and woman martyrs exempt from the shame of their sex. It is often said in the hymns that they are making up for Eve. But never is it said that a male saint or martyr is making up for Adam. The writers of Byzantine sermons and hymns—monks, abbots, bishops, archbishops, and patriarchs—unanimously branded our first mother with guilt and burdened her with responsibility for all of mankind's troubles. And at least one sacred poet has Eve abjectly confessing her guilt—to Adam.

Adam blamed Eve for the first disobedience. He was the first to place the blame, but unfortunately not the last. Too many Byzantine male voices took up the theme and blamed it all on Eve.

It wasn't fair to Eve. And it isn't fair to us.


Creation of Adam

The Creation of Adam