My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"Then the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put
the man He formed. Besides this, God caused every tree beautiful to the
sight and good for food to grow from the ground. Also, in the middle of
the garden were THE TREE OF LIFE AND THE TREE OF LEARNING THE
KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL… Then the Lord God took the man He
had formed and put him in the garden to tend and keep it. And the Lord
God commanded Adam, saying: ‘You may eat food from every tree in the
garden but from the tree of the KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL YOU
MAY NOT EAT; FOR IN WHATEVER DAY YOU EAT FROM IT, YOU SHALL
DIE BY DEATH" (Genesis 8:8-17).
In reading the story of Adam and Eve in the Old Testament Book of Genesis we understand that its author was Moses who was inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit to produce this beautiful account. However, to interpret it correctly we need to read it allegotically and symbolically.
Our Creator and Heavenly Father gave the first created man a beautiful place and a Divine Commandment. The man’s responsibility was to "tend and keep" the garden and obey His Commandment and he would enjoy the blessings of Paradise. But if he were to disobey His Commandment, he would die and his body would decay in the grave ("Die by death").
Although Adam and Eve disobeyed God they did not physically die the day they ate from the tree, the word "you shall die" indicate A SPIRITUAL DEATH through separation from God, this is what is referred to in Orthodox Christianity as the "Ancestral Sin." Adam and Eve fell from grace in so doing they were both expelled from Paradise as the Book of Genesis says, "therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of pleasure… So He cast out Adam and made him dwell opposite the garden of pleasure. He then stationed the Cherubim and the fiery sword which turns every way to guard the way to the Tree of Life" (Genesis 3:23-24).
"The Tree of Life" prefigures our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through Whom man regains Paradise. Man is transformed by encountering the Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son and Logos/Word of God. When man submits his life to Christ in repentance and humility, the Holy Spirit comes and through the sacraments of the Church bestows His grace upon him and lifting him up.
There is much more than one can say and theologize on the subject but that is not my intent. I would simply desire to contemplate and ponder on the beauty of the garden of Eden itself. Just allow yourself to imagine and visualize as much as possible how the garden was. The fact that the Almighty God Himself created it, must have been "very good" and anyone living there would sense the presence and glory of God. But not just beautiful and glorious but the holiest of places. Try, if you can, to imagine hearing "the voice of the Lord walking in the garden" (3:8). How infinitely glorious and unfathomable blessing is to be in your Creator’s presence for eternity.
The Holy Fathers of the Church confess a connection between the ναός (temple) and Paradise. Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki states that the: "Splendor of the ναός (temple) signifies the beauty of paradise…". What resonates with me is the Divine and compassionate words of our Savior to the "Good Thief" who appealed to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom. And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today your will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42-43). The repented thief is the first to enter Paradise. The unmeritted grace of God toward penitent sinners is real and reveals the true spirit of the Gospel. Those who enter Paradise will enjoy it in the presence of our Lord God" (Genesis 3:8).
The "Living Tree" is the Tree upon which our Lord, God, and Redeemer sacrifice His life to save humanity and to open the gates of Paradise to those who believe in Him and are obedient to Him. Jesus made our return home possible just as the prodigal son who too was in danger of diying in self-imposed exile in a foreign land and through his disobedience seperated himself from his Father Who loved him. Communion with God is life but seperation from God is death. Obedience to God is life but disobedience leads to exile and death. Through repentance one is restored and granted Paradise but the unrepentant choses death over life.
The Son of God, the Second Adam, awaits us to willingly follow Him. He is our Liberator, our Redeemer and God. In the icon of the Resurrection of Christ we see clearly the true story of our redemption when we see our Lord Christ reaching out with His hands pulling Adam and Eve from the grip of Hades. He frees them from death and restores them to life and His Kingdom. Communion with Him is restored and Adam and Eve are set once again in Paradise to dwell in the House of God forever. The gates of Hell are destroyed, Satan is bound forever and his realm is no more.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George