The Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life (Part II)

Icon of the Mother of God of Georgia

Icon of the Mother of God of Georgia

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE AND THE TREE OF LIFE (Part II)
(Source: The Feasts of the Lord by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos)

The Godman Christ, the Tree of Life

Man's failure to follow the way towards deification (theosis) which God had carved out for him was not completely catastrophic for man, that is to say he was reduced irrevocably to his eternal destruction. What failed the test in the Paradise of Eden, Christ achieved through His Incarnation. However, man now went through terrible trials, deep pain and great afflictions. He experienced what death means, deep pain and great affliction. He experienced what what death means, what it means to be sent away from God. Anyone reading the writings of Saint Silouan the Athonite will discover what Adam's grief means. Only one who has been granted the great vision of God and then lost it can in any way understand and experience Adam's grief. And at this point we see the great value of Saint Silouan. I believe more and more that Saint Silouan had a very great astonishing theology. Anyone reading his writings feels the great power and rich wisdom which they hold. He was truly a theologian, because he experienced the fall of Adam, Adam's grief, but also union with the new Adam, Christ.

By His Incarnation Christ Himself opened the gate of Paradise. He does not simply let man enter it, but the tree of life itself, which is Christ, goes and moves towards man. Now the womb of the Theotokos, where from the first moment the divine nature assumed nature and deified it, is Paradise. And the Church which is the Blessed Body of Christ is the tangible and intelligible Paradise. All who are living in the Church and are really and living members of the Body of Christ can taste the tree of life, can overcome death and reach another dimension of existence. For apart from Christ the shadow and realm of death really holds sway.

With the union of Divine and human nature in the Person of the Logos (Word), the journey towards deification (theosis) becomes more steady. Therefore now salvation is not a matter of obedience to a commandment of God, but it is man's communion with the Godman Christ. Therefore in the Church we must not just live sentimentally, nor simply aim to satisfy our individual and philanthropic feelings, but we must live ontologically, united with Christ.  Our journey must be a journey of conquering death. And of course this will succeed only through the taste of the tree of life, Who is the Godman Christ.

So the Incarnation of Christ is broader than any juridical redemption or any expression of outward and sentimental love. It is a correction of the path of the fall, enjoyment of the life before the fall, and a sager continuation of the journey towards deification (theosis). It is what Christ says: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (St. John 10:10). This "more abundantly" is the deification (theosis) of man).

The Tree of Life in the Revelation

The Revelation of Saint John speaks of the tree of life. Christ, referring to the Angel of Ephesus, says among other things: "To him who overcomes, I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7).

Saint Andrew, Bishop of Caesarea, interpreting this, says that with the term 'tree of life' "he is pointing metaphorically to eternal life", which is to say Christ Himself. "He is the True God and the Life Eternal". To eat of the tree of life is nothing other than to "partake of the good things of the coming age". God will give a blessing to eat of the tree of life to him who wins "the war against the demons". And this victory is over the passions, with which the devil attacks men.

Some truths appear from this interpretation.

First, that the tree of life is identified with Eternal Life and Christ. He is the true life and He is the tree of life, which feeds every man.

The second truth is that that this is a great gift which is given from now on to the person who lives in the Church, which is the new paradise of divine grace, but then it will be given as in marriage to those who conquer. The Kingdom of God and Eternal Life has begun already. It is not a question of a reality that will come in a future age. The righteous are already tasting it. It is shown by the haloes (photostephana or crowns of Light) on the heads of the Saints, because the Saints have seen the Uncreated Light, which is eternal life and the Kingdom of Heaven. Now they are living it as in betrothal, then it will be as in marriage.

The third truth is that the Kingdom of Heaven, participation in the tree of life, is given to him who conquers the devil. Of course, this victory is not man's victory, but Christ's victory through man. The devil, death and sin were conquered through the Incarnation of Christ, and so too every man who unites with the victorious Christ has been given the possibility of conquering.

In any case it is a fact that also in the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) the truth appears that the goal of man's spiritual life is to eat of the tree of life. This can be achieved through partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, and it will be achieved more perfectly in the Kingdom of Heaven, after the Second Coming of Christ.

Eating of the Tree of Knowledge

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, referring to Adam's eating of the tree of knowledge, makes very beautiful comparisons which show that even today the same mistakes can be made which Adam made and that contemporary baptized Christians are also capable of tasting of the tree of knowledge.

When man's nous (soul) has been attracted to sensual pleasure and abandoned the memory of God, it is Adam's fall. Essentially it is the same sin and the same fallen state of Adam. Adam's fall lies essentially in the fact that his nous has been darkened, captivated by pleasure because he did not follow God's command. Captivity of the nous is a very serious offence. It is the core of every sin which man commits.

No one can maintain that it is impossible to be overcome by the power of the devil. For if Adam was imperfect although he was formed by God and had been adorned with so many gifts, much less can man boast of being perfect, since he is clothed in corruptibility and mortality. And if Adam, without having knowledge of sin, looked with passion and ate of that pleasurable fruit, "How can I who am passionate say that I use the pleasurable things of the world impassively and therefore I do not fall?"

So every day both the tree of life and the tree of knowledge are put before us. The former is given by the existence of the Church, which is the new paradise, with its offer of Holy Communion and our possibility of attaining deification (theosis) by grace. But we are confronted with the tree of knowledge of evil and good before the tree of life. Every day our freedom is tested as to whether we will follow Christ's law or refuse His command, have our nous captured by divine grace or remain slaves of the pleasant nature of the senses and things of the imagination.

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in Christ in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George