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)
d) 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 periphrastically 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 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 have 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) 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 is that in 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.
e) 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 shows 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 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 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 the 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.
f) The Christmas Tree
I suspect the custom of decorating a tree at Christmas time is not simply a custom which came to us from the West and which we should replace with other more orthodox customs. To be sure, I have not gone into the history of the Christmas tree and where it originated, but I think that it is connected with the Christmas feast and its true meaning.
First, it is not unrelated to the prophecy of the Prophet Isaiah: "There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" (Isaiah 11:1). Saint Cosmas the poet had this prophecy in mind when he wrote of Christ as the blossom which rose up out of the Virgin stem from the stump of Jesse. The root is Jesse, David's father, the rod is King David, the flower which came from the root and the rod is the Theotokos. And the fruit which came forth from the flower of the Panagia is Christ. Holy Scripture present this wonderfully. Thus the Christmas tree can remind us of the genealogical tree of Christ as man, the love of God, but also the successive purifications of the Forefathers of Christ. At the top is the star which is the Godman Christ.
Then, the Christmas tree reminds us of the tree of knowledge as well as the tree of life, but especially the latter. It underlines clearly the truth that Christ is the tree of life and that we cannot live or fulfill the purpose of our existence unless we taste of this tree, "the producer of life." And of course as for Holy Communion it is not possible to partake of deification (theosis) in Christ without having conquered the devil when we found ourselves faced with temptation relative to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, where our freedom is tried.
We rejoice and celebrate, because "the tree of life blossomed from the Virgin in the cave" (Source: The Feasts of the Lord: An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos).
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.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Theophany,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God