St.-Gregory-NazianzenContinued from here…

This being He placed in Paradise, whatever the Paradise may have been.

And He honoured him with the gift of Free Will – in order that God might belong to him as the result of his choice, no less than to Him who had implanted the seeds of it,

and in order to till the immortal plants, by which is meant perhaps the Divine Conceptions, both the simpler and the more perfect.

And the man was naked in his simplicity and inartificial life, and without any covering or screen; for it was fitting that he who was from the beginning should be such.

Also He gave the man a Law, as a material for his free will to act upon.  This Law was a Commandment as to what plants he might partake of, and which one he might not touch.

This latter was the Tree of Knowledge. It was forbidden to the man to touch this not because it was evil from the beginning when planted, nor because God grudged it to us. (Let not the enemies of God wag their tongues in that direction, or imitate the Serpent.)

But it would have been good if partaken of at the proper time, for the tree was, according to my theory, Contemplation, upon which it is only safe for those who have reached maturity of habit to enter.

But this Contemplation is not good for those who are still somewhat simple and greedy in their habit; just as solid food is not good for those who are yet tender, and have need of milk.

But when through the devil’s malice and the woman’s caprice, to which she succumbed as the more tender, and which she brought to bear upon the man, as she was the more apt to persuade, alas for my weakness! (for that of my first father was mine), he forgot the Commandment which had been given to him.

He yielded to the baleful fruit; and for his sin he was banished, at once from the Tree of Life, and from Paradise, and from God; and put on the coats of skins…that is, perhaps, the coarser flesh, both mortal and contradictory.

This was the first thing that he learnt—his own shame; and he hid himself from God.  Yet here too he makes a gain, namely death, and the cutting off of sin, in order that evil may not be immortal.

Thus his punishment is changed into a mercy; for it is in mercy, I am persuaded, that God inflicts punishment.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 38, 12.

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