John-of-Damascus_01Continued from here….

The tree of life, on the other hand, was a tree having the energy that is the cause of life, or to be eaten only by those who deserve to live and are not subject to death.

Some, indeed, have pictured Paradise as a realm of sense, and others as a realm of mind.

But it seems to me, that, just as man is a creature, in whom we find both sense and mind blended together, in like manner also man’s most holy temple [i.e. Paradise] combines the properties of sense and mind, and has this twofold expression.

For, as we said, the life in the body [in Paradise] is spent in the most divine and lovely region, while the life in the soul is passed in a place far more sublime and of more surpassing beauty.

There God makes His home, and there He wraps man about as with a glorious garment, and robes him in His grace, and delights and sustains him like an angel with the sweetest of all fruits, the contemplation of Himself.

Verily it has been fitly named the tree of life. For since the life is not cut short by death, the sweetness of the divine participation is imparted to those who share it.

And this is, in truth, what God meant by every tree, saying, Of every tree in Paradise thou mayest freely eat (Gen. 2:16).

For the ‘every’ is just Himself in Whom and through Whom the universe is maintained.

But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was for the distinguishing between the many divisions of contemplation, and this is just the knowledge of one’s own nature.

This, indeed, is a good thing for those who are mature and advanced in divine contemplation (which is of itself a proclamation of the magnificence of God).

And it is a good thing for those who have no fear of falling, because they have through time come to have the habit of such contemplation.

[…] But it is an evil thing to those still young and with stronger appetites, who…are not firmly established in the seat of the one and only good, are apt to be torn and dragged away from this to the care of their own body.

[…] Such knowledge was dangerous for Adam who had been so lately created.

The tree of life too may be understood as that more divine thought that has its origin in the world of sense, and the ascent through that to the originating and constructive cause of all.

And this was the name He gave to every tree, implying fulness and indivisibility, and conveying only participation in what is good.

But by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we are to understand that sensible and pleasurable food which, sweet though it seems, in reality brings him who partakes of it into communion with evil.

John Damascene (c.675-749): De Fide Orthodoxa 2, 11.

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