Hilary of Poitiers: “And he shall be like a tree planted beside the rills of water” Wednesday, Jan 13 2016 

St_Hilary_of_Poitiers_cassienAnd he shall be like a tree planted beside the rills of water, which shall yield its fruit in its own season, whose leaf also shall not fall off (Psalm 1:3).

In the book of Genesis (Gen. 2:9), where the lawgiver depicts the paradise planted by God, we are shewn that every tree is fair to look upon and good for food;

it is also stated that there stands in the midst of the garden a tree of Life and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil; next that the garden is watered by a stream that afterwards divides into four heads.

The Prophet Solomon teaches us what this tree of Life is in his exhortation concerning Wisdom: She is a tree of life to all them that lay hold upon her, and lean upon her (Prov. 3:18).

This tree then is living; and not only living, but, furthermore, guided by reason; guided by reason, that is, in so far as to yield fruit, and that not casually nor unseasonably, but in its own season.

And this tree is planted beside the rills of water in the domain of the Kingdom of God, that is, of course, in Paradise, and in the place where the stream as it issues forth is divided into four heads.

For he does not say, Behind the rills of water, but, Beside the rills of water, at the place where first the heads receive each their flow of waters.

This tree is planted in that place whither the Lord, Who is Wisdom, leads the thief who confessed Him to be the Lord, saying: Verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:43).

And now that we have shewn upon prophetic warrant that Wisdom, which is Christ, is called the tree of Life in accordance with the mystery of the coming Incarnation and Passion, we must go on to find support for the strict truth of this interpretation from the Gospels.

The Lord with His own lips compared Himself to a tree when the Jews said that He cast out devils in Beelzebub: Either make the tree good, said He, and its fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit (Matt. 12:33); because although to cast out devils is an excellent fruit, they said He was Beelzebab, whose fruits are abominable.

Nor yet did He hesitate to teach that the power that makes the tree happy resided in His Person, when on the way to the Cross He said: For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? (Luke 23:31). Declaring by this image of the green tree that there was nothing in Him that was subject to the dryness of death.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300-368): On the Psalms, Psalm 1, 14.

John Damascene: The Tree of Life Saturday, Mar 1 2014 

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.

John Damascene: The Tree of Knowledge Friday, Feb 21 2014 

John-of-Damascus_01Now when God was about to fashion man out of the visible and invisible creation in His own image and likeness to reign as king and ruler over all the earth and all that it contains, He first made for him, so to speak, a kingdom in which he should live a life of happiness and prosperity.

And this is the divine paradise, planted in Eden by the hands of God, a very storehouse of joy and gladness of heart (for “Eden” means luxuriousness).

[…] It is flooded with light, and in sensuous freshness and beauty it transcends imagination: in truth the place is divine, a meet home for him who was created in God’s image: no creature lacking reason made its dwelling there but man alone, the work of God’s own hands.

In its midst God planted the tree of life and the tree of knowledge (Gen. 2:9).

The tree of knowledge was for trial, and proof, and exercise of man’s obedience and disobedience: and hence it was named the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or else it was because to those who partook of it was given power to know their own nature.

Now this is a good thing for those who are mature, but an evil thing for the immature and those whose appetites are too strong, being like solid food to tender babes still in need of milk.

For our Creator, God, did not intend us to be burdened with care and troubled about many things, nor to take thought about, or make provision for, our own life.

But this at length was Adam’s fate: for he tasted and knew that he was naked and made a girdle round about him: for he took fig-leaves and girded himself about. But before they took of the fruit, They were both naked, Adam and Eve, and were not ashamed (Gen. 2:25).

For God meant that we should be thus free from passion, and this is indeed the mark of a mind absolutely void of passion.

Yea, He meant us further to be free from care and to have but one work to perform, to sing as do the angels, without ceasing or intermission, the praises of the Creator, and to delight in contemplation of Him and to cast all our care on Him.

[…] So to Martha Christ said, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her (Luke 10:41, 42), meaning, clearly, sitting at His feet and listening to His words.

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