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The tree of life


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#21 Guest_Cyprian

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Posted 21 May 2005 - 01:03 AM

Christos anesti!

Greetings Mr Steenberg,

you wrote:

No evil is seen as present in the tree, and how much less is the tree itself a sign or symbol of Satan, or of the antichrist. Irenaeus' comments only make sense if the opposite is understood: the tree is holy, blessed, good. The knowledge it contains is divine, pure.....And if we read carefully the latter passage by Irenaeus

Would you please read this passage from St. Irenaeus carefully and then tell me how you reconcile it with your comments?

ST. IRENAEUS OF LYONS

AGAINST HERESIES

BOOK V.

CHAP. XX.--THOSE PASTORS ARE TO BE HEARD TO WHOM THE APOSTLES COMMITTED THE CHURCHES, POSSESSING ONE AND THE SAME DOCTRINE OF SALVATION; THE HERETICS, ON THE OTHER HAND, ARE TO BE AVOIDED. WE MUST THINK SOBERLY WITH REGARD TO THE MYSTERIES OF THE FAITH.

2. Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the holy presbyters, not taking into consideration of how much greater consequence is a religious man, even in a private station, than a blasphemous and impudent sophist.(4) Now, such are all the heretics, and those who imagine that they have hit upon something more beyond the truth, so that by following those things already mentioned, proceeding on their way variously, in harmoniously, and foolishly, not keeping always to the same opinions with regard to the same things, as blind men are led by the blind, they shall deservedly fall into the ditch of ignorance lying in their path, ever seeking and never finding out the truth.(5) It behoves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord's Scriptures. For the Church has been planted as a garden (paradisus) in this world; therefore says the Spirit of God, "Thou mayest freely eat from every tree of the garden,"(6) that is, Eat ye from every Scripture of the Lord; but ye shall not eat with an uplifted mind, nor touch any heretical discord. For these men do profess that they have themselves the knowledge of good and evil; and they set their own impious minds above the God who made them. They therefore form opinions on what is beyond the limits of the understanding. For this cause also the apostle says, "Be not wise beyond what it is fitting to be wise, but be wise prudently,"(7) that we be not cast forth by eating of the "knowledge" of these men (that knowledge which knows more than it should do) from the paradise of life. Into this paradise the Lord has introduced those who obey His call, "summing up in Himself all things which are in heaven, and which are on earth;"(8) but the things in heaven are spiritual, while those on earth constitute the dispensation in human nature (secundum hominem est dispositio). These things, therefore, He recapitulated in Himself: by uniting man to the Spirit, and causing the Spirit to dwell in man, He is Himself made the head of the Spirit, and gives the Spirit to be the head of man: for through Him (the Spirit) we see, and hear, and speak.
~~

It seems pretty clear that St. Irenaeus is likening the tree of knowledge of good and evil to heretical men who "set their own impious minds above the God who made them". furthermore, he instructs us not to be "cast forth" from paradise by eating the "knowledge" of these men.

St. Irenaeus didn't have much of a problem taking the tree which you termed "holy, blessed, good" and using it in an allegorical fashion to describe evil men.

Antichrist will be a man will he not?
Antichrist will set his "own impious mind above the God who made him"
Antichrist will exalt himself above all that is called god or that is worshipped will he not?

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: (Isaiah 14:12-13 KJV)

I saw the ungodly very highly exalting himself, and lifting himself up like the cedars of Libanus.(Lebanon) (LXX - Psalms 36:35/37:35)

ye have eaten the fruit of lies: (Hosea 10:13 KJV)
ye have eaten false fruit; (Hosea 10:13 LXX Brenton)


#22 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 26 May 2005 - 09:05 AM

Dear Mr Cyprian,

In a recent post (21/05/05), you followed up on a conversation that had taken place last year, in which I had stated 'No evil is seen as present in the tree, and how much less is the tree itself a sign or symbol of Satan, or of the antichrist' -- offering this comment there in reference to Irenaeus and Theophilus, whom I quoted in that post. To which you responded with the following Irenaean quotation and comment:

Irenaeus: "For the Church has been planted as a garden (paradisus) in this world; therefore says the Spirit of God, 'Thou mayest freely eat from every tree of the garden,' that is, Eat ye from every Scripture of the Lord; but ye shall not eat with an uplifted mind, nor touch any heretical discord. For these men do profess that they have themselves the knowledge of good and evil; and they set their own impious minds above the God who made them. They therefore form opinions on what is beyond the limits of the understanding. For this cause also the apostle says, 'Be not wise beyond what it is fitting to be wise, but be wise prudently,' that we be not cast forth by eating of the 'knowledge' of these men (that knowledge which knows more than it should do) from the paradise of life." (Against heresies, 5.22.2)

Your assessment: It seems pretty clear that St. Irenaeus is likening the tree of knowledge of good and evil to heretical men who "set their own impious minds above the God who made them". furthermore, he instructs us not to be "cast forth" from paradise by eating the "knowledge" of these men.


Firstly, this is one of the most poignant passages in Irenaeus on the nature of the Church, knowledge, an communion with God; and it is also the only passage in his corpus that refers to the Church as 'paradise' in deliberate connection with the garden of Eden. By the time he comes to this point, a little past midway through book five of his immense work, he has just spent the first part of that book refuting various 'Gnostic' discussions on the impossibility of bodily resurrection, and is in the midst of his project of speaking of the eschaton and the kingdom to come. An abiding focus throughout the text of the whole Adversus haereses is Irenaeus' belief that 'heresy' -- which means literally a 'cutting away' or 'separation' -- comes from departing from the truth revealed in the Church through her scriptures and her apostolic reading of them. True knowledge is this knowledge, met out in God's measure, not man's, appropriate to the task of growth and change, and provided with safeguards against humanity's tendency towards misuse in its immaturity and instability wrought by sin.

The principal problem of the various groups Irenaeus attacks in the Adversus haereses, that which lies at the root of all their various systems, is that they depart from the teaching of the truth, read in scripture in accordance with the Church's apostolic receipt. Rather than receiving this truth, such groups imagine, as Irenaeus says in this very passage, 'that they have hit upon something beyond the truth'; that is, that the truth handed to them is insufficient, or that it is insufficient in the degree handed to them and they wish something higher, purer, 'more advanced'. But, says Irenaeus, any movement beyond the truth given by God, in the measure and manner given by God, becomes a dangerous advance. Those who seek after it 'proceed on their way variously, inharmoniously, foolishly, not keeping always to the same opinions with regard to the same things -- like blind men led by the blind'. The result is, for Irenaeus, clear and predictable: those who would have knowledge 'greater' or 'higher' than the knowledge God gives, as God gives it, engage in a project beyond their ability. They abandon the truth given in measure that is fitting for them, and seek after something 'beyond the truth'. The result, which Irenaeus regards as great tragedy, is that these same 'ever seek, but never find the truth'.

Only when this point (which is made here in the passage you quoted, but which is stated repeatedly throughout all five books of the AH) is fully understood, can we read the middle of section 22.2 accurately. Once again, that text states:

"For the Church has been planted as a garden (paradisus) in this world; therefore says the Spirit of God, 'Thou mayest freely eat from every tree of the garden,' that is, Eat ye from every Scripture of the Lord; but ye shall not eat with an uplifted mind, nor touch any heretical discord. For these men do profess that they have themselves the knowledge of good and evil; and they set their own impious minds above the God who made them. They therefore form opinions on what is beyond the limits of the understanding. For this cause also the apostle says, 'Be not wise beyond what it is fitting to be wise, but be wise prudently,' that we be not cast forth by eating of the 'knowledge' of these men (that knowledge which knows more than it should do) from the paradise of life." (Against heresies, 5.22.2)

This is a (beautiful) allegorical re-statement of what Irenaeus has just said in the first part of the paragraph, here placed in the imagery of Genesis 3. As Adam and Eve were free to eat from any tree in the garden except one, which one was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (i.e., full and complete knowledge -- knowledge 'like unto God'), so too is humanity free to partake of all the 'fruit' of truth revealed in scripture and the Church. Yet it is free to do so within the same confines, Irenaeus suggests, as Adam and Eve were in paradise: our partaking of the truth granted to us must be received in the proportion and manner as it is given. We must not attempt to be 'wise beyond what it is fitting to be wise, but be wise prudently', receiving the knowledge granted us in the 'paradise' of the Church and her scriptures, but 'not with an uplifted mind, nor touching any heretical discord'.

The sin of those groups Irenaeus addresses here is that they 'profess that they themselves have the knowledge of good and evil', or, less allegorically, that 'they set their impious minds above the God who made them'. The problem is not that they seek knowledge, not that they possess some knowledge, but that they seek knowledge beyond the knowledge given to humanity by God. When God says 'partake of this but not that', they reply 'I would have both' -- just as Adam and Eve, when the serpent stated that they could have greater knowledge, that their eyes would be opened and they would 'be like God', abandoned God's guidance and economy for a knowledge that was, as God had already told them, beyond their grasp.

You stated:

St. Irenaeus didn't have much of a problem taking the tree which you termed "holy, blessed, good" and using it in an allegorical fashion to describe evil men.


In fact, if we look carefully at the passage, he does not say this. The tree is nowhere chided in this text (or any other Irenaean text) as flawed, faulty, evil or bad. It simply represents full knowledge. What is evil is how we approach knowledge and growth in relation to God's economy -- whether we are willing to advance in the path God sets out, or whether we, like Adam and Eve and like the 'Gnostics' Irenaeus is directly attacking here, wish to know beyond the limits of our knowing, to take what is not ours and advance by our own path rather than God's.

INXC, Matthew

#23 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 26 May 2005 - 05:07 PM

Dear Cyprian,

I was going to post this yesterday prior to Matthew's post above, but I was somewhat reluctant to comment. Today I'm less reluctant.

I know you had addressed Matthew Steenberg who has provided very accurate patristic quotes and
conclusions. If I my be so bold I don't think your presentation of Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies Book V. is a difficult matter to reconcile.

CHAP. XX.--THOSE PASTORS ARE TO BE HEARD TO WHOM THE APOSTLES COMMITTED THE CHURCHES, POSSESSING ONE AND THE SAME DOCTRINE OF SALVATION; THE HERETICS, ON THE OTHER HAND, ARE TO BE AVOIDED. WE MUST THINK SOBERLY WITH REGARD TO THE MYSTERIES OF THE FAITH.

If we look at it from this time in history we may see that truth always remains truth. It is with some reluctance that I proceed. A few years ago I attended a funeral mass in a Latin Church for someone that I knew. During the mass a older man was given the Eucharist in his hand. He walked down the side isle to about the middle of the Church and put the Eucharist in his pocket. and walked away. The old Irish Priest bolted from the altar area and tried to correct the situation by making sure the man put the Eucharist in his mouth. Suffice it to say I knew the older man was not Roman Catholic and the Eucharist was not placed in the mouth of any Roman Catholic children present. This could not happen in the Orthodox Church because it does not represent the correct practices and theology of the Orthodox Church. I think just as little children trust their parents it is important for us to trust what the Orthodox Church teaches for very good reasons.

Matthew 19:14
But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 18:3
and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.


21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Heretical men can be in or from "Churches" that are in heresy. How many Church Fathers and Saints spoke with tongues of fire as a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. It is the same Orthodox Church militant and triumphant that sings "We who mystically represent the Cherubim" It is the same way that the settled Orthodox understandings of the Theotokas do not create the Christological disturbances that result from the Latin Dogma of the Immaculate conception that is being discussed now actually reduces the place of the Theotokas in Orthodox thought.

Thanks be to God for men who become Orthodox Priests, Deacons and Monastic Deacons and who make the right decisions for the right reasons. By the Grace of God such men are allowed to reach out their hands and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever while placing the Eucharist in the mouths of those that trust the Orthodox Church. That trust can be conveyed to adults that rightly understand God's word through the teachings of the Orthodox Church.

I don't think that St. Irenaeus was taking the tree and using it in an allegorical fashion to describe evil men. The gardeners that distort don't have access to the blessed and holy tree. The tree that is blessed and holy is remains firmly planted. Scripture that is not distorted by heresy has good guardeners so we may eat freely from the good garden. But if we eat that which the good guardeners bring forth from the good garden without trusting the guardeners in the garden we can build a brick wall. Those bricks are far to heavy for children to lift. The gardeners that have uplifted minds or are in heresy are not the tree in an allegorical fashion they would be the ones that pet the serpent so to speak.


It behoves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord's Scriptures. For the Church has been planted as a garden (paradisus) in this world; therefore says the Spirit of God, "Thou mayest freely eat from every tree of the garden,"(6) that is, Eat ye from every Scripture of the Lord; but ye shall not eat with an uplifted mind, nor touch any heretical discord.

It stands to reason that full and true knowledge of God and the correct understanding of Holy Writ is that which Orthodox Church teaches and practices liturgically. Orthodox theology is necessary for full knowledge of God, by means of the incarnation the Eucharist is the more complete union with God than that which Adam and Eve experienced like little children in the Garden. So many things are connected but as It is often rightly pointed out here frequently that reading Holy writ and the fathers while maintaining the traditional understandings is important as a strong sense of security is good.


In Christ,


Matthew Panchisin


#24 Guest_George K.

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Posted 27 May 2005 - 10:26 PM

St. Maximus too, gives an anagogical interpretation of the two trees:

(Quote from the Philokalia)

30. There is a great and unutterable difference between the tree of life and the one which is not the tree of life. This is clear simply from the fact that the one is called the tree of life while the other is merely called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Gen. 2:9). Unquestionably, the tree of life is productive of life; the tree that is not called the tree of life, and so is not productive of life, is obviously productive of death.

31. The tree of life, when understood as symbolizing wisdom, likewise differs greatly from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in that the latter neither symbolizes wisdom nor is said to do so. Wisdom is characterized by intellect and intelligence, the state, which is opposite to wisdom by lack of intelligence and by sensation.

32. Since man came into being composed of noetic soul and sentient body, one interpretation could be that the tree of life is the soul's intellect, which is the seat of wisdom. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil would then be the body's power of sensation, which is clearly the seat of mindless impulses. Man received the divine commandment not to involve himself actively and experientially with these impulses; but he did not keep the commandment.

33. Both trees in Scripture symbolize the intellect and the senses. Thus the intellect has the power to discriminate between the spiritual and the sensible, between the eternal and the transitory. Or rather, as the soul's discriminatory power, the intellect persuades the soul to cleave to the first and to transcend the second. The senses have the power to discriminate between pleasure and pain in the body. Or rather, as a power existing in a body endowed with soul and sense perception, they persuade the body to embrace pleasure and reject pain.

34. If a man exercises only sensory discrimination between pain and pleasure in the body, thus transgressing the divine commandment, he eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that is to say, he succumbs to the mindless impulses that pertain to the senses; for he possesses only the body's power of discrimination, which makes him embrace pleasure as something good and avoid pain as something evil. But if he exercises only that noetic discrimination which distinguishes between the eternal and the transitory, and so keeps the divine commandment, he eats from the tree of life, that is to say, from the wisdom that appertains to his intellect; for he exercises only the power of discrimination associated with the soul, which makes him cleave to the glory of what is eternal as something good, and avoid the corruption of what is transitory as something evil.

35. Goodness so far as the intellect is concerned is a dispassionate predilection for the spirit; evil is an impassioned attachment to the senses. Goodness so far as the senses are concerned is the impassioned activity of the body under the stimulus of pleasure; evil is the state destitute of such activity.

36. He who persuades his conscience to regard the evil he is doing as good by nature reaches out with his moral faculty as with a hand and grasps the tree of life in a reprehensible manner; for he thinks that what is thoroughly evil is by nature immortal. Therefore God, who has implanted in man's conscience a natural hatred of evil, cuts him off from life, for he has now become evil in his will and intention. God acts in this way so that when a man does wrong he cannot persuade his own conscience that what is thoroughly evil is good by nature.

37. The vine produces wine, the wine drunkenness and drunkenness an evil form of ecstasy. Similarly the intelligence - which is the vine - when well nurtured and cultivated by the virtues, generates spiritual knowledge; and such knowledge produces a good form of ecstasy, which enables the intellect to transcend its attachment to the senses.

38. It is the devil's practice maliciously to confound the forms and shapes of sensible things with our conceptual images of them. Through these forms and shapes are generated passions for the outward aspects of visible things; and our intellectual energy, being halted at the level of what pertains to sense perception, cannot raise itself to the realm of intelligible realities. In this way the devil despoils the soul and drags it down into the turmoil of the passions.

gk

#25 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 30 May 2005 - 10:06 PM

Dear Mr George K.,

Thank you for the quotation of St Maximus on the two trees, which is rather different in its reading than that of St Irenaeus that we have been discussing above. Indeed, Maximus focuses on the difference between the two trees -- the identification of one as life-giving and good, the other as the cause of death. Maximus is thus able to draw out a distinction between a kind of interior noetic 'life' of the intellect that is rooted directly in the life-giving experience of God, and a kind of deliberative, analytical knowing (which he assesses elsewhere as 'gnomic') represented in the dichotomy of the second tree (while the first is singularly the source of life, the second has the duality of knowledge vs. evil).

This is to some degree grounded in Maximus' intense interest in the question of knowing and willing, so much 'in the air' in the post-Chalcedonian era when the question of wills and willing in the person of Christ was highly disputed. In that discussion, Maximus regularly asserts that a pure willing and knowing come without deliberation in Christ, for deliberation implies a possibility of evil. True theletic and intellectual freedom is in non-deliberative, free conformity to the will of God. So seeing the duality of 'good and evil' in the second tree supports Maximus' vision with great precision.

INXC, Matthew


#26 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 04:25 AM

If you look at Andrei Rublev’s Icon of the Holy Trinity you may notice the tree of life in the background. It is interesting to note that in Orthodox Iconography (highly symbolic) wood boards are used.

If anyone is not familiar with the icon it can be seen at this link.

[Link]

In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin

(Message edited by Matthew_P on 02 June, 2005)

(Message edited by Matthew_P on 02 June, 2005)

(Message edited by matthew on 02 June, 2005)


#27 Kosmas Damianides

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 07:06 AM

It is interesting that we are told to view the body and blood of Christ as the fruit of eternal life. The Cross of Christ is described as the Tree of Life in the hymns of the Church.

Does anyone know why we use bread and wine? And what ever happened to the tree of knowledge of good and evil?

I am not convinced that God would put the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as a stumbling block or as temptation. I think that it was God's plan for mankind to one day -when God chose and when mankind was ready- to eat of this tree. I think it is the way Adam and Eve approached this tree, with cunningness and deception that caused them to be thron out of paradise. I would therefore agree with St Irenaus' interpretation.


#28 Guest_leandros

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Posted 02 June 2005 - 08:34 PM

THE PEARL: SEVEN HYMNS ON THE FAITH

by St. Ephraim of Syria

HYMN IV.

The thief gained the faith which gained him,
And brought him up and placed him in paradise.
He saw in the Cross a tree of life;
That was the fruit,
He was the eater in Adam's stead.

The fool, who goes astray,
Grazes the faith, as it were an eye,
By all manner of questions.
The probing of the finger blinds the eye,
And much more doth that prying blind the faith.

For even the diver pries not into his pearl.
In it do all merchants rejoice
Without prying into whence it came ;
Even the king who is crowned therewith
Does not explore it.


#29 Guest_leandros

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Posted 03 June 2005 - 10:00 AM

And what ever happened to the tree of knowledge of good and evil?


Vespers for the Elevation of the Precious Cross, Sep 14

"Come, all you nations, let us worship the blessed tree, through which has come the
eternal vindication. For he who deceived our forefather Adam by means of a tree is
himself ensnared by the Cross. And he falls headlong tumbling down, who formerly held
the royal masterwork in tyranny. By the blood of God, the venom of the serpent is
washed away, and the curse is lifted of the just sentence by the unjust sentence on the
Righteous One who was condemned. For it was necessary to remedy tree by tree, and to
put an end to the passions suffered by the condemned at the tree by the Passion of the
Passionless One. And therefore, glory, O Christ the King, glory to the awesome plan for
our salvation, by which You saved everyone, since You are good and You love mankind."

#30 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 25 June 2005 - 05:46 PM

It seems to me that "stillness" would be found in the life giving and good tree. Before the fall Adam and Eve must have understood be still and know that God is God. Very often here theosis is spoken of, but it seems to me that sometimes even questioning why God does this or that is a problem as we are not wiser than God. Who I'm I to question the ways of God, a child trusts. Questioning things for understanding is different than questioning things because I don't trust all the time. It seems to me that the questioning was introduced by the devil to Adam and Eve and is part of disobedience, which is not part of life-giving experience of God. Walking with God is trusting in God and the Orthodox Church.

It also seems to me that limitations are implicitly set on how much wisdom and understanding one can have through questioning that is pursued from a lack of trust in God and the Orthodox Church. This is why prayer and specifically the prayer of the heart is often spoken of by the fathers and not the questioning of the mind in a way that does not trust God. I had mention the Icon of the Holy Trinity earlier and we can see much theology present there. Even Abraham's questioning was trustful; Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Sarah laughed when God told Abraham they would have a son. Abraham knew much because he knew humility; Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:

I mention these things because I think that trust is central to the relationship between kenosis or self emptying and metanoia, self transformation. Again and again though there is hope in the prayer; Create in me a clean heart, 0 God: and renew a right spirit within me.


In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin


#31 Guest_Cyprian

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 05:37 AM

"The fruit, beautiful to behold and good to eat, brought me
death. But by tasting of Christ, the Tree of Life,
I no longer die and with the thief I cry out:
Remember me, O Lord, in thy Kingdom"

(1st Beatitude, Tone 7)


#32 Guest_Cyprian

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 05:54 AM

ST. HILARY OF POITIERS

HOMILIES ON PSALMS 1, 53, 130

[Translated by the Rev. H. F. Stewart, Vice-Principal of the Theological College, Salisbury; revised by the Rev. E. W. Watson, M.A., Warden of the Society of St. Andrew, Salisbury.]

PSALM I

14. In the book of Genesis(2), 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(3). 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(4). 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 fruits(5); 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(6)? Declaring by this image of the green tree that there was nothing in Him that was subject to the dryness of death.


#33 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 07:40 AM

Dear Cyprian,

Could you let us know the context in which you offered these two quotations (of a verse on the Beatitudes and a commentary on the psalms by Hilary)? It's been a while since the last posts in this thread, and I've not quite been able to determine what point you are trying to advance with these quotations - and would be interested.

INXC, Matthew


#34 Guest_Cyprian

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 04:16 AM

A Prayer of St. Nikolai Velimirovich:

Just a little longer and my journey will end. Keep me on the steep path to You just a little longer, O Conqueror of death; because the higher I climb towards You, the more people try to drag me down—into their abyss. The fuller their abyss becomes, the greater their hope is of defeating You. In truth, the fuller the abyss becomes, the further away from the abyss You are.

How stupid the servants of the tree of knowledge are! They do not measure their strength in You, but in their num­bers. They do not adopt a law of justice in Your name, but by their numbers. Whichever way the majority of them choose is the way of truth and justice. The tree of knowledge has become the tree of crime, stupidity, and icy darkness.

Truly, the knowledgeable men of this world know every­thing except that they are servants of Satan. When the last day dawns, Satan will rejoice in the number of people in his harvest. All the meager ears of grain! But in his stupidity, even Satan counts on quantity rather than quality. One of Your ears of grain will be worth more than the entire harvest of Satan. For You, O Conqueror of death, rely on the fullness of the bread of life, and not on numbers.

In vain I tell the godless: "Head for the Tree of Life and you will know more than you could possibly wish to know. From the tree of knowledge Satan fashions a ladder for you to descend into the nether world."

The godless ridicule me and say: "Through the Tree of Life you want to convert us to your God, whom we do not see."
In truth, you will never see Him. The Light that even blinds the eyes of the seraphim will burn your pupils forever.

Of all that thrives in the putrescence of the earth, those who believe in God are the rarest. O lake and mountain, help me to be glad that I, too, am journeying with these most rare, most unlearned, and most despised believers.

Just a little longer, brethren, and our journey will end.

Sustain us just a little longer, O Conqueror of death.


#35 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 29 December 2005 - 05:37 AM

Dear Cyprian,

Thank you for the quotation, which it was good to read. However, as before (see earlier in the thread, vis-a-vis comments back in October), it would be nice to know the context / reason for your offering it -- i.e. how it is meant to fit in with the previous discussion. It's been months since that earlier conversation, so it's a bit un-clear at present.

INXC, Matthew


#36 Vincent Ragay

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 01:22 AM

"If we come to believe that Adam did indeed eat of the fruit, what do we do with the theology of St. Ephrem?"

I would have to say Yes. How else would they have remained perpetually alive without eating of this life-giving food. Of course, in a material world, it was what they needed to remain perfectly healthy and perpetually young. At least, that is how I envision Paradise on Earth was like. When it was prohibited after they sinned, they began to grow old and to die physically as well. In place of that perfect-health-giving food, they had lesser fruits, herbs and field plants (which were food for animals!) to eat.

And yet, in heaven or in John's vision of the New Jerusalem, we see the tree of Life planted in the middle of the city. (Rev. 22:2) With its twelve crops of fruits, the nations will be fed and be made to live eternally, not in a material world anymore but in a new spiritual home. Whatever that means, it is truly awesome beyond words.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to share.

#37 Antonios

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 03:58 AM

Thank you very much for this opportunity to share.


Dear Vincent,

Thank you for your post and welcome to the forum!

In Christ,
Antonios

#38 Owen Jones

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 12:15 PM

Sometimes it helps to simplify. The essential message of Genesis 1 is that the world we all experience as messed up is not God's fault. It's our fault. Those are the only two alternatives.

#39 Mediterranean

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 08:11 PM

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not a type of the antichrist. The patristic witness is quite clear that this is not so, and, rather, that this tree is in fact the image of the full knowledge of God.

Humanity was forbidden to eat of its fruit in Eden because it was not ready. But there will come a time when it shall be ready.

INXC, Matthew



Beautiful......so patristically, especially: " this tree is in fact the image of the full knowledge of God."

#40 Michael Stickles

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 01:19 PM

"If we come to believe that Adam did indeed eat of the fruit, what do we do with the theology of St. Ephrem?"

I would have to say Yes. How else would they have remained perpetually alive without eating of this life-giving food. Of course, in a material world, it was what they needed to remain perfectly healthy and perpetually young.


That is similar to what St. Augustine says in his City of God (emphasis in all cases below is mine):

They were, then, nourished by other fruit, which they took that their animal bodies might not suffer the discomfort of hunger or thirst; but they tasted the tree of life, that death might not steal upon them from any quarter, and that they might not, spent with age, decay. Other fruits were, so to speak, their nourishment, but this their sacrament.


The Large Russian Catechism of Philaret implies the same in its discussion of the tree:

And God made the body of the first man, Adam, from the earth; breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; brought him into Paradise; gave him for food, beside the other fruits of Paradise, the fruit of the tree of life; and lastly, having taken a rib from Adam while he slept, made from it the first woman, Eve.


St. Methodius, in his Banquet of the Ten Virgins, quotes the Genesis account with the word "again", implying that Adam had previously eaten of the tree of life:

And how shall he be admitted to be "the tree of life" who was cast out for his transgression, lest "he should again stretch forth his hand and eat of it, and live forever?"


If any of the Fathers took a contrary position, I did not run across them in my (admittedly very brief) search.

Irenaeus, in his Against Heresies, gives an explanation of why Adam and Eve were denied access to the tree of life after their disobedience:

Wherefore also He drove him out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, not because He envied him the tree of life, as some venture to assert, but because He pitied him, [and did not desire] that he should continue a sinner for ever, nor that the sin which surrounded him should be immortal, and evil interminable and irremediable. But He set a bound to his [state of] sin, by interposing death, and thus causing sin to cease, putting an end to it by the dissolution of the flesh, which should take place in the earth, so that man, ceasing at length to live to sin, and dying to it, might begin to live to God.



In Christ,
Michael




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