Since the beginning of time when God created heaven and earth He commanded that there be light (Genesis 1:3). This light was divided from the sphere of darkness and the day was divided from the sphere of night. This pattern of day and night has continued without fail since Creation. As we know, light is essential for all living things. A “garden of delight” was created to place the man that God had formed from the earth. This garden was to provide for all of man’s needs. According to God’s plan this garden was a place without corruption, without illness or death, it was a perfect place where man was to enjoy full communion with God.
In the garden of delight there was no distinction or awareness of good and evil as there is in the world today, because man had not lost his innocence and was therefore not subject to evil. Adam and Eve however chose to disobey God and ate of the tree of knowledge which brought to them as God had warned, knowledge of good and evil with its full consequence, and that is death. They willingly chose this path because they believed the serpent, who told them that by acquiring the knowledge of good and evil, they would be like gods. To make matters worse, when they disobeyed God and realised their nakedness, God asked Adam and Eve in turn, to account for what had happened. Tragically Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve. Even when asked, they chose not to blame themselves and accept responsibility for their disobedience. From this time on, man lost his communion with God, became mortal and introduced in his heart spiritual darkness. His new destiny was to be returned to the dust from which he was fashioned. He was banished along with Eve from the garden of delight which was specially prepared for him. He was now to live in a land that would consume him and itself be subject to the corruption and spiritual darkness he introduced in his own heart.
The reality and danger of this spiritual darkness exists in all men to the present day. The danger of this spiritual darkness which all humanity inherited from Adam and Eve is its dreadful and fearful consequence, spiritual death. Spiritual death is a consequence of the separation of man from God. This loss of communion with God and its effect is not limited to man’s relationship with God alone, but infects every aspect of his being and his everyday relationships with people. Its consequence is that it trivialises man who was made in God’s image. Self interest and pride dictate fallen man who had everything provided by God’s Grace in the garden of delight; fallen man lost his focus and remembrance of God, and with a darkened spirit became dispersed, fragmented, distracted, inclined towards serving other masters, continuing disobedience and constantly under attack from the demons who took pleasure in his fall and continuing fall from grace.
It is not in God’s plan however to leave man in this miserable fallen state. But as by free will man fell, by free will he is given the opportunity to be re-stored to a state of communion with God. This restoration or healing has been offered to man through Christ. This is why we refer to Christ as being our Saviour. God the Father sent His Son, the New Adam, to offer man an opportunity to return to Him.
Here we now begin to understand the words of Our Lord when He said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Christ teaches us what we must do to regain communion with Him through love and obedience, and this is why in the Orthodox Tradition, love and obedience go hand in hand. Christ shows the pathway to salvation which is offered to us through Him on the Holy Cross. Man’s trivialised and dispersed state is suddenly offered a new focus, a new hope and a new birth; a new relationship with God for our salvation.
Christ cancels out the darkness brought about by man’s disobedience.
St John the Apostle tells us “In Him was life, and the life was the light of Men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4) For the darkness that fell on man opposed the light given to him by the Grace of God, but the darkness cannot defeat the light which is Christ Himself. Whereas Christ offers all of humanity an opportunity to return to Him, we must willingly receive Him in this life if we are to be granted eternal life with Him in His Heavenly Kingdom.
This world is material, is subject to corruption, and is temporal. In other words it will come to an end. When it comes to an end the light that has been granted from the beginning of time will fail and darkness will befall on everything and everyone. If we have not sought the source of all Spiritual Light, that is Christ, then darkness will befall on us forever more. The very words of Christ on this issue are as follows:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matt. 24:29-31)
On that day the power and great glory of the Holy Cross will be brighter than the sun and the sun will lose its light forever. Christ by the victory of the Holy Cross is the only source of light and salvation. Darkness and death is defeated once and for all. The Tree of Life that was denied Adam when he was banished from the garden of delight will be offered to those who follow Christ as is referred to by St John the Apostle, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” (Rev. 22:14)
Fr Emmanuel Stamatiou