The Orthodox Faith
For St Paul Orthodox Youth Society - Brisbane
By Fr. John Abdel-Karim
13 - THE ORIGIN OF THE
First God created the human body, and then after that He breathed "a living soul" into it. With His breath, He created the soul of man and gave it life. But what did God arrange for the reproduction of man? Does God directly intervene and create a soul each time someone is born? If so, at what exact moment does God intervene? At conception? During the pregnancy? Or at birth? There is no clear answer to the question either in the Bible or in Holy Tradition. The fact that God made man His co-creator helps us find some answer. As the infant's body is transplanted from the bodies of the parents', so is the soul. The creation of the infant is an act of both God and the parents. And this creation, which takes place with the cooperation of both God and parents, is for the creation of soul and body together. The soul and the body are conceived and created at the same time. From the time of its conception, the embryo is fully human. That is why abortion is murder.
The original condition of man was not the same as it is today. When God created man, He said. "Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness" (Genesis, 1:26). But what does that mean, "image and likeness"? "Image" does not mean the body of man; as totally spirit: God is not related to a material body. "Image" means that which is sovereign, and independent. That is, it is the freedom and the power of man to choose and do what he wishes. Man's basic element "of supreme goodness" meaning his perfection--is his freedom and his power of choice. Without this freedom and power, man would not have been created whole and perfect. "Likeness" is the image in action. That is, it is the good use of man's free will to improve himself morally so as to come closer and closer to the Divine, to God. This movement toward holiness and perfection of the first created man and woman was not a steady and irrevocable condition. It depended on man's free will and his own authority, which was designed to have a tendency towards goodness. Man had the possibility of being perfected. With their fall, the first man and woman "blackened" the "image" and distorted the "likeness" to such a degree that they could no longer walk towards justice, holiness and perfection by themselves.
Part of the original condition of man involved Paradise, the tree of knowledge and the tree of life, and so a few words about them should be given.
The Bible tells us that when God created man, "the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the East; and there He put the man whom He had formed (Genesis, 2:8)." And again, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, `You may freely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat'" (Genesis, 2:15-16). This is not the same Paradise that we talk about today. This Paradise was an earthly garden in which were found all material and spiritual goods. It was a Paradise filled with luxuries. It was a place for material enjoyment and spiritual fulfilment. It was most delightful and beautiful.
The "tree of knowledge" was in this Paradise. It was the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." God commanded man not to eat the fruit of this tree, although he was permitted to eat the fruit of all of the other trees. Why did God do this? What exactly does "the tree of knowledge" mean? What kind of tree was it? We do not know. Nor do we know why God gave this command and the punishment of death. God said "for in the day that you eat of it you shall die" (Genesis, 2:17).
It seems that this command was the first form of fasting, to strengthen the character of man. This fruit was the fruit of a tree, and not the sexual relationship of Adam and Eve, as some ingenuously say. God blessed the reproduction of mankind, and would not punish them for it. Nor should one think that Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good and evil before they ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They had knowledge. Their knowledge was theoretical. With the tasting of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, their knowledge became practical; their knowledge became empirical. The cause for the expulsion from Paradise was not the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The real cause was that they disobeyed and rejected the commandment of God.
The Bible also speaks about the tree of life, although we do not know anything about it. From one phrase that God spoke after the fall of Adam and Eve it seems that this tree bestowed eternal life. God took care lest Adam too should "put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" (Genesis, 3:22). We know nothing else about the tree of life.
Let us pray
Our Father and Creator, we know that our bodies and our souls are Your creations. We know that we disobeyed Your command. We ate from the forbidden fruit. We were expelled from Paradise. We blackened the image. We distorted the likeness. We are condemned. Alone, we are unable to return to You. Thank You for sending us Your Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us. To set us free. To restore us. To raise us up to Heaven. We entreat You, help us to follow Him, and at His second coming grant us to be found standing at His right hand. To be steady in holiness and perfection. To live with You forever.