Man's blessedness and his nearness to God are inseparable, "God
is my protection and defense: whom shall I fear?" (cf. Pss. 27:1,
32:7). God "walked in paradise," so close was He to Adam and Eve. But
in order to sense the beatitude of God's nearness and to be aware that one is
under God's protection, it is necessary to have a dear conscience. When we lose
it, we lose this awareness. The first people sinned and then they straightway
hid from God. Adam, where art thou? — I heard Thy voice, as Thou walkedst in
the garden, and I feared, because I am naked, and hid myself.
The Word of God tells us that God is omnipresent,
and He is always near. The awareness of this nearness is dimmed only because of
man's corruption. However, it does not become extinguished completely.
Throughout all the ages, it has lived and continues to live in holy people. It
is said of Moses that God spoke with him face to face, as a man would speak
with his friend (cf. Deut. 34: 10). Near art Thou, O Lord, we read in
the psalms (Pss. 119:151; 145:12). "My soul lives in God as a fish lives
in water or a bird in the air, immersed in Him on all sides and at all times;
living in Him, moving in Him, at rest in Him, finding in Him breathing
room," writes Saint John of Kronstadt. In another place he reasons:
"What is the meaning of the appearance of the three strangers to Abraham?
It means that the Lord, in three Persons, continually, as it were, travels over
the earth, and watches over everything that is done on it; and that He Himself
comes to those of His servants who are watchful and attentive to themselves and
their salvation, and who seek Him, sojourning with them and conversing with
them as with His friends (We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him
— John 14:23); while He sends fire upon the ungodly" (My Life in Christ).
This closeness was lost, and so was blessedness.
Blessedness was lost and suffering appeared. Moses' account of the fall into
sin is essentially the same as the Lord's parable about the Prodigal Son. He
left the father, hid himself from him, that he might be satiated with the
sweetness of a free life. But instead of pleasure, he was rewarded with husks,
which were used to feed animals, and these not to satiety. It was the same with
our forefathers; their fall was followed by grief and sufferings. I will
greatly multiply thy pains and thy groanings; in pain thou shalt bring forth
children... In pain..., in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread,
until thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken...
Eating the forbidden fruit, it would seem, was
such a minor offense. Could it really have such consequences or bring such a
punishment? But everything in life has its beginning; great things arise from
insignificant, small ones. An avalanche in the mountains begins from a slight
tremor. The Volga originates from a little spring, and the broad Hudson from the "tear clouds" which are lost in the
Simple observation tells us that there is a
connection between vices and suffering, that they lead to suffering and that
man thus punishes himself. If death and many of the hardships of life
constitute a chastisement from God, still it must be recognized that the
majority of man's sufferings are created by humanity itself. This applies to
savage wars, accompanied with the terribly inhuman treatment of the vanquished.
Wars, in fact, constitute the entire history of humanity. It also applies to
those types of suffering inflicted by man on man, which have accompanied the
peaceful periods of history: slavery, the yokes of foreign invaders, and the
various kinds of violence, which are caused not only by greed and egoism, but
also by a kind of demonic passion for cruelty and brutality. In a word, all
this is expressed in the old proverb: man's worst enemy is man.
Would man have enjoyed complete blessedness on
earth if the fall had not occurred? Would he be free from worries, annoyances,
sadness, accidents? Apparently the Bible does not speak of such tranquility in
life. Where there is light, there is also shadow; where there is joy, there
must also be sorrow. But what sorrows can last long, if the Lord is near?... if
He commands His angels to protect His supreme creatures, those who bear His
image and likeness in themselves? The Church teaches that man in paradise was
created for immortality, not only that of the soul, but also of the body. Yet
even if he were not eternal in his earthly body, what woe could there be if he
perceived his immortality with all the powers of his soul? If he knew and felt
that a transformation into a yet higher form of life awaits him?
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