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The Fall into Sin

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 mountains.

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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