Daily Meditations

Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen! The Second Monday of Pascha: What Christ Accomplished on the Cross (The Primordial State)

May 9th, 2016

By Hieromonk Damascene

The Primordial State

Let us begin by discussing the state of man and the world before the Fall. A right understanding of this pre-Fall state is actually essential to a right understanding of the meaning of Christ’s death on the Cross. We have to understand what Adam fell from in order to understand what Christ restores us to.

According to the Patristic interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, before the Fall man’s body was not subject to death and corruption. He was made potentially immortal, that is, if he had not sinned he could have lived forever in an incorrupt body, partaking of the Tree of Life in the Garden. Before the Fall, man knew no pain, no sickness. He was not subject to old age. He was not subject to the elements; he could not be physically hurt. He knew no decay. His body, while still material and sensual, was more spiritual than the body we inhabit now. It was not grossly material, like the body we now have. [1]

At his creation from the dust of the ground, man was created in Grace. The Holy Fathers (such as St. John Damascene) say that Adam’s body and soul were created at the same time, and that when God breathed a living soul into him, He breathed also into him the Grace of the Holy Spirit. [2] Before the Fall, the first man and the first woman had the Holy Spirit abiding within them.

The first man was not deified at the time of his creation, but he was created for deification, for union with God. [3] By drawing ever closer to God in love, by seeking spiritual pleasure in God rather than physical pleasure through His senses, man was to become ever more holy and spiritual, ever more in the likeness of God, ever more transformed and deified by the Grace of God. Since God is limitless and unfathomable, the path of union with God was never to end. Man was created a little lower than the angels (Ps. 8:5, Heb. 2:7), but he eventually was to become higher than the angels, higher even than the highest ranks of the angels: “more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim.”

Moreover, as man became more spiritual and divinized by drawing closer to God, he was to make all of creation more spiritual and divinized as well, drawing everything closer to God. Many Holy Fathers—such as St. Macarius the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Sinai and St. Maximos the Confessor—teach that the entire creation was incorrupt before the Fall just as man was incorrupt: for the entire creation had been made for man. [4] St. Symeon the New Theologian states explicitly that not only Paradise was incorrupt before the Fall: everything, the whole creation, was without death and corruption. [5] Because he possessed both body and soul, man was the link between this incorrupt material world and the noetic world of the angels. As such, he was to unite the material world with the noetic world through his own ascent to God. [6]

~ A talk delivered at the Annual Lenten Clergy Confession of the New Gracanica Metropolitanate and the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Jackson, California, March 4/17, 2004. The Orthodox Word (No. 235, March-April, 2004), pp. 57-77. Posted with the blessing of Hieromonk Damascene; Orthodox Information Center, http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/christcross.aspx.

Endnotes

1. Cf. Fr. Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man (Platina, Calif.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2000), pp. 156-57, 443-45.

2. Cf. St. John Damascene, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, in The Fathers of the Church, vol. 37 (1958), pp. 232-35; Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church(Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), p. 118; and Fr. Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man, pp. 171, 436-40.

3. Cf. St. John Damascene, Exact Exposition, p. 235; and Lossky, Mystical Theology, p. 126.

4. Cf. Fr. Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation and Early Man, pp. 157, 208-12, 351, 413-14, 421, 591-92.

5. Cf. St. Symeon the New Theologian, The First-Created Man (Platina, Calif.: St, Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1994), pp. 90, 102-103.

6. Cf. St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua 41, in Andrew Louth, Maximus the Confessor (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 156-60; and Lossky, pp. 109-111.