The world was created good and called to the joy of life in union with the Source and Creator of life, the Lord God.
The first to sin and to be torn from this union were angels. The angelic realm was split: some remained with God; others, in their pride, desired to live their own life, independent of God. The angelic world was split and sin was born there, but the earthly world remained good.
And then the devil, which means “the one cast down from heaven,” began to strive to join the earthly realm to himself. The highest creation on earth, man, had been given a commandment by God not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why was the commandment given? This tree was just like all the others, and in itself it had no outstanding characteristics. No, the knowledge of good and evil was not in the tree itself, and not for this reason was the commandment given. The Lord gave it because man was created free, and the Lord desires of man a freely-willed striving and longing for union with God. The commandment was given because only through its fulfillment could man express his freely-willed striving toward God and love for Him. And blessedness consists simply of communication with God through love of Him.
The devil is burdened by his separation; he is perpetually in a state of wrath and vengeance, and it comforts him to attract others. The devil never appears as his true self, but takes on various appearances. Then in paradise he took on the appearance of a serpent, and gave man the idea that the commandment had not been given for the expression of man’s love of God, but so that man would not become like God. The devil planted the thought that the command was issued, not out of God’s love, so that man would dwell in God’s love, but because God desires to dominate, and to prevent man from being as God, and coming to know the endless and limitless joy of being.
When man came to believe this diabolical idea, he was instantly separated from God. Everything changed, and man could no longer enjoy life in God and speak with God freely and straightforwardly as children speak. There was no peace, no joy, and man began to hide from God. Everything changed, the link between God and man was destroyed and nature ceased to heed man. Weeping entered the world, and the soul became burdened.
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Our father among the saints John (Maximovitch), Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco (1896-1966), was a diocesan bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) who served widely from China to France to the United States. Learn more.