The 11th Century St. Symeon the New Theologian (d. 1022AD) like many of the Orthodox theologians of the Patristic era wrote extensively about Adam and his expulsion from Paradise as the basis for understanding salvation in Christ. In this and the next 2 blogs we will consider some of his thinking about the first humans and their role in shaping our world. Like St. Dorotheos of Gaza, St. Symeon believed Adam was created immortal, becoming mortal only through sin. St. Symeon believed Adam had a spiritual way of perceiving reality – through the eye of his soul. In eating the forbidden fruit, Adam’s physical eyes were open, but he lost the use of the eye of the soul and no longer could see things as God created them.
“So, being made of dust from the earth, and having received a breath of life which the word calls an intelligent soul and the image of God, he was placed in the garden to work and given a commandment to keep. How so? So that, as long as he did keep it and work, he would remain immortal and compete everlastingly with the angels, and together with them would praise God unceasingly and receive His illumination and see God intelligibly, and hear His divine voice. But in that same hour that he should transgress the commandment given him and eat of the tree from which God had commanded him not to eat, he would be given over to death and be deprived of the eyes of his soul. He would be stripped of his robe of divine glory; his ears would be stopped up, and he would fall from his way of life with the angels and be chased out of paradise. This indeed did happen to the transgressor, and he fell from his eternal and immortal life. For once Adam had transgressed God’s commandment and lent his ear for the deceitful devil to whisper in, and was persuaded by him on hearing his cunning words against the Master Who had made him, he tasted of the tree and, perceiving with his senses, he both saw and beheld with passion the nakedness of his body. He was justly deprived of all those good things. He became deaf. With ears become profane he could no longer listen to divine words in a manner which was spiritual and adequate to God, as such words resound only in those who are worthy. Neither could he see the divine glory any longer, in that he had voluntarily turned his intellect away from it and had looked upon the fruit of the tree with passion, and had believed the serpent who said: ‘In that now that you eat of it, you will be as gods, knowing good and evil’ (Gen 3:5).” (St. Symeon the New Theologian (d. 1022AD), ON THE MYSTICAL LIFE Vol 2, p 165)
According to St. Symeon the immediate result of the Fall was that humanity could no longer see God or hear His Word for now humanity heard and saw only with their physical senses, but no longer spiritually through the soul. This shortcoming would be corrected in the Incarnation, when the Word became flesh in Jesus Christ for then humans could both see God and hear His Word. Thus today for all Christians the proclamation of the Gospel and the reading of all of the Scriptures allows us to hear the Word of God, and in iconography we can see the Word made flesh. God has ended the complete separation of humanity from Himself.