Dust and Breath 


And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)


Archimandrite Aimilianos comments on God creating humans from the dust of the earth, adding a touching, though theological, detail – Adam’s opening his eyes to see God, as the pure in heart are promised (Matthew 5:8). God is not only the first ‘thing’ that Adam sees, God is the only ‘thing’ in his vision. For Adam sees simultaneously with his heart and his eyes, a feature which will be lost in the Fall. Adam has no mirror to see himself, but in seeing God, Adam is looking at the One in whose image and likeness he was created. In seeing God, Adam is actually getting the first look at himself as well.


And thus we see God bending down, taking the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7), in order to fashion Adam in such a way that, the moment his eyes opened, he would see God. And when that first man, who was the whole of human nature, opened his eyes, what did he see? He saw God, his maker, Who had breathed upon his face the breath of life (Genesis 2:7); Who had breathed into his nostrils, into the shell of his earthly body, into his dead and sleeping soul, and had given him life.


Adam’s experience was not very different from that of a sleeping child, who wakes up and sees its father holding it, or kissing it affectionately, with tenderness, and feels this paternal affection. That’s how it was with Adam. When he opened his eyes, he saw and knew nothing else but God and His tender embrace. And even though God placed him in a marvelous garden, filled with plants and trees, and canopied by stars and angels, Adam was made to see nothing but his maker, holding him in His hands, breathing into his nostrils. Christ was so close!  (THE WAY OF THE SPIRIT, p 173)


When Adam first opens his eyes, he sees God in the form of Christ the Word of God, who is also his Creator. Many Orthodox theologians through history believed any appearance of God to humans (especially if God appeared anthropomorphically) in the Old Testament was actually an appearance of Christ in whose image humans are made.