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Leaving the Garden
Teachings of Fr. Jeremiah
March 1, 2014 - As some of you know, I have a "cell" at a retreat center in the country on 40 acres that I spend a lot of time at. I was out walking a recent morning, with the sun shining brightly across the land, on the untouched snow, over the lake and upon the trees, many of them hiding the walking trails. At one moment as I stood still, unfocused, aware of the silence and the sounds of nature, I had a vivid all-encompassing realization of the Oneness of everything. While I was aware of the oneness of the limited geography I was seeing, this awareness extended yet beyond this limited geography to a realization of an all-encompassing Oneness that embraced an unfathomable space filled with galaxies and a historical movement beyond our comprehension, a Oneness not only filled with Love and Mercy, but Love and Mercy Itself in which everything is held and maintained. It is from the origin of the Presence of this primal Oneness that the Incarnation (the earthly appearance) of Jesus took place. As St. John the Theologian writes, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men."
I was reminded once again of God Who is beyond us and all of creation and yet within it. Beyond language, beyond words, beyond the dissecting criticizing activity of the mind, even (don't be shocked) beyond the letters we put together to form the word we speak as "God," there is a Oneness (that is God) that we can have an awareness of. And not only that, but, if we are still enough, we can become aware that "we are aware." This is awareness aware of Itself.
In the Church we speak of "the Fall," which has often been explained theologically within Christianity at large in a radically distorted way, and some of this distortion has unfortunately crept also into Orthodox teaching.
The distortion centers around interpreting the Fall of humankind in a legalistic, breaking God's law, fashion rather than as a wandering, in God-given freedom, away from the Garden and into an abyss of distortion. Jesus describes it in the story of the prodigal son. He also describes the return of the prodigal son whom, He relates, came to himself, or, in other words, "woke up; became aware."
As I drove down the long tree lined lane "into the world" I came, as we all do, face to face with frantic human life, rushing about, disconnected from an awareness of this Oneness. It was a vivid realization of human existence having "journeyed into a far country" where we so often waste our Divine Inheritance in riotous living.