The Tree of Knowledge & Heroic Holiness

In the Book of Genesis, we have the epic story of our fall. Humanity is given everything they could ever ask for, deserve or think is necessary. Dominion over the animals, perfect relationship with each other and perfect union with God. The one thing they can’t do is eat from the tree “in the middle of the garden” (Genesis 3:3). Freedom only enters the scene when we are given the option between yes or no; to follow or to rage against. Will they follow this command or will they disobey?

This is the very reason why the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is placed directly in the middle of the garden. The decision to follow ourselves or to follow God is at the crux of everything we do. This is true no matter what level faith affects our lives.

Do we decide to be true to yourself or to go along with the tides of the time? To be honest and true at work or to cheat and lie to our competition? To sacrifice and to do what is tough for our spouse and children or to allow indifference and laziness to rule the day?

These are the questions that are consistently at the middle of our lives and our choices. However, we tend to take the less strenuous route; the one that decides to be inattentive to the serpent in our midst. The road to the fruit on the tree has many more footprints on it then the one leading in the opposite direction.

 

The Breezy Time of Day

Adam and Eve choose themselves over God and decide to take rather than give selflessly. They choose to want more rather than appreciate all that had been given to them. Temptation and freedom have a funny way of getting in each other’s way. We convince ourselves that anything impeding on our freedom is an action that couldn’t possibly be sinful or wrong. So, we make the journey to the middle of the garden and take the fruit that will enable us to be more powerful and invigorated. The greatness of God and the tremendous beauty of his love is radiated most perfectly in what happens directly after his children mess up.

Next, we are told that God is walking in the garden during the breezy time of day (Genesis 3:8). He’s calling out and asking where the pinnacle of his creation is, but Adam and Eve hide from the One who will do anything to be with them. The irony of faithfulness and sin is that living in the light of sanctity allows us to see that we are everything in God’s eyes.

While giving into temptation and living a life of sin is our choice to tell God we don’t need to be his everything, we are in charge. Once we hit the bottom of the pit we often see that we’re nothing, and we can’t stand for him to even look at us.

But, God always shows up despite our action and bad choices. When he appears is just as important as the fact that he does. “The breezy time of day,” is a beautiful play on words in Hebrew because breeze can be a synonym for breathe or spirit which also appears as the force hovering over the waters at the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:2) and the lifeblood that is put into man when he is created (Genesis 2:7). These images of wind, breathe and spirit were used by Christ to portray the Holy Spirit’s power and intimacy (John 3:8; 20:22).

The breezy time of day is the period of power and opportunity. A chance for a second beginning and a conversion of life. Difficulty, challenge and sin allow for humanity to start again. Only a few verses later are we given the line that has been famously called the protoevangelium (the first good news/gospel): the fact that God will raise up an offspring of Eve that will crush the serpent forever and for good (Genesis 3:15). Evil triumphed in the center of the garden, but God’s creatures would be saved dramatically and definitively one day. Christ appears most evidently when we had all gone astray like sheep without a shepherd (Isaiah 53:6). God wastes no time. The first response to our sin is his promise to defeat what harms us the most.

The grandeur of the Bible is seen most poignantly in the fact that the inspired message of God is timeless and always applicable to our circumstances. Today the middle of the garden is overcrowded and is ruled by darkness. Selfishness, greed and unhindered freedom are the fruits we all pick ever so easily from the tree that entices humanity. However, similar to Genesis 3 sin and licentiousness allows for great openings of conversion and evangelization. These facts of our present world actually create a greater chance for greatness to arise. Our time is one of tremendous opportunity. A moment in history when things have gone so wrong that it should be even clearer to us what we must do. Virtue becomes more visible and palpable when it’s true witnesses are hard to come by.

Now is a better time than ever to rise to the call for heroic holiness. This is not a slogan to be chanted, but a reality to be experienced. The multitudes surround us with the temptation to be overwhelmed by all that has gone wrong in society and in the Church. Despite these voices God always appears at the right time, with the breeze behind him, calling us on to stop hiding, to leave the middle of the garden, and to reside in his presence. The place of true life, infinite possibility and tremendous renewal.

Thomas Griffin

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Thomas Griffin works in Manhattan and lives on Long Island, New York. He has a master’s degree in theology from St. Joseph’s Seminary and College along with a bachelor's degree in theology and philosophy from Molloy College.

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