The Tragedy of Man

The tragedy of our times lies in our almost complete unawareness, or unmindfulness, that there are two kingdoms, the temporal and the eternal. We would build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, rejecting all idea of resurrection or eternity. Resurrection is a myth. God is dead.

Let us go back to Biblical revelation, to the creation of Adam and Eve and the problem of original sin. ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1.5). The commandment given to the first-called in Paradise indicates this and at the same time conveys that, although Adam possessed absolute freedom of choice, to choose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would entail a break with God as the sole source of life. By opting for knowledge of evil – in other words, by existentially associating with evil, by savouring evil – Adam inevitably broke with God, Who can in no way be joined with evil (cf. 2 Cor. 6.14-15). In breaking with God, Adam dies. ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof,’ thus parting company with me, rejecting my love, my word, my will, ‘thou shalt surely die’ (Gen. 2.17). Exactly how Adam ‘tasted’ the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not important. His sin was to doubt God, to seek to determine his own life independently of God, even apart from Him, after the pattern of Lucifer. Herein lies the essence of Adam’s sin – it was a movement towards self-divinisation. Adam could naturally wish for deification – he had been created after the likeness of God – but he sinned in seeking this divinisation not through unity with God but through rupture. The serpent beguiled Eve, the helpmeet God had made for Adam, by suggesting that God was introducing a prohibition which would restrict their freedom to seek divine plenitude of knowledge – that God was unwilling for them to ‘be as gods knowing good and evil’ (Gen. 3.5)….

The fate of the world troubled me profoundly. Human life at whatever stage was unavoidably interlinked with suffering. Even love was full of contradictions and bitter crises. The seal of destruction lay everywhere.

I was still a young man when the tragedy of historical events far outdid anything that I had read in books. (I refer to the outbreak of the First World War, soon to be followed by the Revolution in Russia.) My youthful hopes and dreams collapsed. But at the same time a new vision of the world and its meaning opened before me. Side by side with devastation I contemplated rebirth. I saw that there was no tragedy in God. Tragedy is to be found solely in the fortunes of the man whose gaze has not gone beyond the confines of this earth. Christ Himself by no means typifies tragedy. Nor are His all-cosmic sufferings of a tragic nature. And the Christian who has received the gift of the love of Christ, for all his awareness that it is not yet complete, escapes the nightmare of all-consuming death. Christ’s love, during the whole time that He abode with us here, was acute suffering…. This is how it is with the Christian: for all his deep compassion, his tears and prayers for the world, there is none of the despair that destroys. Aware of the breath of the Holy Spirit, he is assured of the inevitable victory of Light. The love of Christ, even in the most acute stress of suffering (which I would call the ‘hell of loving’), because it is eternal is free of passion. Until we achieve supreme freedom from the passions on this earth suffering and pity may wear out the body but it will only be the body that dies…

We may say that even today mankind as a whole has not grown up to Christianity and continues to drag out an almost brutish existence. In refusing to accept Christ as Eternal Man and, more importantly, as True God and our Savior – whatever the form the refusal takes, and whatever the pretext – we lose the light of the eternal…. When we choose Christ we are carried beyond time and space, beyond the reach of what is termed ‘tragedy’….

The soul may return to this world. But the spirit of man, having experienced his resurrection and come near existentially to eternity, is even further persuaded that tragedy and death are the consequence of sin and that there is no other way to salvation than through Christ.

-from ch. 4 in His Life is Mine by Archimandrite Sophrony

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The Tragedy of Man

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s