What ever happened to the Tree of Life that stood in the middle of the Garden of Eden? How can I have a taste of its fruit?
In Genesis chapter 2, we learn that God had placed Adam and Eve in this amazing Garden. It was filled with trees that were “pleasing to the eye and good for food.” In the very middle of the Garden, God placed two trees: the Tree of Life (the fruit of which would bring eternal life) and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve were told they could eat the fruit of all the trees except for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because if you do, you will surely die. That’s it, one rule to obey.
When I was a little child, my Mom gave me some toys to play with in the living room and told me that she was cooking in the kitchen. I was to stay in the living room with my toys while she used the bathroom. She gave me one rule: “Do not touch the stove; it is hot and you will get burned.” You all know how this story ends. Yes, I was crying in the kitchen with a burned finger!
So, it went for Adam and Eve. With a little help from the serpent (Genesis 3), they never did eat of the Tree of Life, but ate from the one forbidden tree. They were thrown out of the Garden of Eden. Instead of eternal life, they had ushered in death and the Tree of Life with its fruit that would give eternal life disappeared. And so, humanity remained the same until the time was right for God to “trample down death” by His own death on the Cross (see Galatians 4:4).
Christians throughout the centuries have understood the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ to be the Tree of Life restored again to all of humanity. Here is a beautiful quote from Saint Ephrem: “Under the Old Covenant the Tree of Life continued to remain hidden from humanity, and it was only with the Crucifixion that it was finally made manifest. Greatly saddened was the Tree of Life when it beheld Adam stolen away from it. It sank down into the virgin ground and was hidden; to burst forth and reappear on Golgotha.” (Hymn on Virginity XVI)
Once again, humanity is invited to eat the “fruit” from the Tree of Life (the Cross). What is this “fruit” that hung from the Cross? It is Jesus and here is His invitation to us: “Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:53-56). Orthodox Christians believe that we eat the Body and Blood of Christ when we have Holy Communion as He taught His disciples (Matthew 26:26-28).
The impact of Adam and Eve eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil clearly remains with humanity in this world we live in. But thankfully, the Tree of Life did “burst” forth again and we can choose to eat of its “fruit”! What an incredible blessing and joy!