"And saw the woman, that beautiful was the tree for eating..."--Gen 3:6
Just a few days ago we heard of the beautiful goodness of creation (for καλον means both "beautiful" and "good"), and now we hear of evil coming from something good. How can this be, that what was made good can to evil? When we are allured by that good beauty into turning away from the Lord and His designs.
The Lord designed creation beautifully, beautiful exceedingly, and He gave us wide freedom to use it. "From every tree which is in paradise for food, do yotu eat." Out of every tree, every plant bearing fruit with its seed in it, from every plant on earth man could eat: to this freedom God gave but one restriction. "From the tree of the knowing of good [καλὸν] and evil, do not eat from it. In the day you eat from it, by death you shall die." To this one restriction did God place a mightily terrifying punishment: the punishment of double death. Not only would man die, but he would "die by death," or "die the death," as some translate it.
Is God such a cruel tyrant that He imposes horrific consequences on those who merely eat something forbidden? Would He slay man with a double death for doing what children do frequently? There is more to this than just eating. The tree of which they cannot eat is no ordinary tree: God did not say, "You may eat from every tree except the pear tree." This is "the tree of the knowing of good and evil." So is God trying to hide knowledge from man? That is what the serpent states: "For God knows, that in the day you eat from it, opened to you will be your eyes and you will be as gods, knowing good [καλὸν] and evil." In a sense, we could say, the serpent is right, for God is trying to keep knowledge from them: the knowledge of evil. God does not want to trouble man: He wishes for man's greatest happiness, and how will knowing evil lead to happiness?
Yet, one may say, if God did not want us to eat of it, if God did not want to burden us with this knowledge of evil, why did He place the tree in paradise? To give man the choice. For it is choice that is one of the defining marks of a rational being such as man, and it is by choice that God wants man to love Him.
I said that all that God was keeping from them was knowledge of evil: yet what of knowledge of good? This was revealed in creation, that creation that had was "beautiful exceedingly." Man had no need to eat of the tree to learn of goodness, for this he already knew, from the creation which he knew and named. Even more he knew it from companionship, for "not good [καλὸν] is the man alone [or, "the lonely man"]: let us make for him a helper like him." And so God did, making him woman, the great companion for man.
So man knew goodness from creation, and he knew goodness from companionship, and he even knew goodness from his relationship with God who spoke with him. All that was concealed was knowledge of evil. Yet the love of novelty drove Adam and Eve to give in to the serpent's trickery and to eat the forbidden fruit, to be burdened with the knowledge of evil, the evil that will fill all the coming pages of human history. They wished to know the one thing God wished to protect them from, for they were lured by the beauty of God's creation, the tree; they traded the Creator for His creation.
So we must keep on our guard, and heed the command of Moses, "be watchful of yourself," that we are not led astray by beauty, but that we keep our eyes focused on the Lord. For it is He Who is the most beautiful, and it is He Who will make crooked ways straight and bring honey out of rocks and springs out of deserts; it is He Who leads fallen man to a greater good than he had in paradise, even though he is tainted by evil. As we pass these forty days of fasting, remembering how we too have be lured by the world's beauty and have indulged in evil, let us keep our eyes focused on our leader in the Faith, Christ Jesus, Whose Resurrection we will celebrate, for through Him comes the grace and the divinization that the loving God grants to those who love Him.