St. Basil the Great, Hexameron 3.6
But then the rose was without thorns; since then the thorn has been added to its beauty, to make us feel that sorrow is very near to pleasure, and to remind us of our sin, which condemned the earth to produce thorns and caltrops.
Venerable Bede, Commentary on Genesis 1:29-30, ACW, p. 131
Before man’s transgression the earth brought forth nothing harmful, no poisonous plant, no unfruitful tree.
— Archimandrite Ephraim of Vatopaidi, Creation and the End of Ages, http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2011/12/creation-and-end-of-ages.html
The fall of man, who was the ‘crown of creation’, has caused the fall of the entire creation which “has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8″22). This explains the main teaching of our Church, which views the creation as a whole, which is being guided towards perfection and deification; man and nature together. Man and nature are not distinct in the design of the creation. Therefore man has a duty to maintain a good relationship with the rest of the creation. The fact that man remains in the fallen condition perilously prolongs the world enduring in the same condition. Thus man contributes to the perversion and degradation of nature. Therefore, the fall has not only distorted man existentially and morally but also his very same environment.
… In His Second Coming, Christ will not only restore human nature but the entire creation. Since the rest of the creation fell because of man, it will be regenerated by the sanctified man. When man attains sanctification, his surrounding environment is also sanctified. We find many such examples in the lives of the saints. A lion was attending the needs of St Gerasimos of Jordan; St Seraphim of Sarov was feeding a bear as if it was a tame lamb; Elder Paisios the Hagiorite was known to be keeping company with snakes and other wild animals.
Along with the resurrection and regeneration of man, nature will also be absolved of corruption. According to St Symeon the New Theologian, nature will become non-material and eternal. “During the regeneration, nature will become a non-material abode, beyond human perception” (St Symeon The New Theologian: Moral Issues, 1, 5).
St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and the Resurrection
But in that form of life, of which God Himself was the Creator, it is reasonable to believe that there was neither age nor infancy nor any of the sufferings arising from our present various infirmities, nor any kind of bodily affliction whatever. It is reasonable, I say, to believe that God was the Creator of none of these things, but that man was a thing divine before his humanity got within reach of the assault of evil; that then, however, with the inroad of evil, all these afflictions also broke in upon him . . . Just so our nature, becoming passional, had to encounter all the necessary results of a life of passion: but when it shall have started back to that state of passionless blessedness, it will no longer encounter the inevitable results of evil tendencies. Seeing, then, that all the infusions of the life of the brute into our nature were not in us before our humanity descended through the touch of evil into passions, most certainly, when we abandon those passions, we shall abandon all their visible results. No one, therefore, will be justified in seeking in that other life for the consequences in us of any passion. Just as if a man, who, clad in a ragged tunic, has divested himself of the garb, feels no more its disgrace upon him, so we too, when we have cast off that dead unsightly tunic made from the skins of brutes and put upon us (for I take the “coats of skins” to mean that conformation belonging to a brute nature with which we were clothed when we became familiar with passionate indulgence), shall, along with the casting off of that tunic, fling from us all the belongings that were round us of that skin of a brute; and such accretions are sexual intercourse, conception, parturition, impurities, suckling, feeding, evacuation, gradual growth to full size, prime of life, old age, disease, and death. If that skin is no longer round us, how can its resulting consequences be left behind within us? It is folly, then, when we are to expect a different state of things in the life to come, to object to the doctrine of the Resurrection on the ground of something that has nothing to do with it.
St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, Homily on Man
The earth, created, adorned, blessed by God, did not have any deficiencies. It was overflowing with refinement. “God saw,” after the completion of the whole creation of the world, “everything that He had made: and, behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31). Now the earth is presented to our eyes in a completely different look. We do not know her condition in holy virginity; we know her in the condition of corruption and accursedness, we know her already sentenced to burning; she was created for eternity. . . . Plants were not subjected either to decay or to diseases; both decay and diseases and the weeds themselves, appeared after the alteration of the earth following the fall of man . . . According to its creation, there was on it only the splendid, only the wholesome, there was only that which was suitable for the immortal and blessed life of its inhabitants . . . The beasts and other animals lived in perfect harmony among themselves, nourishing themselves on plant life.
St. Symeon the New Theologian, Ethical Discourses 1.1
Notice that it is nowhere written, “God created paradise,” or that he said “let it be and it was,” but instead that He “planted” it, and “made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” [Gen. 2:8-9], bearing every kind and variety of fruit, fruit which is never spoiled or lacking but always fresh and ripe, full of sweetness, and providing our ancestors with indescribable pleasure and enjoyment. For their immortal bodies had to be supplied with incorruptible food.
This is the reason why, when God saw from before the creation of the world that Adam would be saved through re-birth, He subjected creation to him, and put it under a curse so that, having been created for the sake of man who had fallen into corruption, it should itself become corrupt and provide him annually with corrupted food. . . . Which is to say that creation was not of itself subjected to humanity, nor was it willingly changed over to corruption and made to bear perishable fruits and to sprout thorns and thistles, but as obedient to God’s command Who ordered these things, and with the hope of a restoration.
St. Gregory of Sinai, On Commandments and Doctrines
8. Man is created incorruptible, without bodily humours, and thus he will be when resurrected. Yet he is not created either immutable or mutable, since he possesses the power to choose at will whether to be subject to change or not. But the will cannot confer total immutability of nature upon him. Such immutability is bestowed only when he has attained the state of changeless deification.
9. Corruption is generated by the flesh. To feed, to excrete, to stride about and to sleep . . . [we acquired] these characteristics through the fall, we have become beast-like, losing the natural blessings bestowed on us by God. We have become brutal instead of spiritually intelligent, ferine instead of godlike.
10. Paradise is twofold – sensible and spiritual: there is the paradise of Eden and the paradise of grace. The paradise of Eden is so exalted that it is said to extend to the third heaven. It has been planted by God with every kind of sweet-scented plant . . . Created between corruption and incorruption, it is always rich in fruits, ripe and unripe, and continually full of flowers. When trees and ripe fruit rot and fall to the ground they turn into sweet-scented soil, free from the smell of decay exuded by the vegetable-matter of this world. That is because of the great richness and holiness of the grace ever abounding there.
St. Paisius Velichovsky, The Scroll, 6 Chapters on Mental Prayer, chap. 2
From these testimonies it is clear that God, having created man according to His image and likeness, conducted him into a Paradise of sweetness to till the immortal gardens, that is, the most pure, exalted and perfect Divine thoughts, according to St. Gregory the Theologian. And this means nothing else than that he remained, as being pure in soul and heart, in contemplative, grace-filled prayer, sacredly working in the mind alone, that is, in the sweetest vision of God, and that he manfully preserved this, it being the work of Paradise, as the apple of his eye, lest it ever decrease in his soul and heart.
St. John Chrysostom, On the Creation of the World 5:5, pg. 791
“To till.” What was lacking in Paradise? And even if a tiller was needed, where was the plow? Where were the other implements of agriculture? The “tilling” (or “working”) of God consisted in tilling and keeping the commandments of God, remaining faithful to the commandment . . . The work was the keeping of the spiritual words . . . “To till and to keep it,” it is said. To keep it from whom? There were no thieves, no passersby, no one of evil intent. To keep from whom? To keep it for oneself; not to lose it by transgressing the commandment; to keep Paradise for oneself, observing the commandment.
Homilies on Romans 14
What is the meaning of “the creation was made subject to futility”? That it became corruptible. For what cause, and on what account? On account of you, O man. For since you took a body mortal and subject to suffering, so also the earth received a curse, and brought forth thorns and thistles.
St. Ephraim the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis 2.7
2. But with what did Adam till the garden since he had no tools for tilling? How could he have tilled it since he was not capable of tilling it himself? What did he have to till since there were no thorns or briars there? Moreover, how could he have guarded it as he could not possibly encompass it? And from what did he guard it since there were no thieves to enter it? Indeed, the fence that was erected after the transgression of the commandment bears witness that as long as Adam kept the commandment, no guard was required.
3. Adam had nothing to guard then except the law that had been set down for him. Nor was any other “tilling” entrusted to him except to fulfill the commandment that had been commanded him.
St. Gregory the Theologian, Second Oration on Easter 8
This being He placed in Paradise . . . to till the immortal plants, by which is perhaps meant the Divine conceptions, both the simpler and the more perfect.
St. Nilus of Sora (commenting on this interpretation by St. Nilus of Sinai), Genesis, Creation and Early Man p. 170
Now this Saint brings forth from antiquity that one should till and keep; for the Scripture says that God created Adam and placed him in Paradise to till and keep Paradise. For here this St. Nilus of Sinai calls prayer the tilling of Paradise, and the guarding against evil thoughts after prayer he calls keeping.
St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambiguum 10
For when he decided to be guided by his senses, which are much more like the serpent than God, and took the first-fruits of food from the forbidden tree, in which he had been taught beforehand that fruit and death went together, he changed the life that is proper to fruit, and fashioned for himself a living death for the whole of the time of this present age . . . In not wishing to be nourished by Him [God], the first man rightly fell away from the Divine life, and took death as another parent. Accordingly he put on himself the irrational form, and blackened the inconceivable beauty of the Divine, and delivered over the whole of nature as food for death. Death is living on this through the whole of this temporal period, making us his food.
St. Theophilus, To Autolycus, II.XIX
For God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.”40 By this He signifies to us, that the whole earth was at that time watered by a divine fountain, and had no need that man should till it; but the earth produced all things spontaneously by the command of God, that man might not be wearied by tilling it.
Fr. Nikita Grigoriev, Faith and Delusion, p. 9-10
Here it is absolutely and vitally important to understand that everything which God created in the beginning was perfectly good. Everything was indescribably magnificent and good without even the slightest hint of evil, harm, grief or insufficiency, and certainly not death. God created everything in brilliant perfection. In that primordial world there was no illness, no fear, no danger. The animals did not fear or devour one another for they were given grass for forage, and man was given grain and fruits. God created man for life, not for death. God did not create death and in the primordial world there was no death. Even fruits did not perish and upon falling from a tree immediately metabolized into fragrant earth. Not only was man not threatened by death or illness, but even did not burn him and water did not drown him; all the animals and nature recognized him as their king and master and served and submitted to him in love and harmony.
All that man had to do was to grow and develop spiritually. Man, created in the image of God faced an unimaginably joyous future, infinitely perfecting himself in his God-likeness.
St. Philaret of Moscow, Commentary on the Book of Genesis, p. 42
Since God has approved of the whole kingdom of plants (cf. Gen. 1:12), man should not rebel against Him, seeing that some plants are poisonous or noxious. If the fall of man had not subjected the entire earth to corruption, we would find in them only good and useful properties.
St. Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 52.2, trans. Frank Williams, vol. 2, p. 69
Adam and Eve had the purest air, temperately dispensed to them by God with all mildness, neither sharpened by the rigor of cold, not enervated by the extremely unpleasant heat of summer. The land had been designed as an immortal abode very well made by God; it was filled with gladness and well-being, and as I said, got neither hot nor cold.
Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, Preaching in the Russian Church, p. 101
Had Adam and Eve not sinned: “there would be no need of the plow and the laboring oxen, the planting of seed, the watering shower, the mutual change of the seasons of the year, the winter binding in fetters and the summer opening up all things.