The first Adam, progenitor of the human race, was unable to fulfil the vocation laid before him: to achieve deification and bring to God the visible world by means of spiritual and moral perfection. Having broken the commandment and fallen away from the sweetness of Paradise, he had closed the way to deification. Yet everything that the first man left undone was accomplished in his stead by God Incarnate, the Word-become-flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ. He trod that path to us which we were meant to tread towards him. And if this would have been the way of humanity’s ascent, for God it was the way of humble condescension, of self-emptying (kenosis).

St Paul calls Christ the ‘second Adam’. Contrasting him with the first, he says: ‘The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven’ (I Cor. 15:47). This parallelism was developed by St John Chrysostom, who referred to Adam as the prototype of Christ:

Adam is the image of Christ … as the man for those who came from him, even though they did not eat of the tree, became the cause of death, then Christ for those who were born of him, although they have done no good, became the bearer of righteousness, which he gave to all of us through the Cross.

Gregory the Theologian makes a detailed comparison between Christ’s sufferings and Adam’s fall:

For each of our debts we are given to in a special way … The tree of the Cross has been given for the tree we tasted of; for our hand stretched out greedily, we have been given arms courageously extended; for our hands following their own inclination, we have been given hands nailed to the Cross; for the hand that has driven out Adam, we have been given arms uniting the ends of the earth into one. For our fall we have been given his raising up on a Cross; for our tasting of the forbidden fruit, we have been given his tasting of bile; for our death, his death; for our return to the earth, his burial.

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church, 79-80.

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