4· For He who produced all earthly and heavenly things out of non-being, when He saw that His rational creatures were brought to nothing because of their desire for something greater (cf Gen. 3:5) bestowed upon them Himself, than whom nothing is greater, and to whom nothing is equal or comes near to being equal, and offered Himself to be partaken of by those who so wished, in order that from that time forward we might exercise our desire for something better without risk, although in the beginning we fell into the ultimate danger on that account (cf I Cor. 15:26), and in order that each of us, in desiring to become God, might not only be blameless, but also attain to our longing. In a mysterious way, He abolished the pretext for the original fall, which was the superiority and inferiority observable in beings and the resulting envy and treachery, as also the disputes, both open and concealed, which this caused. Because the author of evil did not want to be lower than any of the angels, but to be equal in excellence to the Creator Himself, he was the first to suffer the terrible fall before anyone else. Smitten by envy, he deceitfully attacked Adam and dragged him down to the abyss of Hades by means of the same desire. By so doing, he made Adam’s fall difficult to reverse, and it required God’s extraordinary presence, which has now been accomplished, to restore him. His own fall, however, he rendered incurable once and for all, because he did not acquire his arrogance from anyone else, but became himself the principle of evil and the fullness of evil, and made himself available to anyone wishing to participate in evil. — St. Gregory Palamas, Homily Fifty-Eight on the Saving Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord and God and Savior
Here we see St. Gregory highlighting what I believe to be an underappreciated dogma of the Church — the fact that God created everything from nothing. This dogma is implied by the opening verses of Genesis:
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. — Gen 1:1-2
and explicitly stated in 2 Macabees:
I beseech thee, my son, look upon the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and consider that God made them of things that were not; and so was mankind made likewise — 7:28
There are two very critical implications of this dogma. Firstly, without God, we are nothing by our very nature. Secondly, evil is the absence of God. Indeed, the reason sin, death and decay afflict fallen creation is precisely because Adam and Eve chose to know a world in which God is absent — a knowledge of evil. The fallen creation is hurtling toward its very nature — nothing. By God’s will alone do we exist at all.
It may sound harsh, but the logical conclusion of this world-view must see atheism, secularism and even agnosticism as evil. All of them willingly choose a world where God is absent. The great tragedy of this choice is that ultimately it amounts to nothing — literally.
We see this pattern play itself out throughout history when people choose to try to become greater than God or replace God with themselves. For a recent example, Communism left a gigantic scar upon the earth — both literally and figuratively. The human cost of that experiment will probably never be truly known, but can be estimated in the tens or even hundreds of millions. For another example that is playing itself out right before our eyes, today secularist Europe is on the brink of collapse.
This is why God chose to become a babe in a manger. So that we might have access to Him — the very font of our existence. Today, we have a very real and vital choice to make: Christ or (literally) nothing.