February 10, 2017
Dear fellow pilgrims,
Happy Friday! Today I offer my annotated take on the FALL (*cue the "Inception" BWWAAAAHM*), as is described by the first reading.
Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals
that the LORD God had made.
The serpent asked the woman,
"Did God really tell you not to eat
from any of the trees in the garden?"
The woman answered the serpent:
"We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
it is only about the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden that God said,
'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'"
Sometimes the evil one tries to prompt an incorrect version of what the Lord has told us, in order to take advantage of our poor memory or lack of attention in our spiritual lives. Think of how easy it would have been for the evil one to get Eve to eat of the tree if she had forgotten the specifics of what God had told her. All the more reason to journal and speak with close confidantes in Christ! Trust me, your true friends will remind you of what the Lord has made clear to you when ulterior motives are making it fuzzy.
But the serpent said to the woman:
"You certainly will not die!
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods
who know what is good and what is evil."
Here, the evil one doesn't disagree that God told her these things, but rather, tells Eve that God was lying to her. He substitutes a perfectly reasonable plot line into the words she just disclosed, by first denying the scary consequence (death) God had laid out. He twists this command by insinuating that God gave this command to keep her at a distance from Him, He gave this command to not be challenged in knowledge. God's words turn from, "Don't drink this poison, you will die if you do," to, "Don't drink this magic potion, it will make you more like me, and then I will not be as powerful." God is hiding something, the evil one says, he is hiding something that would be better for you.
How could Eve fall for (no pun intended) such a proposition? How could she believe that she really could be that powerful that she could match, or at least spar with God's knowledge? Was God really afraid of an uprising against Him? Eve had to think it through: "Wait, so I know God told me not to do that, but why would God keep something from me that's for my good, that will make me smarter and more like Him? Am I not worth it to Him?"
See what happened there? The evil one successfully morphed the thing Eve was commanded to avoid into a thing that was for her good only by removing the underlying belief in God's love for her from His command. In other words, the evil one often calls God's calls and commands into question by not questioning the commands themselves, but questioning the deeper, implicit beliefs we have in God's intentions and identity behind the commands.
The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate it.
How many times has this happened to us? We are at the precipice of temptation, gazing upon the thing, act, person, situation that God has warned us to stay away from, to resist out of love for Him... really out of His love for you. But that love at the core (no pun intended) of His commands to us has completely faded from view. All we see is the thing that will satisfy our immediate hunger, something we savor in our minds, something we may have even rationalized into a gateway into something virtuous or worthy of praise.
"So she took," and so we take, when we focus less and less on God's love through His commands and more and more on our "love" for our own desires. How visceral is this imagery in this part of the reading? We look, we gaze upon temptation, we take, we eat, the temptation becomes a sin when we make it a part of us, when we consume it. Sound familiar? "Take and eat, this is my Body, given for you." God's plan to redeem his children was born the exact same time they fell. Jesus gives us an alternative to our grabby, "mine mine mine" natures by offering Himself as the fruit borne of the wood of the Cross.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together
and made loincloths for themselves.
When they heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden
at the breezy time of the day,
the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.
This is the part of Genesis that hyper intellectual people struggle with, because knowledge and reason hold such heavy weight. I've heard this passage interpreted not as the Fall of humanity, but the Ascent of humanity... describing Adam and Eve as martyrs for mankind reaching their "full potential as rational beings," in so many words. But how sadly and vividly is this a complete and utter buy-in to the evil one's false promises? The fundamental bait the evil one has is that humanity is greatest when defined by their capacity to know and understand in general, but the truth is that humanity is great due to our capacity to know and understand what it is to be in relationship with God, and that necessitates humility!
Yes, "their eyes were opened," but they were opened to evil, their own evil in their choice to depart from the Lord's will and relationship. And, from my understanding of St. John Paul the Great's theology, their eyes were also opened to the other's body as a source or objectification; sin entered into Adam and Eve's marriage. Not only were they hiding in the trees from God, they were hiding from each other in plain sight; they hid from each other! But why do people hide? They are afraid they will be found. Why are they afraid they will be found? Because they do not want to be seen as they are; the seer is not trusted with seeing them as they are.
And so, today's passage marks the beginnings of the spiritual pathology that humans (besides Mary... :) ) have not been able to completely cure. No matter how holy we get, even if we live up to the fullest of our call to sainthood, we will be walking with this limp until we get to heaven. But how much sweeter, then, is heaven? And how much more merciful is God? As my awesome husband pointed out on Wednesday, Genesis can be read as "God's love letter" to us when we focus on God in His supreme love as the protagonist.