Reposted from Lent, 2008, which was a very searing season.
“WHO TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE NAKED?”
Expulsion from Paradise* H/T Reader Anthony
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.
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.
Then [the Lord] said, “Where are you?”
[Adam] answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.”
Then [the Lord] asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”
The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me–she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.”
The LORD God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
As I’ve written elsewhere, I’m one of those Christians who is completely comfortable linking Creationism and Evolution – whether Adam and Eve found their awareness from a piece of fruit or a God-designed evolution is pointless to carp about. The fact is once Adam and Eve became “aware,” and into human consciousness, the first things they did were to hide themselves and lie to themselves and to God.
I like the question, “who told you that you were naked?” Prior to this consciousness Adam & Eve were happily running around naked, like every other creature in the wild. Then: awareness. And what was the awareness? That their nakedness was “dirty”? Unlikely. That their nakedness was “embarrassing?” Also unlikely. They’d had no example of shame or embarrassment.
Animals do not perceive their nakedness or try to protect their genitalia, but suddenly, Adam & Eve did. Evolution? Fruit? Whatever. What matters is that suddenly they knew more than they had known, and what they knew – what they suddenly understood – was that they were vulnerable.
Their awareness of their vulnerability might have led to their excuse-making, too. Until that point they had enjoyed a blissful relationship with the Creator – there would have been no reason to fear and yet, suddenly attuned to their vulnerability, they feared enough to hem and haw and blame anyone else around, and aside from the serpent there was only each other.
Was the first sin, then, simple disobedience? That doesn’t really seem likely. Obedience, like anything else, must be learned.
Rather, I think the first sin was humanity not trusting in God but trying to guard themselves by hiding from him; humans covering themselves up both physically and metaphorically – with fig leaves and with the sloughing off of blame onto others – rather than revealing themselves and taking responsibility for their actions.
The taint of Original Sin: God has been trying to get us to trust Him, to reveal ourselves to Him and to be vulnerable (open) to Him ever since.
Perhaps this explains the command by God for the Jews to circumcise the men. The foreskin of the penis affords some protection for the organ – a bit of shelter, a place to hide. When God chose the Jews as His own, he required this symbolic (and real) acquiescence – this willingness to be completely vulnerable and exposed to whatever may come. The unsheathed penis is sensitive and responsive, and exposed – precisely the qualities God wanted of the Jews. He made a covenant with them; He would be their God, they would be His people, and the deal was sealed in blood. At its shedding, man and God are bonded.
The need to be vulnerable and open to God is part and parcel of having a real relationship with Him, just as it is the necessary component in human relationships. We see the blood covenant and the need for vulnerability and openness mirrored in the relationship between a husband and wife – or we did, when virginity was kept for marriage. The thin membrane of the hymen is a kind of counterpart to the foreskin. In shedding the foreskin the Jew becomes openly vulnerable to God. In remaining a virgin until marriage, the woman becomes vulnerable only (but fully) to her husband, and he – in receiving that vulnerability – answers only to her, gives his deepest self and the sweat of all of his labors to her. It is another blood covenant. At the shedding of that blood, they become one flesh. One entity.
God says, “be my people,” and there is a blood covenant. A man and woman say “be mine” and there is a blood covenant. We have never understood.
So God becomes Incarnate and tries to explain: be opened. I will show you how. I will make myself vulnerable to you. You may have my blood. It is shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.
It is the greatest of the blood covenants, because the blood covers and draws into oneness not a tribe, nor a mate, but an entire creation – for better or worse. The marriage of heaven to earth, God to man.
Looked at this way all of the dogmas no longer seem trite. There was a reason (beyond paternity) for Mary’s virginity. Christ made his first covenant with his mother – the Ark of the Covenant.
God could not make Himself any more vulnerable than to come to us – through a woman, of her blood, then laying in a wooden manger, and to go from us hanging upon the wood of a blood-soaked cross. He rose and said “see, I make all things new – even death cannot separate us. Come to me.”
Christ has opened God to us, through Himself. God does the unthinkable and makes himself vulnerable and says “Come…stop making excuses, stop hiding yourselves, stop blaming others, stop throwing yourself away, stop running from my love. Turn and face me. Ephphatha, be opened, and let me love you, let me give myself to you as you give yourself to me, and this will bear fruit.”
In this Lenten season, let all of our small sacrifices and minor slips render us vulnerable, that we may be opened to Him, the Divine Lover. Let us hear his love-talk, his whispers and his invitation.
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart…rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness and relenting in punishment. – Joel 2;12-13
The mystery here is that there is no mystery beyond love.
UPDATE: Julie at Happy Catholic shares her daughter’s favorite quote and it is appropriate here:
To love at all is to be vulnerable… If you want to make sure of keeping your heart intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken — it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable… The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from love is Hell. — C.S. Lewis
*The Expulsion from Paradise scene – the bronze doors of the Cathedral at Hildesheim…Adam and Eve respond to God’s question by passing the buck…Adam points to Eve, who points to the serpent.