Tag Archives: Adam

One, Two, Three… Return to Trinity!

“One, two, three… Return to Trinity!”
A reflection on Matthew 19:3-12
Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

Matthew 19:3-12

The Trinity is present in the second line of the couplet as breath (Holy Spirit), the Word (Son), and God the Father.

Beneath the discussion about marriage lies a primordial metaphysical truth: the essential unity of the human race in Adam/Christ beyond the division of the sexes. The virginity of Christ mirrors Adam’s original virginity stamped in the image of the Virgin Father, Virgin Son, and Virgin Holy Spirit. See the related post: Marriage, Christ and the Trinity.

Marriage on earth is a sign of the union between Christ and the Church, divinity and humanity in the second person of the Trinity. In the person of Christ, male and female, Jew and Gentile (individuating characteristics belonging to general classes) are integrated in the Body of Christ. Unlike monism, however, ultimate reality is simultaneously one and many due to unique, unclassifiable persons.

Jesus’ final words about eunuchs for the kingdom of God establishes the vocation of virginity/celibacy as an eschatological sign of the multi-personal unity of the human race in the communion of the Trinity.

Bread of Shalom

Christina DeMichele, Christ Enthroned in His Creation (Used with permission)

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:44-51

The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

John 6:41-42

Unless Jesus was who he claimed to be, his statements were certainly wild and preposterous. From a natural perspective, the son of Joseph and Mary, born in a particular place and time, was destined to live and die like all human beings. Nothing about Jesus’ appearance suggested that he was a heavenly being.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.

John 6:43

The new Moses echoed his predecessor by chiding the children of Israel for murmuring and grumbling just at the time when God promised manna in the desert (Exodus 16:2; 7-8; LXX—same verb as in John 6:43).

“Whoever comes to me will never hunger,” Jesus said (John 6:35), but

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.

John 6:44

Like a chain of magnets, the uncreated person of the Father draws all created persons to himself through the uncreated person of his Son, including all flesh (sarx) and the cosmos (kosmos).

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

John 12:32

Creation has an in-built force of attraction towards her LORD and Maker. In the beginning (Genesis 1:1), the shalom of God filled the heavens and the earth. Shalom means wholeness and completeness through communion with the LORD God, the basis of integral peace. In a shalom-filled world, all creatures move gracefully in synergy with the Spirit of God.

It is written in the prophets:
‘They shall all be taught by God.’
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.

John 6:45

Jesus quoted Isaiah 54:13:

All your children shall be taught by the Lord;
great shall be the peace (shalom) of your children.

Isaiah 54:13; LXX

Like the second Adam, the first Adam in the Garden of Eden enjoyed an unmediated sonship in the Father, “walking” (halak) and talking with him in familiarity and intimacy. Yet only the uncreated Son “sees” (horaó) the Father in his plenitude exceeding the capacity of finite creatures. God alone “comprehends” God.

Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.

John 6:46

Not by vision but by faith, the children of God are drawn up to the Father through the Son.

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

John 6:47

Believing (pisteuó) goes far deeper than having right ideas about God and religion. Many who had a formidable knowledge of Scripture and theology did not believe Jesus. Only a genuine personal encounter leads to faith (pistis, the noun form of pisteuó). 

I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living (zaó) bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live (zaó) forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh (sarx) for the life (zóé) of the world (kosmos).”

John 6:48-51

Manna was provisional and a pointer to the tree of life to come from Abraham and Adam. The repetition of zóé (noun) and zaó (verb) which are cognate recall the words of the LORD God about the tree of life:

Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life (zóé), and eats of it and lives (zaó) forever?

Genesis 3:22; LXX

The Greek Septuagint version matches the words of Christ in the Gospel of John concerning the bread from heaven that bestows eternal life. Zóé in the Greek lexical universe indicates the fullness of life beyond mere physical existence, in fact, participation in the divine life. It is sharply distinguished from bios or biological, earthly existence. 

The original Hebrew word for life in Genesis 3:22, chay, includes divine, human, animal, and vegetative life as a whole—a concept that resonates with shalom. The Hebrew mind did not make the sharp distinctions between spirit and matter that characterized Hellenistic philosophy. In the beginning—bereshit, the opening word of the Torah in Genesis 1:1God, Adam, and the cosmos were one.

Restoration of shalom encompasses heaven and earth, all flesh and the cosmos. The eating and drinking Jesus risen in the flesh epitomizes shalom. Every division is overcome in the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. 

-GMC

Wine, Woman and Wakening

Wedding Feast at Cana

Fourth Week of Lent, Monday

John 4:43-54 

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.

John 4:46

The Gospel of John calls special attention to Cana, the location of the first and second “signs” (sémeion) revealing Jesus as the Messiah to Israel. Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, the wedding feast at Cana (first sign), and the healing of the royal official’s son (second sign) are all connected in the Gospel.

In the light of the protological account of Genesis, the three episodes can be seen as the renewal of the primordial waters of creation, the transformation and divinization of all flesh in Christ (water into wine), and the restoration of a son to a father (Abel to Adam). 

Cana and Cain are etymologically related, and it is in this town that Jesus revealed his glory at the instigation of “Woman.” Jesus and Mary, the new Adam and new Eve, are the archetypes of Man and Woman (Ish and Ishshah in Hebrew) at the dawn of creation. 

Jesus addresses Mary as “Woman” twice in John’s Gospel—at the wedding feast at Cana and at the foot of the Cross (John 2:4; John 19:26). The appellation recalls Adam’s acclamation when presented with Eve: 

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
This one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of man this one has been taken.”

Genesis 2:23

In the recreation of the world, Ish is taken out of Ishshah in the Virgin birth of Christ. Jesus and Mary redeemed the world as “one flesh,” the former as God and the latter as the Mother of God chosen by grace. 

The following poem expresses these ideas. 

The First Sign of Jesus in the Light of Genesis

John 2:1-11

Water churning and bubbling 
In the beginning of time… 
Hovering was the Spirit 
Over dark and oozing slime.1

Speaking, breathing and molding
In six days of creation…
Ish and Ishshah God made flesh—
A wedding celebration!2

Churning and bubbling water
Of the Jordan near Cana…
Ish from heaven purified
For the wedding fiesta.3

On the third day his mother
Came to the marriage banquet.
Mercy moved her heart to solve
A problem unexpected. 

“They have no wine,” Mary said.
“What is that to us, Ishshah?”4
“Do whatever he tells you.”5
The servants obeyed Ima.6

Bubbling and churning water
In six ceremonial jars…
Hovering was the Spirit,
Making yayin for the bars.7

“You saved the best wine for last!”
Cheered the master of the feast.
Thus the Bridegroom was revealed:
King of glory, the High Priest.

The Second Sign of Jesus in the Light of Genesis

John 4:43-54

The first father mourned his son,
The first victim of the curse;
Christ’s second sign at Cana
Cain’s calamity reversed.

Like Adam, the little king8
Ached to have his son restored.
Seeking Jesus with faint faith,
A home visit he implored.

“Your son lives,” said Christ, “Go home!”
“Yes, he lives!” servants confirmed.
At the seventh hour he revived,9
In the instant Christ affirmed.

God changed water into wine,
And gave life back to a son,
Infused flesh with breath divine—
Signs of earth’s recreation.

-GMC

1 Genesis 1:1-2; 2:1-7.

2 Ish and Ishshah are man and woman in Hebrew, from Genesis 2:23. The two are “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Click phonetics for the pronunciation of ish and ishshah

3 Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan: Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34. In Middle Eastern culture, the bride and bridegroom prepare for the wedding with a special bath.

4 John 2:4 in Greek: “What [is that] to me and to you, Woman?”

5 John 2:5.

6 Ima is mom in Aramaic/Hebrew. Click here for the pronunciation of Ima.

7 Yayin is wine in Hebrew. Click phonetics for the pronunciation of yayin

8 The “royal official” (basilikos) in John 4:46, literally translated from the Greek, is “little king.” In the story of Genesis, Adam (a type of Christ) is also a little king. 

9 The Gospel writer specifies the “seventh” hour as the time when the fever left the boy (John 4:52). According to HELPS Word-studies, hébdomos (seventh) is a figure of God’s perfect, finished work. The New American Bible (Revised Edition) loses the religious significance by translating it, “one in the afternoon.”

Drinking Poison

Thursday after Ash Wednesday 

Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 9:22-25

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

Genesis 2:15 (Revised Standard Version)

Adam, priest and king of the Lord’s garden sanctuary, had the duty “to till it and keep it.” 

The Hebrew word for “keep” (shamar) appears throughout God’s treaty with Israel: they are to “keep” the Sabbath, commandments, festivals, and covenant. 

Adam had only one law to “keep” in the garden of Eden:1 

You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.

Genesis 2:16

The law was a matter of life and good, death and evil. Keeping the law proved Adam’s love, trust, and obedience. Preserving the law, Adam “walked” with God.

Like a father to his children, Moses gave the law to Israel:

See, I have today set before you life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I am giving you today, loving the Lord, your God, and walking in his ways, and keeping (shamar) his commandments, statutes and ordinances, you will live and grow numerous, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. If, however, your heart turns away and you do not obey, but are led astray and bow down to other gods and serve them, I tell you today that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land which you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land which the Lord swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Law and love are one in the heart of God. Keeping the law is union with God. Christ is the Law and Love Incarnate. 

The Cross, the tree of life, transcended the deadly effects of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eclipsing the Mosaic polarity of “life and death” and “good and evil,” Jesus shocked the world by swallowing death and evil.

“Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”

Mark 14:36

“Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

Mark 10:38

The poisoned drink that killed Christ’s mortal body transmuted into living wine by drowning in his divinity.

St. Paul, zealous keeper of the Mosaic covenant, had to be blinded and knocked to his spiritual senses before proclaiming in wonder:

For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.

Philippians 1:21

Walking the line between life and death is a fearful thing for mortals, but Jesus walked right into the black hole of death and evil and emerged into the Light immortal and transfigured. Jesus set us free from the enslaving fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). 

The divine strategy was as incomprehensible in Jesus’ day as it is in ours:

He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. ”Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?

Luke 9:22-25

Christ forfeited everything to God and won heaven and the whole world.
On the Cross, losers are winners.

Christ
Rose
Obedient 
Smashing
Sin 

-GMC

1 St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Second Oration on Easter 8: “[God gave Adam] a law as a material for his free will to act on. This law was a commandment as to what plants he might partake of and which one he might not touch.” From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Genesis 1-11, Andrew Louth and Marco Conti, editors, and Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 62.

According to Aphraates, a 4th century Syrian ascetic and bishop in the patristic tradition: “He established a new law for Adam, that he could not eat of the tree of life.” See the Liturgy of the Hours, First Week of Lent, Wednesday, Office of Readings.

God Beyond Words

Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

…then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7

On Ash Wednesday, we remember our origins—that we are dust of the ground. In Hebrew, adam (humankind) and adamah (ground, land) are cognate. No preposition links adam (humankind) and aphar (dry earth, dust) min-hā·’ă·ḏā·māh (of the ground), indicating the closest affinity between humankind and dust of the ground. 

Like a mother, the Lord God blew into the nostrils of adam the breath of life. The word for breath (neshamah) is derived from the Hebrew verb nasham (to pant or gasp like a woman in labor). Since labor pains were pronounced a penalty after the transgression, postlapsarian language strains to express the inexpressible. 

God who is beyond thought and speech “clothed Himself in our language, so that He might clothe us in His mode of life,” writes St. Ephrem the Syrian.1

It is our metaphors that He put on—
though He did not literally do so;
He then took them off—without actually doing so:
when wearing them, He was at the same time stripped of them.
He puts on one when it is beneficial,
then strips it off in exchange for another;
the fact that He strips off
and puts on all sorts of metaphors
tells us that the metaphor
does not apply to His true Being:
because that Being is hidden,
He has depicted it by means of what is visible.2

Language that developed “east of Eden” now serves as a bridge over the chasm between creation and its Creator.

Mystics testify that the journey into God eventually leaves words and thoughts behind. The Dominican mystic John Tauler (c. 1300-1361) writes of this divine abyss:

No one can imagine the solitude which reigns in this wilderness, no one at all. No thought can enter here, not a word of all the learned treatises on the Holy Trinity with which people busy themselves so much. Not a single word. So inward is it, so infinitely remote, and so untouched by time and space. This ground is simple and without differentiation, and when one enters here, it will seem as if one has been here from all eternity and as if united to God, be it only for an instant. This experience sheds light and bears witness that man was everlasting in God, before his creation in time. When he was in Him, he was God in God.3

The language of the mystic can be misinterpreted as denying the distinction between God and creation, but it is actually pointing to an experience beyond words. Trying to express in words a wordless reality is like trying to produce a whole sheet of paper using a pair of scissors. Language is a scissor.

Jesus calls us to return to oneness with God. When Eve’s mind turned to the question of the serpent, her thoughts scattered and dispersed from one-pointed union. Adam became distracted along with his wife. Ever since the exile, humans have been looking to their left and right for approval rather than living directly in the Light of God.

“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Matthew 6:1-4

Looking left and right is not only an external phenomenon but an internal one as well, in self-congratulation and self-righteousness. When the left hand knows not what the right hand is up to, the person is single and simple: 

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light.”

Matthew 6:22

“The Father and I are one,” Jesus said (John 10:30). The “I” of the Son of God includes adam, all humankind, which he assumed. Hidden prayer draws us into that original intimacy and communion with the Father:

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Matthew 6:6

Words enfleshed God till
God became flesh.
When the Word enfleshed
Stripped flesh of words,
Flesh became God.

-GMC

1 St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Faith, no. 31. From The Harp of the Spirit: Poems of Saint Ephrem the Syrian, trans. Sebastian Brock (Cambridge: Aquila Books, 2013), 85-6.

2 Ibid.

3 Sermon 44 from Johannes Tauler, Sermons, trans. Maria Shrady, Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1985), 148.

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

The Garden of Eden, England, 16th century (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday (Year I)

Genesis 3:1-8

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
his mercy endures forever!”

Psalm 107:1

God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.

Genesis 1:31

God and his creation are good. So what about the snake in the garden?

Apophatically speaking, God is beyond the conceptual couple “good and evil.” All concepts arise from the perception of being and non-being; thus opposing ideas arise simultaneously in pairs. God is beyond all thought. Before the divine mystery the mind is silenced, but for the sake of the sapiential journey concepts must be employed with awareness of their limitations.

In God’s good creation, the snake had a role to play by divine permission. Gifted with wisdom, the snake cunningly used its mind to plant thoughts in the mind of Eve to raise doubt.

“Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?”

Genesis 3:1

Referring to all the trees at once, the snake framed its question in the most negative and prohibitive terms, enticing Eve to correct it and draw her into its confidence.

The first part of God’s command was actually phrased in the most positive terms possible:

You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden…

Genesis 2:16

The word for “eat” (akal) is doubled in Hebrew. “The intensified form of expression (Hebrew: eating thou mayest eat) confers the most unrestricted enjoyment of all the fruitage of the garden.”1

At this point, Eve had the opportunity to walk away from the conversation. The monastic desert tradition counsels disciples to cut off converse with the voice of temptation from the get-go. Thoughts engender thoughts producing quicksand. 

Eve, however, felt compelled to correct the snake. 

The woman answered the snake: “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, or else you will die.’”

Genesis 2:2-3

In the Legends of the Jews, speculations circulated in the oral and rabbinic tradition that Adam, in his zeal to protect his wife, had instructed Eve not to “touch” the tree of knowledge of good and evil even though God had only said not to eat it. Storytellers embellished the Genesis account such that the serpent seized upon Adam’s “exaggeration” to bring about Eve’s downfall:

It was Adam’s exaggeration that afforded the serpent the possibility of persuading Eve to taste of the forbidden fruit. The serpent pushed Eve against the tree, and said: “Thou seest that touching the tree has not caused thy death. As little will it hurt thee to eat the fruit of the tree. Naught but malevolence has prompted the prohibition, for as soon as ye eat thereof, ye shall be as God. As He creates and destroys worlds, so will ye have the power to create and destroy. As He doth slay and revive, so will ye have the power to slay and revive.”2

The actual command to Adam simply stated: 

You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.

Genesis 2:16-17

Whatever may be the source of Eve’s added prohibition, the snake in Genesis did not address it but jumped straightaway to deny the consequence of death.

But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.”

Genesis 3:4-5

As Eve’s thoughts churned, her relationship with God was demoted to secondary status. Seeking to understand the reason for the command became more important. Attention shifted away from God to the consequence of the command. Obedience no longer flowed from simple trust in a good and loving God (without a why), but rather from a desire to avoid a fatal consequence. Whether or not death would result from eating the fruit of the tree, the fundamental issue was that God had asked her not to eat it. 

Reason and deliberation went into high gear judging and weighing the wisdom of the command itself. The problem was that there was no way to validate God’s claim except by eating.

Furthermore, desire was agitated and toppled God to second place. The possibility of being “like gods” who “know good and evil” suddenly rose to the highest position. What that meant, Eve could not have known, but she sensed a latent potentiality for greatness in her being and wished to seize it on her own terms.

The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was 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.

Genesis 3:6

As skepticism mounted concerning the consequence of death (thereby removing the fear of punishment), more and more reasons were marshaled in favor of testing the fruit. Simple trust gave way to sophisticated reasoning and the fruit was consumed.

Was Adam torn between pleasing God and pleasing his wife? Since no word is recorded from him during the exchange with the snake, his negligence amounted to complicity. The two were created as one “flesh” or “body,” and as one body they disobeyed. The original harmony of God, Adam and Eve split and fell apart. Sundered from the divine source, any unity between human beings is a false unity that leads to disintegration. Husband and wife ate and reaped the consequences.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Genesis 3:7

Hebrew has a play on words for “cunning” (arum) and “naked” (arom).  

The couple seek to be “wise” but end up knowing that they are “naked.”3

The couple’s original robe of glory made them one in heart, mind, soul, spirit and body in God. Perception of “nakedness” apart from God introduced a scission between self and other that did not exist before. “Love of God and neighbor” only became commands outside of Eden. Prior to the “knowledge of good and evil,” the indivisibility of God and neighbor was as natural as the breath of life. Nakedness in the love of God has no awareness of an isolated self (Genesis 2:25). All persons and the cosmos interpenetrate in the light of glory. 

As the sun was setting and doom enveloped the hearts of Adam and Eve, a new consciousness of fear and division overtook them. 

When they heard the sound of the Lord God walking (halak) 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.

Genesis 3:8

The warmth, gentleness and lovingkindness of God was now felt as terror and judgment springing entirely from the divided heart. “Walking” (halak) with God in loving trust and simplicity was the privilege of Adam and Eve, later recovered by Enoch who “walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). 

The cosmos (symbolized by the trees) now became a buffer between humanity and God, whereas before it radiated with the divine presence for Adam and Eve. How can trees or anything in creation be a “hiding place” when God dwells in all things?

The heavens are my throne,
the earth, my footstool.
What house can you build for me?
Where is the place of my rest?

Isaiah 66:1

In the dialogue that ensued between God, Adam, Eve, and the snake, fear, blame and division became the “new normal” (abnormal) alien to paradise and thus fled into exile.

Why ask why?
Christ obeyed
With one eye.4

-GMC

1 Whedon’s Commentary on the Bible, Genesis 2:16. 

2 Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Vol. I, trans. Henrietta Szold (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1913), 72. 

3 New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to Genesis 3:1.

4 The “knowledge of good and evil” gave birth to the double eye.
See related posts: A Garden Enclosed, A Fountain Sealed, The Single Eye

Jesus’ lament on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is an expression of human suffering and not a “why” of mistrust (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46).

Asleep in the Garden

Creation of Eve. Byzantine mosaic in Monreale, 12th century.

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday (Year I)

Genesis 2:18-25; Psalm 128

The creation story of cosmic and human origins in Genesis is shrouded in mystery, enigma, and impenetrable conundrums. The first chapter poetically captures the goodness, beauty and delight taken by the Creator God in the heavens and the earth, culminating in his “rest” (shabath) on the seventh day as in a temple. The second chapter develops the story of human origins in particular and also sets up the conflict and plot to follow. As soon as the two trees of life and knowledge are pointed out to Adam, the possibility of death is introduced.

You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.

Genesis 2:16-17

The tree of knowledge of good and evil is enigmatic at this point, for “evil” would have been meaningless in a world fresh from the Creator’s hand. A limitation set on human freedom did not detract from the goodness of creation, for it was a gift to exercise Adam’s trust and love and bring him to maturity. 

Will Adam pass the test? At this point, God observes something wanting in Adam: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). 

After Adam names the animals, none of whom are “a helper suited” to him, God casts him into a deep sleep, “and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh” (Genesis 2:21). 

The Lord God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, the man said:

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
This one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of man this one has been taken.”

Genesis 2:22-23

Adam, who was one, is now physically two. Yet “male and female” were already in the single nature of Adam before Eve was taken out of his side. 

St. Ephrem the Syrian (fl. 363-373) writes:

God then brought her to Adam, who was both one and two. He was one in that he was Adam, and he was two because he had been created male and female.1

St. Ephrem’s intuition is confirmed by Christology, the apex of Christian anthropology. John’s Prologue states that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). The Greek word for flesh (sarx) translates the Hebrew word for flesh (basar) in Genesis 2:24 of the Greek Septuagint (LXX). The New American Bible (Revised Edition) translates basar as “body,” but offers the alternative “flesh” in its footnote.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body (flesh).

Genesis 2:24

The implication is that Christ, the second person of the Trinity, in assuming “flesh,” assumed both halves of humankind at once, plus all living beings, which are encompassed in the idea of sarx

The text of Genesis does not elaborate on why it was “not good” for Adam to remain as he was, but the task of cultivating the garden and securing the fruit of the tree of life now became the joint vocation of Adam and Eve. 

Psalm 128:3 evokes garden imagery to express the goodness of the home and family, a sacred space like Eden:

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table. 

Jesus Christ (second Adam) and the Blessed Virgin Mary (second Eve) are the ultimate answers given in the course of salvation history, for together they overcame evil and gained access to the tree of life for all living beings. The vocation of Adam and Eve to become “one flesh” and integrate the cosmos in their humanity was accomplished by Jesus and Mary virginally. Ultimately, the story is “good” because freedom, love, trust and obedience were perfected in our humanity.

Within the cosmic temple, Adam is a microcosmic temple—a dwelling place for God, the temple’s essence. Temple imagery appears in the creation of Eve from Adam’s “rib,” for the Hebrew word for rib (tsela) also refers to the side chambers of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:5), Ezekiel’s visionary temple (Ezekiel 41:5), and the side of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:20). 

Jesus referred to himself as God’s temple (John 2:19-21).2

As Adam and Eve compose the temple of God, Christ and the Church compose the temple of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Many patristic commentators reflect that as Eve was taken out of the side of Adam, the Church came forth from the side of Christ on the Cross.

St. Augustine (354-430):

Even in the beginning, when woman was made from a rib in the side of the sleeping man, that had no less a purpose than to symbolize prophetically the union of Christ and his Church. Adam’s sleep was a mystical foreshadowing of Christ’s death, and when his dead body hanging from the cross was pierced by the lance, it was from his side that there issued forth that blood and water that as we know, signifies the sacraments by which the Church is built up. “Built” is the very word the Scripture uses in connection with Eve: “He built the rib into a woman.” …So too St. Paul speaks of “building up the body of Christ,” which is his Church. Therefore woman is as much the creation of God as man is. If she was made from the man, this was to show her oneness with him; and if she was made in the way she was, this was to prefigure the oneness of Christ and the Church.3

Quodvultdeus (fl. 430):

The great mystery is that Adam hopes after receiving the promise. He sees that the spouse in whom he believed is now united to him. Therefore he symbolically announces to us that through faith the Church will be the mother of humankind. It is evident that since Eve had been created from the side of the sleeping Adam, he has foreseen that from the side of Christ hanging on the cross the Church, which is in truth the mother of the whole new humankind, must be created.4

St. Ambrose (c. 333-397):

If the union of Adam and Eve is a great mystery in Christ and in the Church, it is certain that as Eve was bone of the bones of her husband and flesh of his flesh, we also are members of Christ’s body, bones of his bones and flesh of his flesh.5

If all Scripture speaks of Christ,6 Psalm 128:3 is the voice of the Bridegroom about his Bride, “the wife of the Lamb.”7 The poem evokes the children of God the Father around the Eucharistic table:

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table. 

The resurrection of Christ and the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary reclothed Adam and Eve in their robe of glory at their “wedding.”

The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.

Genesis 2:25

They were not ashamed because of the glory with which they were clothed.

St. Ephrem the Syrian8

Asleep in the garden,
Eve emerged from Adam’s side—
His perfect companion,
Most beloved friend and bride.

Awake in Gethsemane,
Prayed Adam for his wife.
In a grove of olive trees,
His life pledged for her life. 

Asleep on the Tree of Life,
The Church flowed from Jesus’ side—
Blood and water from the temple,
Divine life to save his Bride.

-GMC

1 St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis 2.12. From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Genesis 1-11, Andrew Louth and Marco Conti, editors, and Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 69.

The Ancient Christian Commentary footnote explains: “Before Eve, Adam was two in that Eve was already implicitly within him. After Eve was created, he was two because he had been created male and female. Yet in all this duality he did not cease to be a single person, hence one.”

There is ambiguity in this explanation concerning the notions of “person” and “nature.” Based on Trinitarian anthropology, the nature of the universal Adam is one, but persons are multiple. Neither St. Ephrem nor the Ancient Christian Commentary footnote addresses whether Adam and Eve are unique “persons.” Current theological anthropology is still ambiguous on distinctions between person, nature and individual. Since humankind is materially divisible yet metaphysically one, the conundrum is magnified. In the case of Adam’s division, St. Ephrem intuits the simultaneity of duality and unity, but has not hardened them into concepts.

2 See New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote for other references.

3 St. Augustine, City of God 22.17. From Ibid., 71.

4 Quodvultdeus, Book of Promises and Predictions of God 1.3. From Ibid.

5 St. Ambrose, Letters to Laymen 85. From Ibid.

6 “All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and that one book is Christ, because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ.” From Catechism of the Catholic Church 134, quoting Hugh of St. Victor. 

7 Revelation 21:9.

8 St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis 2.14.2. From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Genesis 1-11, Andrew Louth and Marco Conti, editors, and Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 72.

Fingerprint of God

Christina DeMichele, Christ Enthroned in His Creation (Used with permission)

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday (Year I)

Genesis 1:1-19; Mark 6:53-56

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth—and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters

Genesis 1:1-2

About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.

Mark 6:48-51

The God who brought order out of the pure, primordial chaos in the beginning walked upon the surface of the sea as if it was dry land (still indistinct, prior to separation). Walking between the two waters (Genesis 1:6-8) crashing and terrorizing the disciples, the Creator of heaven and earth silenced the watery chaos, calmed the waves, and hushed thunder and lightning. Jesus approached the storm-tossed boat like a beacon of light in the midst of pitch darkness.

I am the light of the world.

John 8:12
Amédée Varin (1818-1883), Le Christ marchant sur la mer

After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret and tied up there. As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.

Mark 6:53-56

After quelling the sea and sky, Jesus restored order to bodies that had fallen into disorder and defective chaos. From the cosmos (universe) to the microcosmos (Adam), broken strings were repaired and harmony orchestrated out of cacophony. 

All creation bears
The fingerprint of God.
The finger of God in Christ
Touched Adam, son of God,
Healing his co-heirs.1

-GMC

1 Romans 8:17.

The Goldsmith’s Son

Candlemas, 11th century illuminated Byzantine manuscript (Menologion of Basil II)

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40

Out of God’s furnace
Adam emerged,
Shining like silver and gold. 
Light of the Godhead
Pure from his core
Robed him in Glory Threefold.

When the Goldsmith’s crown jewel drifted away and fell into rust, the treasure hunt began. 

Now I am sending my messenger—
he will prepare the way before me;
And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple;
The messenger of the covenant whom you desire—
see, he is coming! says the Lord of hosts.
But who can endure the day of his coming?
Who can stand firm when he appears?
For he will be like a refiner’s fire,
like fullers’ lye.
He will sit refining and purifying silver,
and he will purify the Levites,
Refining them like gold or silver,
that they may bring offerings to the Lord in righteousness.
Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem
will please the Lord,
as in ancient days, as in years gone by.

Malachi 3:1-4

How will the Refiner purify the sons of Levi? The hearts of the Levites were free. Who would step up to the crucible to be dipped and purified? 

The Goldsmith had a plan. 

Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Hebrews 2:14-18

The Goldsmith’s beloved Son, in whose image Adam was cast, would be born of a Virgin into Adam’s family as priest and king of God Most High. He would do his Father’s will with pure love.

On the eighth day after his birth into the world, the Son of God was presented in the Temple of Jerusalem according to the law of Moses, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord.”

The Holy Spirit who conceived the infant priest-king lit a flame in old Simeon’s heart and brought him swiftly to the Temple. At last, the child he had been waiting for all his life had arrived! 

He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”

Luke 2:28-32

Simeon’s eyes glistened with tears as the eyes of his heart were illumined by Light from Light. Prophetic words issued from his mouth from a source beyond this world:

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:34-35

Mary, Mother of the Light, was destined to join the Goldsmith’s Son in the Refiner’s fire to restore Adam to his immaculate origin. The rust and dross of thoughts, images and desires would be scrubbed and scoured by the lye of the Holy Spirit to release the Uncreated Light. 

The kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 17:21

The gray-haired prophetess Anna joined Simeon in rapturous joy, giving thanks to God and proclaiming the birth of their Redeemer to astonished Israelites. 

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2:40

Prior to the final crushing and burning liquidation of the Goldsmith’s Son, Peter, James and John received a glimpse of their humanity transfigured in Uncreated Light.

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them… Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

Mark 9:2-3, 7

Out of God’s furnace
Adam emerged,
Shining like silver and gold. 
Light of the Godhead
Pure from his core
Robed him in Glory Threefold.

-GMC

Living Tabernacles

Russian icon of the Crucifixion by Dionysius, ca. 1500, Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow

Why did the Son of God die on the Cross?

Many theories of atonement have been proposed since the early Church, but none of them are definitive. The Catechism of the Catholic Church simply states that the crucifixion is “part of the mystery of God’s plan” (599). 

Images of blood, sacrifice, temple, and altar dominate the book of Hebrews as Christ is shown to be the eternal high priest, final sacrifice for sins, and the fulfillment of the Old Covenant.

Jesus repaired what was broken in the center of the cosmos, temple, and heart of humanity. Blood spilled on the altar of the Cross to atone for the primordial disobedience in the garden of Eden. The first instance of animal sacrifice, according to many interpreters, took place when God clothed Adam and Eve in animal skins (Genesis 3:21). Fratricide and deicide followed in the wake of expulsion in the next generation.

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field. ”When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord asked Cain, Where is your brother Abel? He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” God then said: What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!

Genesis 4:8-10

Bloodshed was the last step in a series of thoughts and passions ignited in the human heart. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus identified the root of murder in the angry, hateful heart.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. ’But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:21-24

The book of Genesis stands as primeval witness to the heart of the “New Law” before lawmaking even began.

Then the Lord said to Cain: Why are you angry? Why are you dejected? If you act rightly, you will be accepted; but if not, sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it.

Genesis 4:6-7

When his brother lay dead, consciousness of the law immediately sank in:

Cain said to the Lord: “My punishment is too great to bear. Look, you have now banished me from the ground. Anyone may kill me at sight.”

Genesis 4:13-14

A vague sense that Cain owed his own life for the life he had taken was expressed in his fear of retaliation. The Levitical law of “life for life” was instinctual.

Whoever takes the life of any human being shall be put to death.

Leviticus 24:17

Life is sacred on account of its divine origin. Since Adam is made in the image of Christ, the “firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15), any harm done to Adam is done to Christ. Fratricide is deicide.

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? …I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

Acts 9:4-5; 22:7-8; 26:14-15

These words could have also been addressed to Cain, for Abel is a type of Christ. 

All the blood spilled in the sacrificial system of the Old Law sought to restore the original unity of God and humankind but failed. No amount of animal blood could bring back the dead or grant access to the divine presence (shekinah) in the Holy of Holies. 

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.

John 12:32

The Son of God assumed the humanity of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel—the whole human family—and united what was split asunder. With forgiveness and mercy on his lips and in his heart, Jesus laid down his life and rose victorious over sin and death. 

The New Law of theosis or transformation into Christ superseded the Mosaic law and Levitical priesthood. The animal instincts of the murderers Cain and Lamech were transformed by the grace of the Holy Spirit to enable the human heart to respond with divine charity from the Father’s heart:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil… “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:38-39, 43-48

The ultimate end of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross is to pour out the Holy Spirit on the earth, deify the children of Adam, and unite human persons and the cosmos in the love of God the Father. Persons and the cosmos are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the heart is God’s sanctuary and Holy of Holies.

“This is the covenant I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord:
‘I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them upon their minds,’”

he also says:
“Their sins and their evildoing
I will remember no more.”

Hebrews 10:16-17

Each one of us can build a tabernacle for God in himself. For if, as some before us have said, this tabernacle represents a figure of the whole world, and if each individual can have an image of the world in oneself, why should not each individual be able to fulfill the form of the tabernacle in oneself? …For that part within you which is most valuable of all can act the part of priest—the part which some call the first principle of the heart, others the rational sense or the substance of the mind or whatever other name one wishes to give to that part of us which makes us capable of receiving God.

Origen (fl. c. 200-254)1

The Image of the Blessed Trinity rests in the most intimate, hidden, and inmost ground of the soul, where God is present essentially, actively, and substantially. Here God acts and exists and rejoices in Himself, and to separate God from this inmost ground would be as impossible as separating Him from Himself… And thus in the depth of this ground the soul possesses everything by grace which God possesses by nature.

Johannes Tauler (c. 1300-1361)2

Fractured Adam
Shattered glass
Made one in Christ
By Love on the Cross
Not glued together
Nor sewn in patches
But indivisibly divided
Divided indivisibly
Trinity in Unity 
Unity in Trinity
We are children of God
Living tabernacles

-GMC

1 Origen, Homilies on Exodus 9.4. From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Hebrews, Erik M. Heen and Philip D. W. Krey, editors, and Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 132-3.

2 Sermon 29 from Johannes Tauler, Sermons, trans. Maria Shrady, Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1985), 105.