What did Adam see when he first opened his eyes on the day of his creation, when God breathed into the dust of the ground the breath of life? What he saw Genesis, in many ways, makes clear. But what stand out the most is not what he saw, but how he saw. Or rather, it was precisely the way that he saw which enabled him to see all things as they truly are: for in every created reality he saw the radiant beauty of his Creator and Father, and his heart and mind passed immediately in and through them to the One to whom he was drawn with every fiber of his being.
Adam, in other words, had the heart and the eyes of a child. He looked upon all things as utterly new, as wondrous and unexpected, as a pure and marvelous gift. The animals, the trees, the plants, the water, the sky—all of it was a great “might-not-have-been,” and not a heavy and dull “this-is-just-the-way-things-are.” He saw the undeserved, free, and unceasing gift of God in every moment of his new-found existence. Indeed, this very existence was one of unceasing welcoming—welcoming of the gifts that flowed from the Father’s awesome love and boundless generosity. And in every thing and every gift—and beyond them all—Adam welcomed the gift of his Father’s very life, communicated to him in the depths of his heart, in the inmost sanctuary of his solitude. Yes, Adam knew himself to transcend the world, as immersed in the world as he was. He could turn his gaze inward and discover a whole world, a profound realm of mystery within the solitude of his own mind and heart. And this interior world stretched out to infinity and eternity at each moment of time, for it was created to rest, not in any limited or created thing, but in God alone. Adam was open in order to accept the gift of God himself and to reciprocate it through Adam’s total surrender of himself into the hands of the One who loved him. Through this mutual self-giving, intimacy could blossom between Adam and God, between the creature and the Creator, the child and the Father. And it is the most amazing thing of all, that God created Adam precisely for such an intimate relationship with the Eternal and Infinite One!
In this sacred place of his own inner heart, Adam stood alone in nakedness and dependency before his loving Father. In this place he received the primal gift at the foundation of all others: the gift of being a beloved child of the Father, the gift of being known and loved unceasingly into existence by him, and of being tenderly held in a grace-filled relationship with his God. And as Adam received this gift, he came to recognize the beauty, glory, and lovableness of the One who loved him and thus made him lovable. Yes, his heart reached out, yearned, and pined to expand into the greatness of the love of the One who loved him, and to plunge into the joy and happiness of the divine embrace. And in this same “vertical” expansion unto the infinite horizon of eternal Love, Adam’s heart expanded out “horizontally” to the creation anew, to welcome and love it within the all-enveloping Love of God.
Adam existed in a primary and painless “cruciformity,” we could say, as the sinews of his heart were open wide, open wide in a gesture of acceptance and self-surrender. Yes, his heart—this inmost solitude of his personal mystery before the Father—was open completely to heaven and to earth, and yearned for the blossoming and consummation of the relationship for which he was made. And God knew this openness and this desire in Adam, for he had created it in him—as a reflection of his own divine life of openness, of mutual self-giving, of intimacy between the Father, Son, and Spirit. Adam’s personal being, and his whole existence, was modeled on the mystery of the Trinity, on the intimate life of love of the three divine Persons. And he would find rest and fulfillment precisely in relationship with them—with the Father and the Son, and the Spirit who binds them together.
Adam had only to consent to receive in the manner that God willed—in accord with the will of the Father, which was nothing but an expression of his abounding generosity. This will of God, then as it is still today, is nothing but the mystery of God’s own Being—his Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and Love—inscribed into every thing that he has created, and the expression of his paternal care in every moment of history and of each unique life. Adam, only consent freely to receiving this gift, and to giving yourself in return, and you will find the gift consummated and confirmed forever.
God gave Adam two most precious gifts to confirm him in the all-enveloping gift of the love that he had received. The two special gifts that are given to Adam in his original solitude are the Tree of Life and Eve, the woman. One signifies the confirmation of the “vertical” movement of surrender to God. The other calls for the consummation of the deepest and most intimate “horizontal” relationship, a confirmation of the gift of God who gives persons to one another within his love. God puts Adam into a deep sleep, and removes his side in order to build it up into a woman. When Adam, awakening, sees her, he exclaims: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). Yes, you, Woman, are my sister, one flesh with me in this world, and a daughter of the same Father. But I see also that God has given us, as siblings, to one another in a mysterious nuptial love. Within this siblinghood, other relations can blossom as well: I am given to you, and you to me—as friends and as spouses. Through this loving union, God’s love becomes present and manifest in us; and our relationship, in turn, opens out beyond itself in a vertical movement, toward the One in whom alone each one of us can finally be at rest.
Further, both of us, together, joined by love and standing side by side, are entrusted with the mystery of the whole creation, with sharing in our Creator’s fruitfulness, creativity, and providential care. He has said “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). We are, my sister and my friend…we are above all children of the Father, and as children, we are siblings, friends, and spouses too. And this very mystery of intimacy will make us parents too, manifesting the mystery of pro-creation with God who lives and works in us. But first we must assent to the primal truth, to that mystery which enfolds all the rest: to childhood. Yes, we must accept being little children, cradled ceaselessly in the tender arms of Love. For what are little children but dependent and poor before Another, accepting unceasingly the gift that comes from him, and entrusting themselves in turn to the love and care of the One who loves them?
Ah, but Adam, there is a problem! You discover another tree in the garden—and this tree promises “maturity.” “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’ … You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:1, 4). There is no need to be dependent, as a little child, the tempter says. You can take and master for yourself. The serpent makes his voice known to the woman whom God has given you—and you stand by idly, listening without intervening. This serpent insinuates a lie into the heart of your unity, into the heart of the solitude of each of you before the Father. This lie says: God is not a loving Father, generous and true, but a Taskmaster who is jealous of his prerogatives, and who has created all things as a mere expression of his arbitrary power. Beforehand, Adam and Eve, you knew yourselves to be loved boundlessly by the tenderest of Fathers, and so you could abide in poverty, obedience, and chastity, your lives open totally to God and to one another. But whenever this lie cuts off the purity of trust in the Father’s love, you imagine the need to grasp and possess, to disobey (seeking freedom in false autonomy), and to dominate and use one another.
Yes, there are two ways of seeing this world—one is true, and the other is of the evil one. Is this world an expression of the love of our God, marked to its very core by the Goodness, Truth, Beauty, and Love of the Trinity? Or is it rather an expression of the divine “will-to-power,” an arbitrary exertion of God’s will imposed upon man and upon created things? In the first, to obey the will of God, to accept in poverty, and to love in chastity, is simply to welcome and to respond to the pure gift of our Father. It is to live within the truth of his gift, in the truth in which alone is freedom, and to allow your hearts to blossom in the happiness for which you were made. In the second, to do any of this is to subject oneself to a superior power, simply because it is more powerful, imposing itself upon you. Ah, Adam and Eve, you begin to believe the latter, and take the fruit of this tree—this turning away from fidelity and childlike dependence, in which you were asked to consent to remain in the all-enveloping gift of God and in his paternal care. Rather, you now insist on grasping as your own, apart from him in whom alone all things truly are.
Now, your three original experiences which were radiant with beauty now become fractured and broken. Original solitude, original nakedness, original unity—these become estranged from one another, and broken in themselves. Your solitude, Adam and Eve, in the depths of your unique personal mystery as children before the Father, is broken off and turned in upon itself. Thus this solitude of openness and ceaseless relationship becomes isolation and narrowness. You lived beforehand in a precious interiority, in the sanctuary of an ineffable mystery in communion with the Father, but now you are cast out into exteriority, and you find yourself in exile from the authentic truth of the heart.
And this narrowness and fragmentation from the truth of childhood is a corruption of the vulnerability, the nakedness which you, man and woman, experienced before God and before one another. Now you can no longer be “naked without shame” (cf. Gen 2:25), for the possessiveness and domination born in grasping for the fruit has become grasping for one another too. You no longer see in one another the radiance of the Father’s love, and the unique identity of the other as a son or daughter of God—loved, sheltered, and held unceasingly by him. Instead, the other becomes something to grasp, to use, to enjoy. So what can you do now but cover yourselves over in shame and fear—to protect what before was utterly protected by the Love of God which perfectly clothed you?
Yes, this very turning away from nakedness separates you, Adam and Eve, from one another—but this very estrangement is but a symptom of that deeper estrangement: from the Father of you both. For when he comes looking for you, you run and hide. “I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen 3:10). Your solitude is no longer open in nakedness to sharing in the purity of love. And therefore it does not blossom in the intimacy, the joy-filled unity to which it is inherently ordered. Rather, now the solitude of each is closed in upon itself, grasping and defending. Solitude, nakedness, unity—have all been fractured and obscured.
And because of this the joy of childhood has been eclipsed by fear and by the blinding drive for a false independence from what, before your sin, you recognized as nothing but a gift. Also, the purity of your friendship, and of your spousal love for one another, has been suffused with misunderstanding, with contention, and with the blinding haze of lust. The purity of your love has now been fractured, and you are hindered from giving yourselves to one another fully, truly—for you are tempted to hold yourself back from giving all, but rather to demand more in possessiveness and irreverence, to demand enjoyment apart from commitment and gift of self. Therefore the total, indissoluble, and fruitful union that was meant to be yours, has become an almost impossible task, as you struggle against the opposing current of lust, selfishness, and sin. Even your parenthood as father and mother—and as those who care, lovingly, for this world—is obscured by the strife and confusion that has arisen among yourselves and all created things.
Before, you were both utterly open in the ceaseless movement of trusting acceptance and loving surrender. Because of this, your relationships, with God and with one another, blossomed in the joy of intimacy. But now your hearts have turned in and closed upon themselves. Rather than abiding in the movement of openness, they open only to take, to possess, to enjoy, without reference to the meaning and purpose that the Father has impressed upon every thing. You are no longer obedient, chaste, and poor—but rather experience the contrary movement to disobedience, unchastity, and possessiveness. Yes, you feel tugging on you, and dragging you to the periphery, the “threefold concupiscence.” You saw it first in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (Gen 3:6). Saint John will speak about this many years later: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever” (1 Jn 2:15-17).
And will not the threefold temptation of the Son of God in the desert, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, be in order to heal this threefold wound? Eve, do you know that this Man will be your Son? He will be a Man by being the Son of another Woman, born of your race and yet without the corruption of sin. And he will be the One in whom God’s words to the condemned serpent become true: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed. You will strike at his heel, but he will crush your head” (Gen 3:15).
So do not lose hope, first parents of the human race! Do not despair, but repent and return to your loving God! You may for a time have to be exiled from the garden, unable to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life—for you are not in a fitting state for this. But continue to hope, for the One who comes will pass through your exile and take you up into himself. He will enter into a new garden, bearing the burden of your sin and loneliness. Here, in the deepest solitude, he will let himself be stripped naked, and will give himself utterly in love. In this way he will restore the intimate unity which was fractured by your sin in the beginning.
Isolation will again become the solitude of openness and encounter. Nakedness will become the vulnerability of acceptance and self-giving between lover and beloved. And this meeting of hearts will blossom in a unity deeper and more intimate than there has ever been. Here there will again be a tree, yes, the Tree of Life. Here a Man and a Woman will stand before one another in the purity of love—and together, brother and sister, they will be utterly open in childlike trust before the heavenly Father.
Do you see? Do you see? All things will be healed by the gift of God himself—as he becomes a Brother to us, and takes us up into himself as a bride, so that we can walk with him into the fullness of the love that we have lost. Through the cruciformity of that new tree, the Tree of Life ceaselessly bearing fruit, we will pass beyond the narrow barriers that enclose us within ourselves, and will find ourselves entering into the beauty and happiness of the risen life, of joy-filled intimacy with God and with one another, bursting from the tomb.