Susquehanna Morning

Susquehanna Morning

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lent 4: At Last (the very last), Eve

Speaking of moral mischief....

Finally, we are there. The passage from scripture that has been mused most nefariously against women in the Christian context. The passage which gives the author of 1 Timothy the impetus to say,

Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.  ~ 1 Timothy 2:11-15

Let us take a moment to gaze at the waters of the Gulf Coast, and as the sun sets in the west, to sigh deeply.

What we are witnessing is not a fall. It is not the first sin, though it is the first instance of a painful rift between God and those created in God's image and likeness.

What we are witnessing is a coming-of-age story.

At the end of the second creation story, we are told that they were both naked, the man and his woman (the same word can be used in Hebrew to mean either "woman" or "wife"). They are in a state of innocence. Nakedness does not call for shame, and so they are not ashamed.

The serpent is introduced in chapter 3... a trickster if ever there was one, we are warned of his wily ways up front. He deliberately misstates God's instructions about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The woman, even though she had not yet been created when those instructions were given, knows the score, and sets the serpent straight. (In fact, she reports the instructions as more restrictive than God's original command).

But the serpent persists, and the serpent entices.

Not only is the fruit good to eat; it will give the one who eats it knowledge, insight.

It will help the one who eats it to know the difference between good and evil.

How strange to call the pursuit of that knowledge, "sin."

The woman takes the fruit and eats it. She offers some to her husband, who has been standing, mute, beside her, and he eats it without a word of objection. Their eyes are opened, then, and they realize, on the other side of this act of disobedience, that they are naked, and they learn what shame is. They try to hide-- their bodies and their actions. They fail. God has some harsh words for them. There are consequences. In the end, they must leave their garden home. And the woman receives her name: Eve.

This is a coming of age story. Our parents give us their world view. They give us instructions and warnings. At a certain point, we test the limits of those instructions. Sometimes it turns out ok, and sometimes, not. But our eyes are opened. We experience life on the other side of the line our parents have drawn, and we are wiser for it.

But in each and every case, the expected outcome is exactly what happens here: eventually, in the normal course of events, we leave home.

I'll leave you with the words of Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, who, though she does in fact embrace the "fall" interpretation, also captures perfectly one precious gift of the narrative:

When Eve bit into the apple, she gave us the world as we know the world-- beautiful, flawed, dangerous, full of being... Even the alienation from God we feel as a direct consequence of her Fall makes us beholden to her: the intense desire for God, never satisfied, arises from our separation from him. In our desire-- this desire that makes us perfectly human-- is contained our celebration and our rejoicing. The mingling, melding, braiding of good and mischief in every human soul-- the fusion of good and bad in intent and in art-- is what makes us recognizable (and delicious) to one another; without it--without the genetically transmitted knowledge of good and evil that Eve's act of radical curiosity sowed into our marrow-- we should have no need of one another... of a one and perfect Other... Eve's legacy to us is the imperative to desire. Babies and poems are born in travail of this desire, her great gift to the loveable world. 

From "A Meditation on Eve" in Out of the Garden

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