Sep 7, 2011
Through their fateful decision, our first parents lost their original innocence, abdicated their preternatural bliss, and incurred exile from the garden. Seduced by Satan’s lie, they grasped at what belonged to God alone. They proposed to step into the place of God. In a flash, harmony shattered into cacophony, and order into disarray. Of this tragedy, St. Paul writes: “Through one man, sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and this death has passed into all men because all have sinned in Adam” (Rom 5:12). Sin’s rancid odor requires cleansing that brings the fragrance of holiness. In God’s mercy, the right purpose and order of creation would be re-established: God as creator, man and woman as creatures.
If the story of humanity is a love story or the failure of love, then all theology, in one way or another, probes this truth in terms of sins against love. Modern skepticism has declared sin to be a medieval notion. In fact, the word sin is in danger of extinction. This so-called logic goes as follows: ‘of course, men and women make mistakes, or mistakes are made, but there is no culpability, no sin. We are victims of circumstances incapable of being held responsible for our choices and actions.’ Such is the non-judgmental culture, rife with relativism.
Despite attempts to banish sin from the collective consciousness, it remains a firmly-held belief. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves,” writes the Beloved Disciple (1Jn 1:8). Sin disrupts our relationship with God breaking the bond that exists between creator and creature. Today, sin is institutional, structural, and personal. We see it in warring nations, in the battle of the rich and greedy over the poor and weak, in heart-breaking starvation in one part of the world and unbridled affluence in another, and in the killing of developing infants in their mothers’ wombs. Sin brutally expresses humanity’s inhumanity on others. If we think about it, sin is about the will to power, the will to dominate others. Because of the first sin, the Word of God assumed the condition of a creature to bear the guilt of the world in order to restore the fallen Bride to divine friendship and restore her original beauty.
The Image of the Garden and Bearing Fruit
The Psalmist uses the image of a garden to describe those who live in the well-being of beauty, truth, and goodness. The just are fruitful in all they do because, at heart, they remain rooted in the Lord:
The just will flourish like the palm-tree and grow like a Lebanon cedar. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God, still bearing fruit when they are old, still full of sap, still green, to proclaim that the Lord is just (Ps 92:12-15). . . . The just are like trees planted near streams; they bear fruit in season and their leaves never wither. All they do prospers (Ps 1:3-4).
Despite the infidelity of the Israelites, to the Lord, they remained “the garden of delight” (Is 5:7). Even after God makes the Jews exceedingly beautiful, they are called “God’s faithless bride” (Ez 16:14). All the while, Yahweh’s fidelity to them remains constant.