Have you ever reflected on the role gardens play in our Christian faith? Fr Valle has, an excerpt from his Easter homily:
It is very interesting that Mary ends up in a garden looking for Jesus. After all, this whole lovely and terrible game of sin and salvation began in a garden way back in Genesis. What began in the garden of Eden comes full circle in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, where they buried the body of Jesus in an empty tomb.
The email address to request to be put on Vallee’s email distribution list is Cioran262@aol.com. To see the entire homily click on ‘read more.’ Search for other Fr Vallee homilies in this blog by entering ‘Vallee’ in the search box in the upper right hand corner or look for Fr Vallee in the Labels.
Read Fr Vallee’s entire homily at the end of this post.
Fr Vallee Easter 2010 Homily
I. John Paul II
It is very interesting that Mary ends up in a garden looking for Jesus. After all, this whole lovely and terrible game of sin and salvation began in a garden way back in Genesis. John Paul II tells us that if we understand the first three chapters of Genesis, we understand the entire history of sin and salvation. While a pope who many call great, doesn’t need me to tell him that he is right, the Pope is exactly right. What began in the garden of Eden comes full circle in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, where they buried the body of Jesus in an empty tomb.
II. Where are you?
Chapter three of Genesis gives a perfect picture of what exactly went wrong with sin or what is precisely wrong with sin. Notice the last verse of chapter two: “The man and woman were both naked and yet they felt no shame.” This is an interesting passage. Nakedness and sexuality are both innocent. Adam and Eve feel no shame before one another and before God because there is nothing of which to be ashamed. Shame comes with disobedience and sin in chapter three. But that is a small point. Here is the main point: After the Fall, God walks in the cool of the garden and calls out, “Adam, where are you?” Adam replies, “we heard you walking in the cool of the garden and we hid ourselves for we were naked.” God replies, “who told you that you were naked, did you eat of the fruit of which I told you not to eat?” Adam then blames Eve, Eve blames the snake, and so it goes.
III. The Hebrew You
The blame game aside, here is what is interesting. Hebrew is more like Spanish or French, than like English, in one specific sense. In English there is only one word for “you.” If I am talking to the president, it is “you.” If I am talking to my niece, it is still just “you.” In Spanish, if I am talking to the President, it is usted. If I am talking to my niece, it is tu. Hebrew, however, has not two but 32 different forms of the pronoun you, each signifying different degrees of intimacy and formality. This makes perfect sense. We have one word for snow. The Eskimos have many words for snow. The Jews were a tribal people, hence the question of the other’s precise relationship to me is of crucial importance. When God says, “where are you, Adam?” He is using the most intimate possible form of you. When Adam replies, “We heard you walking in the cool of the garden,” He uses the form of you one would use with a judge, something like, We heard you, “Sir.”
IV. Got to get ourselves back to the garden…
If you know about Jewish theology, you know that this an amazing phrase and is almost sui generis [JC: unique]. The Jews held that you were not even allowed to speak or write down the name of God. Yet here in Genesis, Adam and God speak with utter intimacy. This is the whole point. The deepest and most deadly effect of sin is loss of intimacy with our God. Because of sin, human beings and God are no longer on a first name basis. Adam, after sin, calls God, “Sir,” not “daddy.” We no longer stand face-to-face with God in the garden and call one another by our first names. Loss of intimacy with God is the result of sin. And the whole history of salvation is nothing but an attempt, in the words of the Joni Mitchell song, “to get our ourselves back to the garden.”
V. Abba in Gethsemane
Let’s fast forward to another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane. There Jesus faces torture and death. Notice his prayer in that garden. He prays, “Abba, let this cup pass me by, yet not my will but your will be done.” Abba is a very interesting word. It is an Aramaic word and it is a baby’s word. It means dada or papi. Jesus realizes, as he bares the full weight of our sins, even though he himself does not sin, that loss of intimacy with his Father is the most terrible thing he must face. On the cross he will cry out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Foreseeing that most horrible moment, Jesus cries out, Abba, daddy, papi. Be with me as a father is with his little baby.
VI. The Garden of the Tomb
We come, now, to the final garden, the garden of the empty tomb. I have always loved the Gospel text from St. John. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene but she does not recognize him, she thinks he is the gardener. It is a lovely passage. Jesus almost seems to be teasing her. I mean he knows very well who she is looking for and why she is crying. Still, he asks: “Woman, who are you looking for?” Mary, then, kind of falls apart. She is somewhat hysterical: “Please, Sir, tell me where you have taken his body, so that I can go and be with him.” Finally, it is as if Jesus cannot stand to tease her any longer and he breaks the tension with a single word: “Mary.” With that word, her name, Mary recognizes her Lord.
VII. Full circle
With that one word, we have come full circle from Genesis. Jesus Christ by his Passion, death and rising, restores what was lost at the Fall. Now Mary Magdalene, a human being, stands face to face with her God in the garden and they call each other by their first names — playfully, tenderly, with utter intimacy. John Paul II is saw it so clearly. If you understand the first three chapters of Genesis, you understand the entire history of sin and salvation. What was lost in a garden is regained in a garden, human beings once again stand face to face with God and whisper tender endearments … Christ has conquered death by death. And the result of that victory is that God is once again “daddy, papi, abba.”