Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Fall into Consciousness

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 -- Week of 1 Epiphany, Year Two
Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx, 1167

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 943)
Psalms 5, 6 (morning) 10, 11 (evening
Genesis 3:1-24
Hebrews 2:1-10
John 1:19-28

The second creation myth of Genesis is such a rich interpretation of our reality.

First we see a picture of harmonious life. The humans live an innocent life together, in union with each other, with God and with their world. There is something simple and instinctive about their life.

But complexity faces them. The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil stands within their grasp. If they eat of that fruit, their eyes will be opened, their consciousness will be raised. They will know something that will bring them inevitable suffering and alienation. They will know shame. They will know the division if their own hearts, and the bonds of simple, intimate trust will be broken. The serpent who tempts them tells them that they "will be like God, knowing good and evil." He tells the truth.

The animals of the field and trees do not know good and evil. They live by instinct and do what their nature tells them. They are naked and unashamed. They do not know that they will die. Their relationship with nature and with God is intimate and without the complexity of morals, without the knowledge of good and evil. They eat and kill, they mate and raise offspring within the guiltless boundaries of instinct.

At some time in human history, our eyes were opened. Our consciousness expanded into the knowledge of good and evil. With that knowledge came the power to rebel. We could know the moral weight of choice, and we could act willfully. We could know how to choose the evil course. Before knowledge came, we knew no evil. With knowledge came the exquisite pain of shame and guilt. With knowledge came alienation. "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God. ...[Adam said,] "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." Fear comes from alienation. With perfect love there is no fear.

As conscious suffering enters the world, there are two curses. The serpent is cursed, and there is enmity between the serpent and the humans. The ground is cursed and there will be toil to bring forth plants. The people, however, are not cursed. But they will now be conscious of suffering. Their equality is broken. They know they will die: "You are dust, and to dust you shall return."

In this sad moment, God does a tender thing. "The Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them." But they must leave the garden. There is no return to unconscious innocence. Once you know, you know. Once you know, you are responsible for your choices. East of Eden there is the toil of the moral universe. We have fallen into the anxiety and suffering of division, disobedience and rebellion.

There is yet to come the new Adam, Christ who initiates the new humanity, restoring intimacy and innocence, life and unity. Our reading from Hebrews tells us that by the grace of God Jesus tasted death for everyone. His faithfulness showed the way of eternal life, perfect love that casts out fear and reunites the broken. Elsewhere Paul insists that Jesus' act is as universally profound as Adam's. As in Adam, all die; so also in Christ, shall all be made alive.

Our ultimate journey is to return to innocence, intimacy and union -- to return to the garden, and know the place for the first time. Like the earlier experience, this new event is a change of consciousness. Our eyes are opened, and we see love. Enlightenment allows us to see beyond the evil and brokenness, through the cross to resurrection. We can become who we are, children of God who are empowered to "be like God." We have the moral power to love as God loves and to give generously as God gives -- consciously and with good intention.



Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 5:18 PM, Anonymous janetlgraige said...

What so ever is true, what so ever is beautiful, whatsoever is good, think on these things. . .

Your last few reflections have been inspirations -

The fall into consciousness - a slow, soft image, a gentle splash of liquid light, a letting go and a reaching forth to touch the heart of God in anothers soul.

Your words clear, luminous rubies, gems sprinkled into quiet morning stillness.

Thanks Lowell. I hope there are many reading and enjoying these!

Peace, Janet

At 8:19 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

How generous of you, Janet. Thanks.

I'll remember your words when I have one of those mornings when nothing seems to come to me but gibberish.



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