The creation narratives in Genesis are probably the best recognised stories of the whole Bible, yet at the same time, perhaps the most misunderstood. For Christians, the story of Adam and Eve reveal to us the relationship between God and humans, between male and female, about sexuality, togetherness and separation from God. Christian scholars throughout the centuries have referred to the third Chapter of Genesis in order to explain our human brokenness and frailty. It is used to explain the nature of sin and the devices of the tempter. Pope John Paul II used the Genesis story as a springboard to make the case for his Theology of the Body catechesis on Marriage, Sex and Love. St. Augustine developed the concept of original sin using the story of Adam and Eve’s fall. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the first sin was that of disobedience triggered by Adam and Eve’s desire to “become like God”. Thus Adam and Eve immediately lost for themselves and all their descendants the original grace of holiness and justice (Catechism of the Catholic Church #396-403, #415-417). Thus Genesis 3, for many, is the basis of moral teaching and understanding. For others, it explains the relationship between men and women, and still for others, who infuse it with Christological meaning, see in it the first mention of the Bible’s redemptive message, in fact, the first mention or insinuation of the messianic salvation (Genesis 3:15).
The shortest question in the Torah is God's first question. Adam and Eve have just eaten some fruit from the forbidden tree and, sensing God's presence in the Garden of Eden, they hide among the trees. While they are hiding, God asks Adam a question, which in Hebrew is a one-word question: “ayeka?” In English it means, "Where are you?" For those pondering the meaning of life, clearly this is not a new question.
Christian singer and songwriter Don Francisco
wrote the following song: “Adam, Where Are You?”
Unashamed and naked in a garden that has never seen the rain,
Rulers of a kingdom, full of joy -- never marred by any pain,
The morning all around them seems to celebrate the life they've just begun;
And in the majesty of innocence the king and queen come walking in the sun
But the master of deception now begins with his dissection of the Word
And with all of his craft and subtlety the serpent twists the simple truths they've heard,
While hanging in the balance is a world that has been placed at their command
And all their unborn children die as both of them bow down to Satan's hand.
And just before the evening in the cool of the day, they hear the voice of God as He is walking
And they can't abide His presence, so they try to hide away;
But still they hear the sound as He is calling:
"Adam, Adam, where are you?
In the stifling heat of summer now the gardener and his wife are in the field
And it seems that thorns and thistles are the only crop his struggles ever yield
He eats his meals in sorrow 'til he sinks into the dust whence he came
But all down through the ages he can hear his Maker calling out his name.
"Adam, Adam, where are you?
And though the curse has long be broken Adams' sons are still the prisoners of their fears
Rushing helter skelter to destruction with their fingers in their ears
While the Fathers voice is calling with an urgency I've never heard before
"Won't you come in from the darkness now before it's time to finally close the door!"
"Adam, Adam, where are you?
Adam, Adam, I love you!"
For Don Francisco, the climax of the story is God’s question, “where are you?” It is a feeling of desperate longing and almost sad – a parent searching for a lost child in the midst of a multitude. But this God/parent does not give up. Even though Adam’s sons are “still the victims of their fears” and are “running to destruction with their fingers in their ears”, the Father’s voice is calling with unrestrained urgency, “where are you? Come in from the darkness! I love you.” This is the story of the prodigal son, the story of the lost sheep, of the widow looking for her lost coin, the story of the Hound of Heaven, the story of salvation.
Don Francisco infuses the Garden of Eden story with a salvific message, a message of redemption and of hope. Even though commentary by Don Francisco on his lyrics or message is not available, it is clear by the text of his other songs that this is a resonant message of his ministry. He has a song titled, “I Don’t Care where you’ve Been Sleeping”
And although you've chosen darkness with its miseries and fears,
Although you've gone so far from Me and wasted all those years
Even though my name's been spattered by the mire in which you lie
I'd take you back this instant if you'd turn to Me and cry.
I don't care where you've been sleeping, I don't care who's made your bed
I've already gave My life to set you free;
There's no sin you could imagine that is stronger than my love,
And it's all yours if you'll come home again to Me
This is the message of “ayeka?” God does not need to know where we are. He knows. But we need to know where we are. God gives us the opportunity, as He gave Adam and Eve, to come clean, to tell him where we are, to come up with a “speech from the Throne”, or a “state of the union” address, to see where we are: where we came from and where we are going. The Catholic Church teaches about Grace and gives us the tools to continually strive to receive God’s Grace. We believe that once we were in a state of original grace.
Adam and Eve did not need the Sacraments – Original Sin is the state of deprivation of original holiness and justice (CCC #417). At one point everything was united with God. Clearly, we see, by looking around us and through our own experience that this is no longer the case. It is apparent that the author of Genesis also did not see a world that was united with God. We live in a world that is fragmented, separate from God, and our quest to “know, love and serve God” is in fact our desire to get back to the Garden of Eden, to get back to that state of unity with God to which Sacraments point. Furthermore, the physicality of the Sacraments, the required matter, indicates that despite our current human state, there are glimpses of Eden in our physicality. We are created in the image of God and His image is still in us, despite Adam and Eve’s disobedience. We are not completely separated from God. And every time we choose
away from God, He calls to us “ayeka?” to give us the opportunity to turn back to him and say “sorry”. This was perhaps Adam and Eve’s greatest fall. Twice God gave Adam the opportunity to repent. First Adam deflects the question and then passes the blame. I wonder how different the story had been, had Adam responded to God’s, “ayeka?” with a “Here I am. I’m sorry. We ate from the tree you forbade, but it won’t happen again.”
And isn’t this the story of our lives? We live in a world that is unable to feel shame. We are a people that has gone to great extents to re-define good and evil so as to suit our own petty selfish needs, because facing God, answering his “ayeka?” is too painful and too much work. However, humans are continually choosing between good and evil, between life and death. The reality is that we humans are lost without God. And God is continually pursuing us, loving us, searching for us, hoping that we will finally come home before it’s time to finally close the door.
As we move through the Advent Season, it is most appropriate that we ask the questions, “Where am I?” What have I done? Where am I going? How has this year been? How did I live today? How was I in bondage today? How was I blameless before God? These are all “ayeka?” But in asking, the danger, as what happened to Adam and Eve, is to hide rather than answer, to flee rather than face, to evade rather than accept responsibility for what we have done and for what we have left undone.
Recently, at the Canadian Youth Workers Conference
I was speaking to a representative of the Gideons International in Canada who showed me their newest pamphlet, titled, “Where is the map?” This is a perfect image for all of us who strive to “get back in to Eden.” But, if we don’t know where we are going, how do we know which map to use? Catholic singer/songwriter Sarah Hart
in her song: “Any Road”
says, “Any road will do if you have no destination, but really where are you, if any road will do?”
It is my prayer and hope that all of us are able to choose the right destination, and using the right map, we can choose the right road, so we know at all times where we are. Then when God asks of us, “ayeka?” we’ll be able to answer, not like Adam and Eve, but like Abraham, like Samuel and like Mary, “Here I am, Lord. Amen. Let your will be done.”