Thursday, October 16, 2014

Theological Musings: The Fruit and the Bread

     My friend is in a poetry class this semester and she wrote a poem (weird... how that happened) that I thought had some really interesting ideas. It's a sort of dramatic monologue in which the Serpent tempts Eve to eat the fruit. The way she does that is interesting in and of itself, but what really caught my attention were the parallels she made between Eve's consumption of the fruit and the sacrament of communion. 

     This may sound a little strange, but I think she's stumbled across something incredibly fascinating. I'm sure many people are familiar with the idea of Typology - the idea that important doctrines and New Testament occurrences are symbolized, or pre-figured, in Old Testament stories. The big example is that Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac (and his gift of the Ram in the thicket) is a typology for Christ's sacrifice. If you're not sure what a typology is there's a lot written on it other places, like here  In Genesis I think there are a lot of 'twisted' typologies. Paul brings this up when he talks about how Christ is the Second Adam. He says:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin ...death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come... Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (Romans 5). 

That's a lengthy quotation I know, but it illustrates the point I'm trying to make nicely I think. Adam was a type of Christ. It is from Adam that all humans were given physical life, and it is through Christ that all humans can receive spiritual life. But the idea of a twisted typology comes with the fall. Adam's sin resulted in spiritual and physical death for all people. whereas Christ's death resulted in the forgiveness of sin and the gift of spiritual life for those who would accept it. In Christ not only are the effects of the fall reversed, but the actions of the fall are reversed as well.   

This twisted typology extends to other aspects of the fall story and the redemption story. I'm not going out on much of a limb here, this is sort of a traditional understanding of the parallels between the fall and the redemption. Mary is often cited as a redemptive type of Eve. In Genesis God says "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed," (Genesis 3: 15). St. Anselm identifies the typology represented here quite nicely, saying, "And, as sin, the cause of our condemnation, had its origin from a woman, so ought the author of our righteousness and salvation to be born of a woman." Eve's disobedience precipitated our fall, but Mary's faith and obedience gave birth to our redemption. Another twisted typology is in the trees that are present in both stories. The devil conquered man with fruit from a tree, while he himself was conquered when Christ was raised on a tree. 

There are many types in the fall account that appear and are redeemed in the story of Christ. I think that the fruit can be rightly considered one of these twisted types. In the Genesis account Eve relates God's instructions concerning the fruit to the Serpent, saying: "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;  but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die." (Genesis 3:2-3). So here we have a command from God "Do not eat." When this command is disobeyed, when the fruit is eaten, the consequence is that human beings are spiritually separated from God. I think that, if you look at the very beginning of the redemptive work during Maundy Thursday (during Passion week) that you have the typological fulfillment of that event. During the Last Supper the consumption of the fruit is redeemed in the consumption of the bread and wine. In this instance you have God in Christ giving the command "Take and eat." When this command is obeyed it serves to restore the spiritual communion between man and God and believer with believer.* The action of the fall, the severing of the spiritual communion between man and God,  is reversed in the action of communion. 

I'll end with this quote from St. Anselm, who is my favorite: 
We do no injustice or dishonor to God, but give him thanks with all the heart, praising and proclaiming the ineffable height of his compassion. For the more astonishing a thing it is and beyond expectation, that he has restored us from so great and deserved ills in which we were, to so great and unmerited blessings which we had forfeited; by so much the more has he shown his more exceeding love and tenderness towards us. For did they but carefully consider bow fitly in this way human redemption is secured, they would not ridicule our simplicity, but would rather join with us in praising the wise beneficence of God.

*I am aware that this statement may appear to offer a false view of communion, but that's only, I think, if you view the communion office as merely symbolic, which I do not. I believe that the Eucharist is not merely meant as a commemorative event, but is actually a spiritual act of worship that restores the individual's communion with God in a deeply spiritual way. I do not believe that taking communion is in anyway tied to Salvation, merely that the Eucharistic feast is meant to connect the believer with God, but different views of communion and what I believe is a whole different blog post - or maybe several.

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