Have you ever tried to sum up your faith or the Faith?
Raised as a Catholic, I wasn’t well educated as one. I rejected the Faith — even the existence of God — when I was about 20 years old. A spiritual awareness of the fullness of reality and a serious consideration of the world’s religions led me out of atheism and into — much to my surprise — Christianity. As a revert Catholic of 29, are prayed the rosary and wrote down what I knew about truth and goodness, about God and life. What follows is the last of my rosary reflections from the summer of 2003.
The Tree of Life
In the middle of the garden of Eden was the tree of life, and with it was the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. From this tree of knowledge man and woman were forbidden to eat, and yet they were tempted and did eat of its fruit. This act went against God’s command, God’s rule, and through it the eyes of the man and the woman were opened to self-consciousness: they were naked, they were vulnerable, and they separated themselves from God.
This choice made by the humans showed how these creatures created in the Divine Image, creatures of freewill, would choose as they reasoned, as they desired. And yet, they were not entirely like gods. Still creatures of the Earth, they were not immortal. In the book of Genesis, it seems that the first man and the first woman were allowed to eat from the tree of life — it was only from the tree of knowledge of good and bad that they were forbidden to eat, for with one bite they would surely die. And after they had eaten this fruit, they were indeed cast out of the garden so that they would not be able to eat from the tree of life, so that they would not be able to live forever.
And so it was, and so it is. There is pain and toil in our lives, and there is death. We are separated from the mind of God, we do not live with God’s rule first and foremost. Nature throws weeds and thorns at us, biological cravings make slaves of us, survival is struggle. And the way back to the garden, our original home of peace where God’s rule reigns supreme, is barred by the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword. And we are denied the tree of life.
So it was and so it is, except for one difference: the Messiah.
While meditating through the prayers of the holy Rosary and the sorrowful mysteries, I began to see Christ Jesus as the Tree of Life. I was praying out of doors in the beauty of God’s creation, and beneath the boughs of the leafy green trees I could well envision the humble man throwing himself prostrate across a stone, praying so fervently that blood poured from his skin with his sweat. Praying to God above, God beyond, praying for deliverance from pain, deliverance from torture and struggle, deliverance from death, this human being knelt in a garden, overcome. In a garden, sin originated and Man became separated from God. In a garden, sin was absorbed as God became united with all Mankind. Jesus drew the poison from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, drew it into himself, into his flesh, that it may die with his coming, inevitable death. And Jesus also became for us the fruit of the tree of life.
Nailed upon the crossbeams of trees, at the Naval of the World, Jesus connected the divine with the human — the transcendent plane of existence with the material plane of existence. This is the tree of life. The night before this holy sacrifice, Jesus had given his friends, his disciples bread to eat and wine to drink, saying that the bread was his flesh and the wine was his blood. And he wanted them to eat his flesh and drink his blood for their own sake, for their forgiveness, for their reconciliation, for their salvation. And he wanted them continually to partake of this sacred food for as long as they remember the Son of God, the Beloved One, the One Who comes in the Name of the Lord, the Messiah Who ushers in the Kingdom of God, Who re-establishes God’s rule in human life. And what is the Divine command now? It is Love, it is compassion, as Jesus himself is Love Incarnate. This is the Kingdom of God to be re-established by those who eat from the Tree of Life. The divine command that comes forth from the garden now is not “you shall not eat,” but rather “take and eat, take and drink.” The resurrected body of Jesus is not the poison of death, but rather the fruit of Life itself. Eat from this tree and you shall live forever.
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.