V is for Very

Fall, Autumn and Eden

    When I wrote last week that God created us for friendship and that we are fully human when we are able to live with each other as friends, I went on to say that we lost this in the Fall. More than one person noted the coincidence of the posting of my blog with the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere.
    If we lost friendship in the fall, maybe we’ll find it in the spring?
    That’s rather charming, no? Easter is dated (roughly speaking) as the first Sunday following the first new moon of spring (again, northern hemisphere). And it is in rising from the dead that Jesus restores us to friendship with God and each other. So indeed we could say we lost in the fall and were given it back in the spring.
    On the other hand, did the garden of Eden have seasons? It is hard to imagine Eden as anything but a full-bloom spring or perhaps an everlasting summer without uncomfortable heat. It doesn’t seem to be a place of change.
    On the other hand, maybe Adam and Eve didn’t get to hang around long enough to find out. Milton’s “Paradise Lost” has some lovely stanzas of our first parents rising from their bower in the morn (Book V, line 144 and following):

Lowly they bow'd adoring, and began
Thir Orisons, each Morning duly paid
In various style, for neither various style
Nor holy rapture wanted they to praise
Thir Maker, in fit strains pronounc't or sung
Unmeditated, such prompt eloquence
Flowd from thir lips . . .
“These are thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Almightie, thine this universal Frame,
Thus wondrous fair; thy self how wondrous then!
Unspeakable, who sitst above these Heavens
To us invisible or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works, yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and Power Divine . . .”

At this point in Milton’s poem they are about to lose paradise, but there have been already, it seems, uncounted days. They begin each day with praise, in various styles and not needing instruction.

    On the other hand (I think this is the fourth hand, but who’s counting?), when the pilgrim Dante meets Adam in Paradiso, he wants to know how long Adam lived in the earthly paradise of Eden. Adam delays the answer to the end of his speech with Dante; it is a punch to the gut. Paradiso xxvi.139–42, in the Hollanders’ translation: “On the mountain that rises highest from the sea [i.e., Eden], I lived, pure, then guilty, from the first hour until the sun changed quadrant, in the hour that follows on the sixth.” That is to say, Adam lived in the earthly paradise about six or seven hours.

     That's a quick fall.

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    Out & About. The “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar returns Sunday, October 24, to discuss Our Town by Thornton Wilder. These seminars meet in the education center of Church of the Incarnation in Dallas and are open to anyone who wishes to come. (The only rule is that if you haven’t read the book you may not speak.) We meet for 90 minutes, starting at 5 p.m. (There is Evensong in the church at 4 p.m.) Apart from the earlier hour, these seminars will be the same as those we had B.C. (before you-know-what). Which is to say, I will ask an opening question and then the discussion goes wherever thinking together takes us. So don’t come expecting a summary or a lecture, and don’t read up on the book online or in secondary literature. Our focus will be on the text with the basic inquiry of what it says about God and humanity, and what we make of that.

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The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."