I’m revisiting some old, familiar material for a presentation I’m going to give tomorrow night at one of the local universities’ Catholic Centers. I’ve spoken for this women’s group before and am happy to be going back to give them a talk on the first part of Theology of the Body, but thought I would share a little bit of what I’m doing with you all. During the talk, we look at the account of the creation of Eve:
18 Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,
‘This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.’
24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. (NRSV)
Unfortunately, English fails to capture some fun details. We are used to referring to the first man as if he were named “Adam,” but in transliterated Hebrew he’s simply “ha adam”: mankind. So when we read “man” in verses 18-23a above, “man” really means “mankind” or “all of humanity,” without gender. It’s also a bit of a pun, because in verse 7, God made man out of the dust of the earth, “adamah.”
In this account of creation, God sees that it is not good for “mankind” (adam) to be alone and so again he fashions other beasts out of the earth (adamah), but none is a suitable helper. Adam knows these things and names them, but none of these other beasts from “adamah” is fit to accompany “adam.” So God makes another creature, not out of “adamah” this time, but out of flesh and bone from “adam.”
When “adam” awakes, he is no longer “adam” as a single entity. Now he is “ish” (man) and “ishshah” (woman) and he finally sees that this other one is like himself. “Ish” is referred to later again in the text as “adam,” so it is clear that he was the first of the pair, but his identity as “ish” simply did not exist prior to Eve. It was in recognizing “ishshah” that “adam” could call himself “ish.” So it is that in one sense, male and female are born from each other. They are two, but of one flesh. Adam existed by himself, but his identity didn’t make sense without Eve.
That is communion, the heart of human existence: communion with one another, communion with God. We are ourselves, but of each other and for each other. We reveal our selves to one another.
That’s what marriage images and is. And that is why it is an image of Christ and the Church, for we read in John’s Gospel:
Jesus, in the sleep of death, gives life to the Church through the opening of his side, through the outpouring of His precious blood and the water of baptism. Hanging from the cross, naked and unashamed, He thereby reveals Himself to be the true “adam”: