Genesis 3 presents the story of how evil entered the world. After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve’s tranquil garden comes unraveled and God’s initial dream was destroyed. The ensuing chaos damaged relationships and alienated one from another. He blamed her ("she made me eat it"); she blamed the snake ("he tricked me"); the serpent was penalized; childbearing becomes a pain; the land was cursed; thorns and thistles lined the prickly path of the future; and the gates to the peaceful garden slammed shut.
Amidst the catastrophic repercussions of their sin, as Adam and Eve were being evicted from the tropical garden there is a beautifully tender moment when "the Lord God made leather garments with which he clothed them."
Soon after their initial sin, Adam and Eve realized they were naked and vulnerable. Their response was to stitch together fig leaves to protect and defend themselves. God, however, realized that in a sinful world fig leaves would not provide sufficient protection. So God gave them animal skins: "Here is my array of animal skins to shield you, take your choice."
Each of us has chosen a skin to cover our nakedness. In the realm of symbolism, the leather clothing represents the ego personality. Clothes symbolize our personality. It is the way we selectively present ourselves as we show-up and walk through the day.
The disastrous repercussion of sin is that we tend to define and identify ourselves with our animal skin (ego). Before sin, Adam and Eve were not ashamed to be naked. Now, the result of sin is a life of pretense or clothing. Eventually we become encrusted in layer after layer of skins.
The goal of the spiritual life is to recover our nakedness. Stripped of his clothes, Jesus hung naked on the cross. Before entering the baptismal font, the child’s clothes are removed. Nakedness represents our initial state of oneness with God in the garden. Naked is our birthright and naked is our true stance before God.
Fr. Joe Mitchell, CP is the director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center in Louisville, KY.
See his website: www.earthandspiritcenter.org