Sunday, April 3, 2011

Earth felt the wound

(Apologies for the long blogger silence as I prepared for my recent conference in Montreal and entered the long push at the end semester. Posts will likely remain scarce as I work on final research and prepare for a trip to Asia.)

On Friday I had the moving experience of reading through all of Paradise Lost aloud in one marathon sitting with a group of students and faculty at the university. All morning and afternoon we moved through some of the most stunningly beautiful lines of English poetry, and I found myself shocked by the wonder of creation in Book VII as God separated the waters from the land:
over all the face of Earth
Main Ocean flow'd, not idle, but with warme
Prolific humour soft'ning all her Globe,
Fermented the great Mother to conceave,
Satiate with genial moisture...
But as the evening approached and we moved into Book IX, my professor retrieved his basket of apples, passing them out to all the women as Eve reached out “her rash hand in evil hour” and directing us to eat when
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her Works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost.
The men of course were not off the hook, and they were directed to follow as Adam “scrupl’d not to eat” and
Earth trembl’d from her entrails, as again
In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan.
It was a moving experience, the first time my heart has ever been quite so grieved to consider the Fall in which I myself am complicit.

I too have taken. I too did eat.

The season of Lent reminds us of our part in this great epic of human history: not the part of the hero, not even only of the victim. Indeed, we who have committed to fast during this season and have found our vigilance waning over the weeks may have questioned such apparently arbitrary strictures to be “suspicious, reasonless,” and may have found our appetites to get the better of our piety. We may have also slighted
that sole command,
So easily obeyd amid the choice
Of all tastes else to please thir appetite,
Though wandring.
Lenten fasting may indeed be an opportunity for penance, but this year I have also found it to be a canvas on which I have painted my own sin. I am the woman who has taken from the tree. I am the friend sleeping in the garden. I am the disciple who has denied my tortured master.

I too need a savior.

No comments: