Theophany, Baptism, and the Garment of Salvation (1)

An interesting reading among Patristic writers concerning Genesis 3 and the fall of Adam and Eve says that Eve and Adam’s awareness of being naked after they sin occurs because in the moment of their disobedience they lost the glorious/illumined garments with which God had originally clothed them.   They realize they are naked after they sinned – not an awakening with the loss of innocence but rather because their God given original and glorious garments had been taken from them.  Their sin was not lost innocence because they had sex as some more recent writers surmised.  In fact the Patristic writers assumed they never had sex until after they were expelled from Paradise, so sex is not the original sin, nor is sexual activity somehow the root of evil, nor the method by which sinful guilt is passed down through the generations as St. Augustine seemed to have believed.

In a Christmas Carol written by 4th Century Christian poet St. Ephrem the Syrian, we see this idea expressed.  St. Ephrem sees the Nativity as the Feast of the Incarnation, which for him was the undoing of what happened to humanity as a result of the sin of Eve and Adam

All these changes did the Merciful One make,

Stripping off glory and putting on a body (Philippians 2:5-7);

For He had devised a way to reclothe Adam

In that glory which he had stripped off.

He was wrapped in swaddling clothes,

Corresponding to Adam’s leaves,

He put on clothes

In place of Adam’s skins;

He was baptized for Adam’s sin,

He was embalmed for Adam’s death,

He rose and raised Adam up in His glory.

St. Ephrem interprets Genesis 3:7, 21 to mean that Adam & Eve were originally royally clothed by God, but in sinning they lost the right to wear these regal/divine garments; “their eyes being opened” was their sudden realization of having lost their clothes and now being naked before God.  That is why Ephrem connects the incarnation to  God “reclothing” Adam.  The garments of skin given to Adam and Eve by God in 3:21 were a sorry substitute for their original garments which enabled them to be in God’s presence.    Christ the incarnate God thus sanctifies and transforms clothing when He allows Himself to be wrapped in swaddling clothes.   For now the clothes do not hide sin, but divinity!      (Read more at The Incarnation: Transfiguring the Fig Leaves).   

The Fathers did not believe that nakedness is somehow a more innocent or holy condition  – the Garden of Delight was not a nudist colony but rather was a place of continual communion with God, not with nature.  The humans were thus given glorious garments of light to wear in the presence of the God who in the beginning said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).  Ideas of  nudity being the natural and innocent state of sinless humanity emerged not so much from the Bible but from the humanistic ideas that became popular in the Christian West in the Renaissance and its art.

In the Feast of Theophany, the baptism of Christ, similar ideas can be found about how God clothing Himself with human nature is the undoing of the loss of the garments of light through the sin of Eve and Adam.   In the Matins Ikos of Theophany we find: 

“Come then, naked children of Adam; let us clothe ourselves in Him, that we may warm ourselves.  You are a protection and veil to the naked, a light to those in darkness.  You have come and revealed yourself, light unapproachable.”

The baptism of Christ that sets the meaning of our own baptism: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).  We put on Christ as a garment – the garment of salvation, the glorious garment with which God had originally clothed Eve and Adam in Paradise.   St. Paul describes our salvation in these terms:

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed (he is speaking of our bodies – my note), we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent (our bodies – my note), we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:1-4 RSV).

The spiritual life, salvation, does not consist in escaping from our bodies, but in the redemption, transfiguration and transformation of our bodies into a new glory.   We are not trying to be “unclothed” in some spiritual escape from the body, but “further clothed”, meaning that we put on Christ as a glorious garment – this is the very reason Christ became incarnated and put on flesh!  As St. John writes it:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Next:  Theophany, Baptism, and the Garment of Salvation (2)

8 thoughts on “Theophany, Baptism, and the Garment of Salvation (1)

  1. Pingback: God Questions His Creation: Introduction (A) « Fr. Ted’s Blog

  2. Pingback: Vesper Texts of The Expulsion of Adam & Eve (1) « Fr. Ted’s Blog

  3. Pingback: Matins Texts of The Expulsion of Adam & Eve (1) « Fr. Ted’s Blog

  4. Father, this is enormously helpful, especially for pointing up the errors in interpretations of the theology of the body such as Christopher West’s that posit erroneous interpretations of Adam’s and Eve’s being “naked without shame.” Thank you so much.

  5. Pingback: Matins Texts of The Expulsion of Adam & Eve (4) « Fr. Ted’s Blog

  6. Pingback: The Garments of Skins | Fr. Ted's Blog

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