Reflection – O Happy Fault

It was daunting when I realized my turn to write came on Easter Sunday.  I read and studied all seven Readings from the Easter Vigil, the Exultat, the Baptismal Ceremony, the Epistles and Gospels.  The “Exultat” sings in triumph, “O happy fault!” referring to the story in the Garden of Eden and the eating of the fruit of knowledge.  The great Creation hymn that comprises the first reading  (p. 349) is a prayerful reflection upon the knowledge given to Adam by Eve.  I like to think that the Lord God was warning them of the dire consequences that would ensue when they began to shape their lives according to the brand new discovery they had made. (Genesis 3:14-24).  All new discoveries include the end of the old ways and the beginning of their own end because all knowledge is partial and destined to be surpassed.

I also believe that the story is based upon actual historical events that took place between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers some 5700 years ago.  A new civilization began to grow there based on Inheritance from father to son.  Records of possessions to be passed down were etched into clay as well as social and political rules.  Government followed the family order of rule by the father over his wife and children.  A well-organized society developed with an economy of herding and farming, and dynasties recorded for more than two millennia.  Then, for some reason, Abraham (called “a wandering Aramean”-Deut.26:5-9) spread the knowledge about Inheritance throughout the Middle East, changing many of the traditions he came upon.  I interpret the second reading (p. 355) as an example of the new form of religion replacing an old one.  The centuries long sojourn in Egypt also led to clashes between the religion of Abraham and the ancient religion of the Egyptians, leading to the Exodus.  After the transformation of the cuneiform tablets into papyrus scrolls, they were easily transported in the Ark of the Covenant.  Much later, the scattered writings and traditions of the scattered tribes of Israel were compiled into the Book of the Law there in Babylon, where the leaders of Israel were forced to stay together.  Without the suffering of the Babylonian Exile we would not have a Bible.

After the long walk on the road to Emmaus when the disciples finally recognized Christ they asked, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was…opening the Scriptures to us?”  That question sends me to the seventh reading (p. 372):  “I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put my spirit within you.”  St. Paul asks, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death?”  The prayer of Holy Mother Church during the baptismal ceremony includes these phrases:  children of your promise, the grace of adoption, Abraham, father of nations.  These phrases recall Paul’s explanation that the promise to Abraham, not his rituals, was the foundation of the New Covenant.  The waters of Baptism indicate a rebirth, imitating the water of the mother which breaks just before childbirth.  At birth all children inherit gender, race, language, nationality, social status and the institutions that surround us.  From birth we also participate in the hidden injustices of all social systems which can harden hearts to exclude “others” from benefits enjoyed by “Our Kind”.

Baptism breaks the chain of inheritance.  Through baptism we “die” to our inheritance and become children of God, equal to one another before God.

Agnes Beirne


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