and make no
provision for the flesh,
to fulfill its lusts.”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The whole catastrophe of life on this planet: suicide bombers, flesh-eating bacteria, concentration camps, tribal (or religious, or class, or international) warfare, crack addiction, divorce, starvation. None of this was God’s intention when He made this place, or us in it. “An enemy has done this…”, and the tale of that Fall is told poetically in Genesis. In the garden of delight prepared for God’s highest and best creation, an ancient, primordial snake enters. He, too, was made by God, but grew tired of gratitude and communion. As the Lord says of the thief: “he came to kill, and steal, and destroy.”
Horrifically, he did so at the request and with the permission of our first parents, who enjoyed the good things God had given them but began to see the Giver as superfluous. We, their children, have inherited the world they re-created, and each generation has added its own little dose of poison to the compost heap. Selfishness, laziness and spite have built up over the centuries, and each of us makes our personal contribution. Like children born in a slum, we are affected by the corruption surrounding us and influencing us. Every sin, no matter how secret or apparently hidden, has its effect on the whole, just as rotten food in the corner garbage pail fills the whole room with the stench of death. We are each part of the problem until we die.
It is Christ, and He alone, who has put an end to this corruption and death. This He did by becoming man, by dying a shameful death as a man, and rising from the dead as God. This He did for us, who could not save ourselves. Our creator has become our brother, embracing our poverty to give us His riches, to make us as He is.
For us to make His life our own means for us to “put on Christ”. We do it by dying, and letting Christ raise us. This is what Baptism represents to us – a dying and rising with and in Christ. Our whole Christian life is a living out of this mystery.
We enter the struggle of Lent by remembering that initial catastrophe, the expulsion from the Garden. But we continue it by looking forward – to the way of the Cross that our Lord trod utterly alone, for us. Beyond that Cross is His glorious Resurrection, which has the power to undo all the accumulated sin, misery and hopelessness of the generations.
To share in His life, we will have to die to all that is false, to the “lusts of the flesh”. Only if we die before we die, will we live after we die. Fr. Michael.