The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


Pass me a fig leaf, please

posted by deacon greg kandra

Every now and then one of my favorite bloggers, The Anchoress, comes up with something so fresh and unpredictable and timely, I slap my forehead and say “Who’da thunk?!”

This is one of those pieces: a well-thought-out meditation on Eden and sin and Lent and nakedness and covenants and, believe it or not, foreskin:

Was the first sin, then, simple disobedience? That doesn’t really seem likely. Obedience, like anything else, must be learned.

Rather, I think the first sin was humanity not trusting in God but trying to guard themselves by hiding from him; humans covering themselves up both physically and metaphorically – with fig leaves and with the sloughing off of blame onto others – rather than revealing themselves and taking responsibility for their actions.

The taint of Original Sin: God has been trying to get us to trust Him, to reveal ourselves to Him and to be vulnerable (open) to Him ever since.

Perhaps this explains the command by God for the Jews to circumcise the men. The foreskin of the penis affords some protection for the organ – a bit of shelter, a place to hide. When God chose the Jews as His own, he required this symbolic (and real) acquiescence – this willingness to be completely vulnerable and exposed to whatever may come. The unsheathed penis is extraordinarily sensitive and responsive – precisely the qualities God wanted of the Jews. He made a covenant with them; He would be their God, they would be His people, and the deal was sealed in blood. At its shedding, man and God are bonded.

The need to be vulnerable and open to God is part and parcel of having a real relationship with Him, just as it is the necessary component in human relationships. We see the blood covenant and the need for vulnerability and openness mirrored in the relationship between a husband and wife – or we did, when virginity was kept for marriage. The thin membrane of the hymen is a kind of counterpart to the foreskin. In shedding the foreskin the Jew becomes openly vulnerable to God. In remaining a virgin until marriage, the woman becomes vulnerable only (but fully) to her husband, and he – in receiving that vulnerability – answers only to her, gives his deepest self and the sweat of all of his labors to her. It is another blood covenant. At the shedding of that blood, they become one flesh. One entity.

Check out the rest of it. There’s enough food for thought here to create a spiritual all-you-can eat salad bar.



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