Windows of Salvation – The Flaming Sword
I haven’t been on a roller coaster in a long time, but I definitely remember the first time I rode one – the Screamin’ Eagle at Six Flags. I remember feeling so nervous and scared as I stood in line, wondering whether I should turn back and go on a different ride. We finally made it to the front of the line, and as we started loading, I knew that this was my last chance to bail out. The harness came down to hold me in place, and the only way to leave would now be on the other end of the ride. It truly was a point of commitment, a point of no return!
The next stained glass window on our list depicts a flaming sword, and in a sense, represents the “point of no return” for Adam and Eve in the Garden. We read last week about the serpent and the fruit of Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and how Adam and Eve committed their act of disobedience in choosing to rebel against God. And after this act, everything changed. Their human nature was wounded. They realized they were naked, their intellect was darkened, they were drawn to sin in a new way (which we call concupiscence), and experienced separation and alienation from God.
Now of course, we know that God offered mercy to them by continuing to guard them from harm, and even in the beginning, God planned to bring about salvation through Jesus Christ, but there was no mistaking the fact that they couldn’t go back. It was the point of no return. The Book of Genesis tells us that God “expelled the man, stationing a cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the Garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Gen 3:24) There was no going back for them.
Fire, and especially a fiery sword, often represents the virtue of justice, which is that virtue by which we give to each their due. Often, we can think of justice as something harsh or pitiless, especially when we are on the receiving end of it, but we must remember that justice is an important virtue. It helps us regulate and order our relationships with other, and is often deemed the most important of the Cardinal Virtues. Without justice, society falls into lawlessness and chaos, and ultimately goes crazy! And so indeed, God was just in barring our First Parents from Paradise.
And yet, in a beautiful way, we know that as much as God is the bringer of justice, He is also love itself, and by the gift of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God allowed us to taste Paradise again. As we strive to live as dedicated disciples of Jesus, let us strive to be people of justice, giving to each what they are owed, especially by their human dignity. But let us also strive to be people of mercy, just as God has been for us.
God, we left the tree of life and willingly chose sin. We long for the innocence of the Garden, the tree of life, and walking with you. From where we have turned away from you, lead us back once again by your grace to the Paradise of Heaven!