Windows of Salvation –
“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” said Indiana Jones, looking down into the chamber in which was held the Ark of the Covenant in the Raiders of the Lost Ark. I hear you, Dr. Jones., I hear you. Alongside spiders and dentists, snakes have always been a source of fear and trembling for people throughout history. Well, we as Catholics are no different. Our window today portrays the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden, wrapped in a vicious and terrifying serpent. So those are our subjects today: fruits and serpents!
Serpents are all over the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. Naturally, our minds are drawn to the Book of Genesis, where we are told that the “snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals the Lord had made.” (Gen 3:1) The serpent returns as a large red dragon with 7 heads and 10 horns in the Book of Revelation (Rev 12:3), but this time, the cunning has been peeled back to reveal the ferocity and horror that lies beneath, as the dragon attacks the Woman and tries to devour her Child (Mary and Jesus, respectively). In a great battle against St. Michael the Archangel, the dragon is cast down and defeated, but continues to lurk behind the scenes.
And what about the fruit, the tool of the snake’s deception? Well, first of all, what kind of fruit was it? In Western artwork, it is normally portrayed as an apple due to a little pun on the word malum, which can refer both to “apple” or “evil.” Other traditions associate it with the pomegranate, due to the association of that fruit with Persephone, the Greek goddess who was queen of the Underworld. Still other sources I looked at suggested it was a grape or even a hallucinogenic mushroom!
The more important question is, however, why was it such a big deal? We don’t know why the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was forbidden, but we do know that the Evil One used that fact to deceive Adam and Eve. He told them that if they were to eat the fruit, they would be like gods – but that was the plan all along! Psalm 82:6 tells us, “You are gods, and all of you, sons of the Most High,” and the words of the loving Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son remind us, “You are with me always, and everything I have is yours.” The lie of the serpent was that the way to this satisfaction was rebellion – that they would need to takeit from God, when in reality, all they had to do was be open and receive.
The image on our window is a reminder and a warning to us that we so often trade away eternity for some passing toy or pleasure. But we should also let it serve as a reminder that even from the first moment after the Fall, God foretold that Mary, the New Eve, and her Son, Jesus, the New Adam, would defeat the serpent. The disobedience of Eve would be blotted out by the openness of Mary, and the tree, which was once a sign of death, would become the sign of life in the Cross.
O God, we stray from you like our first parents when we sin, but you defeat the power of evil and bring us back by your mercy. Give us confidence and gratitude that you wish to give us new life in abundance!