The mystics of the Church typically speak of five gardens: Eden, Gethsemane, the secret garden of the Beloved, the soul and the Holy Mass. All of the gardens are meant to be sacred and set aside for the consummation of marriage. As we continue our meditation, only two will concern us today on Good Friday.
Adam consummated his marriage in Eden and then let the nahash defile that garden with the entrance of Original Sin. Together Adam and Eve fell and ruptured their relationship with the Father while at the same time seriously wounding their relationship with each other. They suddenly were alone. This did not go beyond notice of the Father – He looked for them in the garden to keep Him company. But they hid. And so from this time forth in Sacred Scripture, the personal name of the Father is no longer uttered and we are expelled from Paradise.
Paradise being Re-established
The Lord knew they were coming for Him – He was totally in control. In fact, He went out to meet them. (Jn 18:4) A lover always is open to reconciliation and that is precisely why He came. As He stood under the full moon’s light, knowing how the enemy hates, “the Name above all names,” He searched out and provoked the enemy by challenging a cohort to name the one they came for under stealth of darkness. He asked, “Who is it you want? Jesus of Nazareth, they answered.” (Jn 18:5) Notice they did not say “You!” The darkened mind can never perceive Divine Love even when He stands before them (II Cor 4:3-4). And so, they arranged for a sign…a sign of love, a treasured sign of affection. A kiss.
The Divine Lover is betrayed by a kiss in a garden. Wait, that is not what a kiss is for! It is a sign of affection! It is the prelude to the consummation of love! But tonight, that Divine Lover is also a Warrior (Exodus 15:3), the Captain of our Salvation (Heb 2:8-10), and a Might Man of War (Is 42:13). He knows that a Lover fights (shamar – Gn 2:15) for his Beloved, or is supposed to. Adam loved himself more than Eve and so handed his Bride over to the enemy out of fear for his life.
Our Lord on the other hand, looks and tells them, “I AM.” (Jn 18:6) Scripture says that they were paralyzed with fear and fell over backwards upon the ground. This was the seventh and decisive “I AM” statement our Lord makes in the Gospel of St. John. And again upon the earth, the personal name of God has re-entered the garden out of love and by way of a new covenant. Scripture then recounts a quick skirmish with Peter’s sword, the healing of a Malchus’ ear…but the Lord is still in control.
Jesus had already begun the war by his free, conscious and deliberate sacrificial offering to atone for our sins at the Last Supper. He now prepares to continue the liturgy and fulfill the rest of the covenantal curses from Adam through David as the High Priest. But he cares first for His own, “If I am the man you want, let these others go” (Jn 18:8). His disciples flee…and yet, all is still according to plan. For Jesus knew that in order to accomplish this sacrifice he must be alone:
Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary because of all the sinful defilement and faults of the Israelites. He shall do the same for the meeting tent, which is set up among them in the midst of their uncleanness. No one else may be in the meeting tent from the time he enters the sanctuary to make atonement until he departs. When he has made atonement for himself and his household, as well as for the whole Israelite community, he shall come out to the altar before the LORD and make atonement for it also. (Lv 16:17)
The Warrior had been captured and the enemy gloats but that was all part of His plan. He is about re-establishing His Kingdom with the unwitting help of the enemy.
A New Tree of Life in the Garden
Fast forwarding …A kangaroo court takes place (Jewish trials are never permitted to take place under the cover of darkness) and handed over to the Gentiles to be executed. The Jews believe that by handing over Jesus to the Romans that they will be responsible for His death. Had that been so, we would never enter into eternal paradise. Pilate finds no wrong in Jesus and washes his hands of this murder – skillfully recalling Deuteronomy 21:7-8.
For Scripture recounts that,
“When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” (Mt 27:24)
Then Jesus waited. He knew what needed to come next. People curse all the time in society – it is as common as the words “the” or “a” in a sentence. But this time, He needed, He wanted, everyone to utter the divine curse. Suddenly, all assembled shouted out the curse that He would transform into the blessing of our salvation,
And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us, upon our children and our children’s children.” (Mt 27:25)
Curses are done in threes. Jesus in his ministry unbound people struck by the curse of sin and death…but this was a curse He was to keep bound for eternity.
They tortured Jesus and like every good soldier said nothing because in His estimation it was just a scratch. The Romans marched Him up to Golgotha to crucify Him…and He is still in control. Jesus knew that Golgotha was one of the peaks in the mountain range of Moriah. He intended to fulfill the ancient promise made on Mt. Moriah by Abraham to Isaac that God would provide a lamb. (Gn 22:8) Jesus knew that He would be the perfect sacrifice fulfilling the Passover requirements of an unblemished lamb. (Ex 12:5). He was still adovah (ing) for His beloved.
Then they crucified Him upon a tree. Taking our sins upon Him, he fulfilled the covenant requirement by offering Himself, as the High Priest, to make atonement for our transgressions:
If a man guilty of a capital offense let him be put to death and his corpse hung on a tree… (Dt 21:23)
Now the crucified Warrior looks to His mother Mary who completes the garden by becomes the New Eve when He says, “Woman, behold your son.” Shouldn’t He have said, “Mother”? In John’s Gospel, the first miracle of Jesus takes place on the day of the covenant, the seventh day, at which we find Jesus at a wedding. In Genesis, Adam also meets and marries his wife on the seventh day. Jesus calls Our Lady by the same name Adam called Eve, “isha” The only other time we hear Him call her isha is on the cross giving John to her as His son. There too, he does not say John but son. A family has being born. He recited His vows at the Last Supper, “This is my Body…take and eat.” Here the Church finds our Lord consumatling his wedding vows by His words and through His body to His Bride the Church found in Our Lady. When we look upon Him, we cannot we hear Him, but really He is saying,
“I take you to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
The Church Fathers have always seen these last words of Jesus as His vows to His Bride the Church. Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to always point towards the cross and shout out, “Nuptials! Nuptials! That’s what is going on here, Nuptials!” And these vows are made fruitful and complete. John 19:34 says,
“but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.”
And so the Church was conceived and given life. Jesus gives Himself freely, faithfully, fully and with fecundity to His Bride. To the mystics, the cross is the marriage bed in which our Lord consummates His love for us. It is no wonder that the saints say that when they unite their sufferings to Jesus on the cross the sufferings become blissful love. Is that not the language the Bridegroom and Bride use when they describe their marital embrace?
Thus, the Lover plants a new tree in a different garden watered by His divine blood and the tears of the co-redemptrix, the New Eve. The Warrior lays down His life, unlike Adam, for His bride…and the serpent thinks that he has won. But the story continues…on Holy Saturday.