Ash Wednesday

You will eat bread by the sweat of your face until you return to the ground,
for you were taken out of it.
For you are dust,
and you shall return to dust.”
Yahweh God made garments of animal skins for Adam and for his wife, and clothed them.

Genesis 3:19, 21

We are reminded of this passage in today’s liturgy, which marks the beginning of the holiest season in Christianity, as a cross of ashes is traced on our foreheads.

This is part of God’s curse of Adam and Eve after they ate from the Tree at the center of the Garden against His instructions.  It is perhaps the most critical moment in all of Scripture, but not for the reason we usually assume.

I explore all the momentous implications of this passage in my book, Faith on a Stone Foundation: Free Will, Morality and the God of Abraham.  But for purposes of this post, I will limit myself to one obtuse observation:

Adam and Eve hide from God after they eat from the Tree.  They expressly did not do this because they feared God’s wrath, but rather because they realized they were naked for the first time.  As today’s passage closes, God works to cover their nakedness.  God does not impose punishment, but rather points out that something about the decision they just made will inevitably make life harder than it needs to be.  Then He sets to work making clothing, starting the process of picking up the pieces.

Image: El Rio de Luz by Edwin Church, courtesy the U.S. National Gallery of Art