Naked Communication (Part II of III)

The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, Benjamin West, 1791

Adam and Eve were the first humans to experience perfect communication. In Part I of this series we identified that they shared everything with each other and were in perfect communion. The nakedness of their bodies showed that they had nothing to hide and accepted each other completely. But as we know all too well, paradise didn’t last long.

The Loss

I usually find that when the Creation story comes to the part where Adam and Eve disobey God, the emphasis is put on the reality that humanity loses that true and deep communion with God. While that is the fundamental reason that set God’s perfect work of Salvation into motion, humanity lost something else. We lost communion with each other.

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7)

I used to read this verse and incorrectly assume that because their eyes “were opened” and “they knew that they were naked” that knowledge was only gained so that they could finally realize that they needed to put a shirt on. However, it’s more accurate to say that they also lost a part of themselves. Adam and Eve had only known obedience and love towards God. When they disobeyed God, their eyes “were opened” and they knew how to disobey and thereby how not to love God – and they could never un-know what they now learned. During his homily on Original Nakedness, Pope John Paul II said the following on the loss that man experienced:

“…man was deprived of the supernatural and preternatural gifts which were part of his endowment before sin. Furthermore, he suffered a loss in what belongs to his nature itself, to humanity in the original fullness of the image of God.”

Source: L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English,  19 May 1980, page 1

How tragic! In exchange for the knowledge of good and evil, humanity lost the fullness of the image that we were created in likeness of – God Himself! To put it another way, seeing as we know God is pure and true Love, we lost the ability to fully love each other.

This manifested immediately and most visibly through the introduction of sexual shame. Up until the fall of man, sexual shame did not exist. Adam and Eve were able to love the mind, soul and body all at once, as if all three were inseparable. But once their eyes “were opened”, they experienced what the media and fashion of this world are capitalizing on – the objectification of the body. Cultural commentator Robert Scruton noted that sexual shame arises when we perceive that we are “being judged as a body”. We humans intrinsically know that we are more than the meat hanging off our bones. There is a soul and a mind that lives through our physical bodies. But when we realize that we are being reduced to just a body, sexual shame comes in to protect us and we cover up.

Adam and Eve, having once experienced the fullness of God’s image in themselves, the fullness of love, clothed themselves to protect each other’s bodies from their now sinful minds. While clothes protect us from judging each other as just a body, they also act as a barrier to knowing each other. How often do we judge another person based on the clothes they wear? In order to get to know someone we would then need to put aside our judgments and invest in time and conversation to understand the other and thereby love them.

Humanity has lost the ability to love, completely and fully, at first sight. It is only through discipline in learning to love like Jesus that we inch closer to our true selves. We’ll never be able to perfectly love each other in this life but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. In Part III we look to some ideas of how we can communicate more perfectly.

Naked Communication Series
Naked Communication (Part I of III)

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