God’s four gardens – cultivated for man’s well-being
We fine three essential elements in a garden: order, beauty, and life. Order sets a garden apart from the wilderness. Its boundaries and design establish it as a specific place unlike any other. Second, a garden has beauty – a diversity of flowers and plants, colors, sizes, and shapes – that pleases the eye. Finally, a garden has life. Plants grow and bear fruit, and animals find their territory a pleasing place to live.
This is what God desired for us in that first garden, the Garden of Eden: order, beauty, and life. Order, not just of the Garden, but of our own lives. He established us in a harmonious (well-ordered) relationship with Him, which bestowed in turn a harmony within ourselves and with others, the integration of soul and body, man and woman, man and creation. Likewise, the beauty of that first Garden was not of the plants and flowers, but of our souls, the surpassing beauty of the only creature created in His image and likeness. And He bestowed life there as well – the unending life with God.
By his sin Adam rejected the Gardener and lost the goods of the Garden. We have lost order, beauty, and life. Rebellion against God has thrown His creation into disarray. We now find soul pitted against body, man against woman, and all creation at odds with man. It has brought the ugliness and horror of sin into the world. Most of all, it has brought death into the world, death in place of life.
In a second garden our Lord began the restoration, the redemption; Jesus went “where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered” (John 18:1; Mt. 26:30; Mk 14:26; Lk 22:39). He entered the Garden of Gethsemane to undo the rebellion of the Garden of Eden. In that Garden He took upon Himself all the disorder, ugliness, and death that sin brought into the world. He who is Beauty Itself became the Man of sorrows. He “who knew no sin” became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). Life itself became death.
In a third garden our Lord continues His work – by rising from the dead. How fitting that His tomb should be in a garden – to complete the restoration of God’s original plan. Indeed, when she first sees Him, Mary Magdalene takes our Lord to be the gardener (Jn 20:15). And in a certain sense, He is. He rises as the divine Gardener, to restore order, beauty, and life.
He completes His work in a fourth garden: the human soul. He desires to enter our souls by His grace and dwell within as the divine Gardener. He desires to reestablish within us His gifts of order, beauty, and life intended from the beginning – order, to heal that division and discord within us that produces all the division and discord outside of us; beauty, to rid us of the ugliness of sin and grant us the glory of His children; and life, that our hearts become lively and life-giving.
Excerpt by Rev. Paul D. Scalia from Chapter 9 “Feasts,” of his book That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017), pp. 175-76, “Four Gardens” section. www.ignatius.com. Used with permission.
FR. PAUL SCALIA, son of the late Judge Antonin Scalia, is Episcopal Vicar for Clergy (Diocese of Arlington). He will be a featured speaker at “Legatus at the Capitol” on May 25.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo’ni!” -John 20: 15-16
After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall. This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (“first gospel”): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #410