This week I began a retreat facilitated by a woman in Ireland who has an on-line abbey focused on transformative living through contemplative and expressive arts. For the next 8 weeks, I’ll be on a pilgrim journey with what appears to be about 100 other monastic souls from all over the world.
One of the creative practices we are invited to explore in this retreat is the ancient Jewish practice of Midrash a form of storytelling Rabbis used to fill in the gaps (so to speak) of inconsistencies found in scripture. Apparently, this became an important component of Jewish literature.
In Judaism, scripture is sometimes described as black fire on white fire. Black fire is the words on the page. Midrash illuminates the white fire, the spaces between the words that are written. Through midrash we explore the gaps in the story, the missing voices, the silences, the wondering that is sparked.
One of our assignments this week was to write Midrash based on Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:23-24 says, “therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.”
According to Christine Valters-Painter, Adam and Eve were the first pilgrims. Set out on a journey. Sent by God. The first to answer the call.
Here is my Midrash based on the reading:
Where dost Thou send me?
Forth unto what, where, whom? With this stranger beside me who somewhere in the depths of my virgin soul I know. Or have always known. But a stranger still.
Sent from the only place these eyes have known. Though in truth, Eden never felt like Home.
No. It is darker where I remember Home.
Empty. Absent. Void.
And at its center a beam. That constantly drew me. I was in perpetual motion. Endless acceleration. Propelled.
Like to this beam I belonged. It warmed me.
Like these flames now, meant to keep me from this garden.
But I know. I know. No matter where we go. In those flames is where I belong. They will draw me back Home.
Like a lighthouse for my soul.
Yea, now I am being sent. Set out on this mission. Meant to fill this foreign place with objects of your love.
History will not tell this version.
Nay, they will say I left you. Heartbroken. They will plot the narrative of redemption. Surely, surely my sons and daughters will lose the way.
Until a beam you will send. A map for the soul. Plunged into darkness. An empty womb. Then they will remember what Mother always knew.
So, farewell Eden.
You rest stop. Halfway house. Trailer of mistaken affection.
Home was always before you.
Now since I must, let me delight in this creation. With all its make do’s and grandiose trifles.
Thou hast chosen well the one to send. I shall mock this earthly substitute. I shall remember that I Am.
Cherubims and flaming swords cannot keep Love from Itself.
Pitiful guards when my ancestors are stardust, fire and ice.