Anne Lastman

“Who is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You have made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honour” (Ps 8:4)

In the practice of our faith and the reading of our Holy Scriptures we often encounter words or sentences and just gloss over them without much thought until a certain moment when a small opening and flash of light guides us to a second look and an understanding that there is more to these words and the meaning so deep and so beautiful. Simply stunning.   This was an event which happened to me recently and I share this. 

The words “and the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife” (Gn 3:21) stopped me short and demanded that a rereading and a pondering of the words took place. 

Rereading the passage these words are found, following the event which occurred after the sin of man and woman, and a decreed expulsion from the garden of Eden.  However, with the decreed expulsion we see God’s first visible act of mercy when He created a means of protection for the first couple, to cover their sin.  The protection which he also created for Cain after his sin of murdering his brother and this in order to protect him (Gn 4:1-16).

This implies that before sin, garments of skin were not necessary and were a creation as a result of sin and a covering for it.

Man’s body before sin was created of light because we know that the Spirit of God was breathed into man and his spirit and soul was and is immersed within the body covered with a “garment of skin”.  So, at the beginning before sin there was no need for garment of skin.

Here I am reminded of the transfigured body of Jesus. (Mt: 17:1-8) His face shone like the sun and his garments were as white as snow.  The light shone through him and showed his glory. The glory of the Father.  In the beginning man was created, in the words of St Irenaeus, “the glory of God is man fully alive” Fully alive and shining with the Glory of God reflected from the face and breath of God.  We again see this with Moses “and when Aaron and the children of Israel saw Moses behold, the skin on his face shone and they were afraid to come near him” (Ex 34:29-35).  The original body of Adam, a body of light “in his image and likeness”   (Gn 1:27) was intended by the Creator God to shine because Man had the breath of God in himself, but then sadly sin found root within him and the glory/and light dimmed and a “garment of skin” was needed to cover the effects of sin.

The covering by the garment of skin was the protection which God made for Adam and his future posterity for all time. This we know because the human does not walk formed out of clay or dust but is born with a garment of skin.  This skin would cover all future humanity from their inherited stain of sin of first parents which would be passed on to offspring and descendants, so too would the “garment of skin” be required to cover that sin of future descendants of Adam.

Man’s awakening from innocence into a world of decision, the realisation was that they were no longer the same as before their sin but now required protection from being seen as marked by a stain, and the effect that the original mark created and passed down for all time.  The effect of the sin so disastrous that it required permanent cover not only for first couple and their sin but also for all future humanity.

Fear is always a companion of sin.  This we see with the Cain story.  After his sin of murder, he was fearful for his own life.  He understood that his murder had consequences and was fearful of these consequences and so God made for him a sign of protection to cover his sin. (Gn 4:15) Again God showed Mercy when Mercy was perhaps not warranted.  

Adam “knew” his wife after their sin and she conceived Cain and so the covering for Cain was the garment of skin as it was for his parents wearing their “garment of skin”

Throughout time and studies, the “garment of skin” (Gen 3:21) has been understood as skins of sacrificed animals and their fur/pelt made into a covering for the man and woman’s nakedness, and perhaps this is one way of seeing “garments of skin” as a type of sacrifice required to cover sin.  However, more deeply, as the sin of Adam and Eve was to pass on from generation to generation then a covering would need to be a permanent feature of the human.  Something which all human beings would need to live with, both for safety and the means of the covering of that long ago sin.

We also know that the “garment of skin” covering the perfectly shaped body originally made of light was now made of carbons, proteins, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and made up of 30-100 trillion cells each carrying instruction to grow.  Each cell with its own sign of past sin and its covering made up as a “garment of skin” created from the elements of all that was created which would perish or die.

Considering this, it’s not only extraordinary but explains much of the earthly life of Our Lord.

Our Lord was fully human and fully divine.  His human body like the rest of humanity was also made up of proteins, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, and also covered with his own “garment of skin” given to him by his mother.  However, for him the garment of skin was not to cover sin but to cover his divinity.

With the sin of origins by first humans it’s possible to see that enmeshed within sin was an assault on the body of man and this we know because the body covered by skin and made up of a huge number of cells which needed to be covered and no longer showing his body of light. I often wonder if at the Eucharistic celebration if we could really “see” then perhaps we would be able to see brothers and sisters in their body covered in skin but shining with the light of Our Lord.  

Modern scientists proffer the number of cells making up each human body in the range between 30-100 trillion cells, and each cell  carrying an indelible mark or stain, and added to this reason another possible reason for this number of cells  could be an approximate number of the angelic beings who fell from their heavenly place through their rebellion, before the creation of man and woman. We are told that “Satan swept a third of the angels” (Rev. 12: 4, 7-17). Could the body of “man” have been created with the number of cells totalling the number of fallen angels?  The authors of our scriptures would not have known about cells.   An interesting idea. 

“Who is man that you should care for him

You have created him a little lower than the angels”

(Ps 8)

Adam whose body was created with these cells carried within him and his posterity a mark of his sin-and a cellular memory of those angelic beings who forfeited their place in God’s heaven in order to follow the rebellious one.  This number in the body of Adam, made up of each cell representing a lost angelic being.  In this way it became possible to repopulate the Kingdom of heaven. But also, the created human made up trillions of cells rebelled and the need for the God- man to take on a garment of skin and his flesh being the veil to cover his divinity, and his hidden mission to rescue the new creation after they fell from grace.  

In his humanity Jesus was like other human beings including having a garment of skin but his garment of skin made up of cells with elements of the created order was to cover his divinity.  Having received his garment of skin, his human cells, from his mother who was a daughter of “Adam” and through her donation and her “Yes” Jesus in his sinless humanity and his divinity was then able to ransom all from death. His life, death and resurrection, and Ascension to His Father’s house, meant the defeat of the fear of death and return of the body of light. A return of the body for the Resurrection from the dead. And further, defeat the enemy and the return of those held captive by his lies.

An incidence of immense value was Jesus’ descent into the waters of the Jordan River to be baptised.  As divine Lord, sinless, second person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus did not need baptism or to be cleansed of sin, but as part of redemption he underwent such a humiliation because it meant that with his submersion,  each cell of his body, representing each human being, would be touched and cleansed by the waters that washed his body, and  each cell representing a human being (through all time) redeemed by him, then all that was left to be done by each human  was to appropriate and claim for his/her self the gift of His “ washing,” baptism.

As God, Jesus covered in garment of skin and made up of 30-100 trillion cells each representing a human being, was able to take with him onto the cross, into death and into the tomb of death each and every created being and finally on the third day with a glorious body of divine cells he brought out the redeemed humanity.   He was born into the nature of the creature, suffered like the creature, died as the creature and rose from death carrying with him each human being into those mysteries of life and our association with the divine Creator and Divine Lord. 

During His years of being covered in “garment of skin” Jesus carried “on” His body, not in the nucleus of the cells, the sin of the World (Jn 1:29) and was able to destroy that sin through his own choice of redemption. Obedience and humility.  His promise to do His Father’s will via His Father’s means and preparation for the Son’s earthly sojourn.

As Catholics we can also be reminded of the Eucharist.  The Lord is hidden under the form of bread and wine “the divine Garment of skin” which again covers his body, blood, soul and divinity, though this time the garment of skin is the covering he left behind in a form acceptable and available to all peoples of all times and all places (bread and wine). He has left this universal form so that all may approach his offer of light and life and a returning to Eden, cleansed and with a renewed body of light. With the divine food nourishing our bodies, the body changes and returns to the status of divine light as it was meant to be in the beginning.   

We can know that at creation man and woman without sin can be likened to angels, that is, bodies of light without blemish and without need for a garment of skin.  After sin that same body was covered with skin, but after redemption, a return to the Father in the new garment of light purchased for them by the one who took on “garment of skin” when indeed, like his baptism, he had no need of it.

“greater love hath man than this that he should lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:3) In his garment of skin, covering his divinity, Jesus redeemed man and woman whose garment of skin was created for them as an act of the Father’s love and Mercy.  This to be a protection for them through all generations in order to conceal their shame and original weakness.