Visual Essay


Eden by Sr. Claire Joy


Eden Series
by Sr. Claire Joy


I've always been (and am) intrigued with the story of Eden. I've brooded over it and written about it many times, trying to tease out some other interpretation besides crime and punishment.

Adam, the first human creation, was pretty much coddled by God—fed, protected, cherished, given special benefits. He received a mate because he was lonely, and, he didn't have much to do to earn his keep. He was spoiled. rotten.

It's not rocket science to predict that the only stated rule would be disobeyed. One of the hardest jobs for a parent is to enforce the standards and inflict consequences. Without that structure the child grows up undisciplined, unruly, and unprepared for life outside the home. The consequence in Adam's case was life outside the home. Only there, without all the props and privileges of the garden, would he learn how life really works.

I think we've taken that story and twisted it inside out. We've assumed that obedience and perfection are the points here, when it may  be that listening to the advice of one with more knowledge and experience is the point.

Eating fruit that gave useless knowledge (of good and evil) did not kill Adam, but it certainly messed with his mind. He noticed he was naked and felt shame. He noticed he had disobeyed and felt shame and fear. He reacted to both in ways that were easily detected, and when challenged, he blamed his wife. She in turn blamed the snake. Neither had ever experienced guilt before, yet both knew instinctively the worst way to assuage it... blame someone else.

A new life outside... totally new experiences, opportunities to learn for themselves, to work and earn their own living, to trust each other, rely on each other, support each other, rather than blame each other... those were the consequences.

One of my studies (as a candidate to the religious life) included an online course called The Universe Story, based on a book by the same name written by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry. Using science and mathmatical cosmology, these men composed a “new” story of creation charting the origins of our universe from the “flaring forth” (big bang) til now. The theme that humans, as self-reflecting beings, have evolved as part of a larger, more profound universal tendency is explored.

I definitely enjoyed the challenge, and felt the ideas expressed spoke of a deeper truth than we normally imagine, but the fact that this was billed as a “new” story troubled me. As a Christian I wanted very much to implant this story into the older, poetic story of Genesis. While in general I regard literal interpretations of Scripture with a pound of salt, I firmly believe in the underlying truth beneath all mythology.

The composites in this “Eden” series tell loosely of Adam and Eve’s time in the garden. The use of an apple provides a symbolic container, not just for consistency, but because if we all are, in fact, the apple of God’s eye, then any judgments about temptation, disobedience and consequences can be tempered with an understanding of that underlying love, affection and forgiveness parents will have for their children.


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  Sister Claire Joy is in her fourth year of candidacy with the Community of the Holy Spirit. Before her call to the religious life, her interest in art spanned over 30 years. Various jobs and skills included photography, TV & AV production, 3-D animation, graphic design, and sacred art. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Painting and Graphic Design at the University of North Florida, and holds an Associate’s degree in Business Management. She currently designs the community newsletter AweWakenings and writes a blog detailing her journey of discernment to the religious life.

The Community of the Holy Spirit is an Episcopal order of religious women. Recognizing humans as a part of the mystical Whole of creation, they offer their ministries in ways that celebrate the Earth and all its myriad forms of life as the primary revelation of the Divine. "Compassionate, respectful love is God’s gift to life. Prayer and the worship of God are the lifeblood and heart of our Community and the source of inspiration for all that we undertake. Through our prayer, worship, and creative talents we encourage others to seek God. Through our ministries of hospitality, retreat work, spiritual direction, and education for sustainable living, we seek to grow in love and communion with all whose lives touch us and are touched by us."



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