Thursday of Week 5 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 2:18-25

We continue the story of the creation of Man. The Man, here clearly understood as male, is still alone on the earth with only the plant life which had been given to him in the Garden.

Now once more, from the soil of the earth, God brings into being all the animals and birds. They are brought to the Man who gives names to them all, a sign that he is responsible for them and is over them:

…and the names they had were the names the Man gave them.

But the Man still needed “a helper as his partner”. The animals and birds could not fill that role. Without female companionship and a partner in reproduction, the Man could not fully realise his humanity and the command to increase and multiply.

The Man was put into a deep sleep and, as he slept, one of his ribs was removed and the gap covered with flesh. The rib, in its turn, was formed into a Woman, and God then brought her to the Man.

On seeing her the Man is delighted and bursts into song:

This at last is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!
This one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.

Note also here, there is a play on the similar-sounding Hebrew words ishsha (‘woman’) and ishah (‘her man’). The writer then reflects that:

This is the reason why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one body

Literally, “one flesh”. Classical Hebrew has no specific word for “body”. The sacred writer also stresses the fact that conjugal union is willed by God. We have here a beautiful image of marriage, one that has been experienced again and again. Often, it is only when the union is broken by the death of one partner that the closeness of the union is fully realised.

As a final comment, the writer says that, though naked, they felt no shame. This is a sign of their innocence. Nakedness is still a source of shame in our modern world.

We are still uncomfortable with nudity. One by-product of this discomfort is pornography, watched in darkness or read in secret. And there is the exploitation of nudity, where people are reduced to being objects of sexual desire, or reduced to objects of contempt and ridicule. Yet, artists have been constantly enthralled by the beauty of the human body in its natural state, and have created some of the most beautiful creations in painting and sculpture.

The story of the creation of Woman as “helpmate” to the Man also reminds us that perhaps the most ecstatic experience of human living is when a couple, passionately bonded body to body, express their love for each other in a way that cannot be surpassed. Where body, mind and spirit fuse in one perfect expression of union. Indeed it is not good for a man or a woman “to be alone”.

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