After describing the creation of the world, the book of Genesis then turns its attention to the arrival of the first humans. In doing so, it reveals important truths about how God wanted the world to be. It speaks to issues of human identity, of our role in creation and of our relationship with God.
The story begins with the creation of the first man, Adam. Genesis describes how God made his body from the earth and then breathed life into his nostrils. Based on this image, the Church teaches that while our bodies have their origins in the material world, our souls are created directly by God.
God’s next step was to establish a unique woodland around a river, called the Garden of Eden. Today we might refer to it as a nature reserve, or perhaps a wildlife sanctuary. Adam was told to care for Eden and also invited to name the animals. This implies a responsibility to both supervise and care for creation.
We then read how God created the first woman, Eve, from one of Adam’s ribs while he slept. This aspect of the story communicates a deep truth about our identity as human beings. We are not meant to be alone; rather, men and women are designed for each other, as equal partners.
The text also refers to God’s closeness with Adam and Eve. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator and in harmony with himself and with the creation around him, in a state that would be surpassed only by the glory of the new creation in Christ.”
It continues: “The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original state of holiness and justice. This grace of original holiness was to share in the divine life.” (Articles 374-375)
This stained glass scene featuring Adam and Eve in paradise belongs within Our Lady of Victories, Kensington. Dating to the period 1959-1961, it was created by the artist Charles Blakeman as part of a series of similar windows that relate to the life of the Virgin Mary. It also features two smaller scenes of the Temptation and Ban from Eden.
This window, with its strong lines and deep colours, is typical of Blakeman’s Arts and Crafts style. Blakeman preserves the couple’s modesty, covering their nakedness with carefully placed leaves and flowers. The presence of tame birds within the scene hints at the original harmony of creation.
See the full image:
Charles Blakeman / Adam and Eve in Eden / Stained glass / c.1959-1961
Where to find this work of art
Our Lady of Victories, Kensington
Read the relevant passage
On a similar theme
- From the Old Testament: In its description of the love between a man and a woman in a garden, The Song of Songs reflects the story of Adam and Eve in Eden.
- From the New Testament: The Ancestry of Christ, as outlined in St Luke’s gospel, traces the family tree of Jesus all the way back to Adam, the first man.