One of the those disconnected voices on the radio can bring you out of whatever stupor you may be in very quickly. I don’t know who it was, but I believe it was an official from Paradise CA, maybe even the Mayor. The words that made me sit up and take notice – “We always knew that Paradise would burn”.
We always knew that Paradise would burn is one of those statements that is redolent with meaning at so many levels. Paradise is of course what Christian parlance considers to be the home of Adam and Eve “in the beginning”. Sin made the evacuation of that paradise necessary and a cherubim with a flaming sword made sure reentrance was impossible. That paradise wasn’t burned but it was pretty much destroyed and of course it is one of the great images of literature that it was “lost” and we hope someday to find it again.
Jesus words to the thief on the cross expressed the idea of the realm of the blessed dead who await the end when Christ comes and raises them to eternal life, and the final image is the paradise of the new heaven and the new earth where we eat of the tree of life forever. These amazing images are part of our mental and spiritual landscape as Christians.
The near Eastern concept of paradise was an enclosed garden that usually belonged to a king where he would go to be refreshed and could relax. So the “Garden of God” from Genesis took on that form of paradise, where God enjoyed walking in the “cool of the day”. Jesus suffering in an enclosed garden (paradise) as the disciples slept is pathetic. Jesus burial in a garden tomb is interesting and the image of eternal life as a garden “where trees forever more bear fruit and evermore do spring and evermore the angels dwell and evermore do sing” defines our image of “heaven”.
So to hear that “we always knew that Paradise would burn ” is a jarring statement in a Christian’s ear. I get it. The very things that made Paradise, well Paradise, are the things that made it destructible by fire. Human beings ideas about how to keep a paradise a paradise also usually lead to their destruction. People moved to Paradise because it was beautiful and we have all watched as Paradise burned. It is another in a long list of tragedies where people homes have been destroyed and people have died. The recent hurricanes are a case, but the loss of life in this episode in this way is beyond tragedy.
Remember the survivors in prayer.
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