Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation

Leaving the Garden

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Richard Rohr begins this week’s meditations by reflecting on our “fall from innocence” as a necessary part of the process of transformation:

The word “innocent” from its Latin root means “not wounded.” That’s how we all start life. We’re all innocent. It doesn’t have anything to do with morally right or wrong. It has to do with not yet being wounded. We start unwounded. We start innocent, but the killing of our holy innocence (as in Herod’s command to kill the Holy Innocents [Matthew 2:16–18]) is an archetypal image of what eventually happens to all of us. Probably it has to happen for us to grow up. We have to leave the garden. This movement of leaving and returning, forward and back, is the process of transformation. It’s the way we increase the spaciousness of freedom in our lives, so that we have the capacity for true relatedness.

Jesus tells three parables about losing and finding: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (Luke 15:4–32). In each case, we think we have it, we lose it, we rediscover it, and then we throw a party. The party only happens after the rediscovery because we don’t really “have it” until we’ve lost it and choose it consciously again. That’s the human journey, the movement from first naiveté or false innocence to the chosen and conscious freedom that God is calling us toward.

The Christ child is the image of the unwounded one. Our inner Christ child is the part of us that is not wounded. In our own way, we each have to rediscover, honor, recognize, and own that inner Christ child. We may have lost the vision of innocence, but the Christ child is that part of us that has always said “yes” to God and always will.

Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphaned” (John 14:18). Faith is trusting that an intrinsic union exists between us and God. Contemplation is to experience this union. The path of fall and return is how we experience this union as pure grace and free gift.  

There is a necessary movement between the two ends of the divine/human axis, between one’s core and the core of God. The only real sin is to doubt, deny, or fail to experience this basic foundational connection. If we don’t have some small mirrors (partners, friends, lovers) that tell us we are good, it’s very hard to believe in the Big Goodness.

We need at least an experiential glimpse of this True Self before we start talking about being rid of the “false” or separate self. I think the only and single purpose of religion is to lead us to an experience of the True Self. Every sacrament, every Bible reading, every church service, every song, every bit of priesthood, ceremony, or liturgy, as far as I’m concerned, is to allow us to experience our True Self: who we are in God and who God is in us.


Adapted from Richard Rohr, True Self, False Self (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2003), CD.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Claudia Retter, Lily Pond (detail), photograph, used with permission. Arthur Allen, Untitled 10 (detail), 2022, photograph, France, used with permission. Claudia Retter, Lake Wale’s Pond (detail), photograph, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: We see the simplicity of these black and white photos: the lines of the leaves, the focus on just one flower, one stem, one patch of grass. Innocence, in its state of simplicity and grace, is not deluded by a desire for more; it accepts what is.

Story from Our Community:

Last year when I was hanging by the tatters of my faith, a friend sent me the link to the CAC daily readings after a chance conversation. At the same time I had started meeting with someone to help me through a stressful and frightening family situation. It was extraordinary how the two worked hand in hand and over the course of 12 months, I’ve rediscovered my true self and slowly found new healthier ways of being. Non-dual thinking and knowing that I am fully known and fully loved has been such bedrock. This afternoon I had a beautiful, real and free conversation with my daughter who was almost estranged 18 months ago. My heart is full of gratitude. —Jackie B.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.