He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Saturday, July 2, 2016

In The Garden of Eden: The First Sin

In the Garden of Eden, much attention is paid to the first man and first woman because we want to understand our origins.  We want to believe that our origins are good and that we are thus great people who descended from them.  When we pay attention to our ancestors, it is usually for one of two purposes; either we are lauding our ancestors because it makes us feel important or we are disparaging our ancestors because it makes us look better by comparison.

But what we generally don't do is look to our ancestors to find the flaws which they have passed down to us, because we would rather not think on our flaws.  That would mean that we would be less good than we imagine ourselves to be, and also that we would need to expend great effort to correct our behaviors rather than using our existing behaviors as a standard by which to judge others.

For those who are bold and willing to uncover their own flaws, however, what stands out is not solely the greatness of our ancestors, but also their failings.  We look to their sins not because we want to put ourselves above them, but because we know that we are just as lowly and prone to error.  Instead of looking to the first man or the first woman to understand ourselves as great, we look to the first sin to learn of our weakness.

In the first sin, we find the prototype of all our sins which we commit daily; we disobey the laws of divine love in order to attain that which is not worth nearly as much as divine love.  We who sin are ever choosing the lesser pleasure of the senses, temporary and ultimately unsatisfying as it is, over the greater pleasure of the spirit in communion with divine love.

Over and over again, we accept paltry substitutes for love instead of striving for the fullness of love.  We will gladly take the smallest fruit of God's love for us without caring for the tree which provides us with that fruit.  We willingly accept sex without the radical self-gift of love which created our ability to unite and procreate in that act of intimate unity.  We settle for the heights of drug-induced euphoria rather than climbing the heights of divine love via ascetic disciplines and prayer from the heart.

Just as Adam and Eve settled for a taste of knowledge rather than seeking to remain in the paradise which was created for their eternal flourishing, so too we often settle for a taste of knowledge rather than seeking the paradise which was created for the eternal flourishing of our souls.  All too often, we choose the lesser desires of our bodies over the greater good of our souls.

We would rather disobey the most just statutes of the one who loved us into being for the sake of a moment's escape from suffering than obey Love's commandments which cause a moment's suffering, suffering which is as nothing when measured against His promise of life eternal.

The first sin is the sin of pride, the mortal sin from which all others flow and the final death follows; we recapitulate the first sin in each and every given moment in which we choose our transient desires over the delights of eternal love.

It is this First Sin which we reject when take up our cross daily and follow Him, uniting our transient sufferings to Christ's sufferings for the sake of eternal love.  It is the First Sin we abandon when we no longer act as though we are God, the one who determines what is good and what is evil.  It is the First Sin that is destroyed in us when we are obedient unto death for His sake just as Christ was obedient unto death for our sake.

In rejecting the First Sin, we embrace the cross of Christ who came to save us from the wages of Adam's Sin.  In abandoning the First Sin, we humble ourselves before the God who has loved us from the beginning, the God who knows far better than we do what is right and just, the God who knows what will lead us to eternal flourishing.

In accepting God's great gift of destroying the First Sin in ourselves, we can rise from the dead to glory in Heaven just as the Son of God rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Mighty One.

When the First Sin is dead in us, we can become fully alive as God intended for us, returning to the greatness for which God made us in the Garden of Eden.

The New Eve - The New Adam - The First Sin

Note: The above image is of the Fall painted on the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.

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