The Church teaches that . . . “Man tempted by the devil, let his trust in the Creator die in his heart, and abusing his freedom disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.” ( Catechism, 397, p 100 )
Three phrases in this teaching would give pause to modern man.
One: . . .tempted by the devil. . .
Two: . . .trust in his Creator dies in his heart. . . Three: . . .abusing his freedom. . .
Let’s take them in reverse order.
( abusing his freedom )
We would assume that everyone understands that he or she is ultimately “free”. Even the enslaved or the imprisoned, though their range of living is limited, they are free within their imposed confines to think beyond them. Many heroes of history have proved this fact. Though bodies are imprisoned, minds are not.
Many who are not confined may, indeed, confine themselves to an enslavement or imprisonment of another sort, i.e. alcohol, drugs, money, sex, etc. To paraphrase St. Anselm: The will is always free to do what temptation suggests, it does not give up it’s freedom when it follows what is either good or evil. So how does one abuse what is the gift of choice? Simply stated, by not serving the Greater Good or the Common good one acknowledges a negation of the Ultimate Good from which all good things come. That would be the the uncreated power which most people call God.
( trust in the Creator dies in his heart )
For someone without a Creator no trust can die, although that individual must, of necessity, question where all that exists comes from. Assuming that most of us believe we came out of creation by God or from some other here-to-fore unknown original phenomenon, A persons trust in that belief or understanding can fail. When trust is lost something dies within us which snuffs out hope. In that condition we may be considered, for all practical purposes, dead or at least hopeless.
( tempted buy the devil )
Temptation, in my experience, can manifest itself from within or from without. We don’t see a “devil”, but we can tell that what is being “suggested” is right or wrong based on our conscience. At the same time, we must admit that our conscience can be in error. In other words, we can freely convince ourselves that doing wrong is right for us. The “devil” could very well be, in part, us.
Not everyone thinks the same way, but “thinking” itself is about the same in all of us, provided we’re not brain damaged or “out of our minds”.
Let’s put the church’s teaching in “secular humanist” terms.
Personal loss of trust in one’s origins, (The Basic Good), essentially separates man from his coherence, his belonging; it tends to be the negation of his very being. This puts him in a state of anxiety and confusion, with the loss of integrity in himself. As spirit dies within him, he cries for compensation or propitiation, all he seems to have left is the hope of regaining trust. Much poetry has been written about this dilemma.
“Lord to whom shall we go”?
Now, let’s take a look at what St. Paul said in (Romans 5, 12-21) talking about the “sin” of Adam and Eve. I will make the assumption here, that they were the first hominids arriving at the Brain to Mind-Ape to Human juncture of providential evolution, i.e., the first to have the advantage of the gift of “full freedom” knowing they were a “self”. Rejecting knowing their Origin, they abused their freedom and made “orphans” of themselves, “and through this sin”, says St. Paul, came “death”. Being “kicked out of Paradise”, they didn’t die a physical death, but “died” with a total loss of integrity as the first free “human” beings. They threw their freedom, i.e., the recognition of intrinsic good, under the bus, and lived as the apes they came from while struggling with the “meaning” that comes with the freedom they had been given. In our case, this would be like forgetting “the truth we already know about God” from an understanding of our freedom to chose the good over evil, not a relative choice.
In St. Paul’s day, it was believed that God created heaven, earth and all things, including man, all around the same time, according to Genesis. There is no way Paul could have known of the elapsed time between the primal burst of creation and the emergence of man from the already created. As Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said in 1986: “. . . whether one regards spirit and life in it’s ascending forms as an incidental mold on the surface of the material world ( that is, the category of existing things that do not understand themselves), or whether one regards spirit as the goal of the process and, conversely matter as the prehistory of the spirit. . . Spirit is created and not the mere product of development, even though it comes to light by way of development.
So all things die, but only man has the capability of killing the spirit in him by rejecting his uncreated Origin, his God. He has been made free to do so. Though degeneration is inevitable in all creatures the life of man has been lifted above the animals by way of his unique spirit where he shares the life of his Creator. The spirit within him can be fatally wounded by evil while he remains physically living a life of sin. The question then becomes, is the Spirit eternal? Man, all through history, seems to intellectually think so as anthropology has shown. The idea of eternity was understood by “religion” and not its invention. It was the subconscious memory of man’s origin in creation, bound to his very being, grounded in God, in the Spirit.
Up to the time of the Incarnation man had confidence in “the law”. In the One God out of fear for his life. After the Incarnation, eternity was offered to man by God, who became man, to save all men from death, both spiritual and physical with his offer of everlasting life. A new covenant was forged between God and man based on love.
God, through Christ, freely made the ultimate commitment by showing us a new life beyond physical death. A life of the spirit not lost by a lack of trust in the God of our subconscious memory, the Father whom Jesus knew, and our Father too.
When St. Paul says: “…just as through one person sin entered the world and through sin, death; thus death comes to all, in as much as all sinned. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.” St. Paul was telling us the story of “being” from his understanding of Genesis, in light of the Incarnation, but without a twenty first century comprehension employing all the current disciplines.
Matter, condensed energy, has disintegration programmed into it. As evolution progressed all living matter in God’s creation, had a life span, so to speak. Survival is what is natural in creation. With
the forward motion of evolution, creation carried with it it’s limitations. When man arrived at a full understanding of his “self”, his freedom or self-will, his fundamental option became apparent. The brain to mind, ape to man transition took place as he recognized the life of his body as a gift of the Creator. His primitive conscience was formed and he chose to be self serving rather than serving the greater good. His guilt came from knowing the Creator in his heart of hearts as the center of all goodness, and rather than serving him, he served himself. The creature was surely cognizant of “true meaning” and chose to ignore it to satisfy a former nature.
People today are imputing a purposelessness to being. If (we) reason – then there (is) reason. To say that anomalies in the genes, that is, the “mistakes” nature makes which brought life from the “slime of the earth” forward to cognizant human beings has no purpose, is to deny “purpose” rather than the causal event of the “big-bang”. When people accept their creatureliness as a mistake of nature, life has no real reason to exist. As a result, being human has no “meaning” beyond itself. There is no greater good, no source from which “all good things come”. Causality is simply one big anomaly and undercuts the purpose and reason of science itself. What are we looking for in our research if not purpose and reason? Aren’t we seeking the God we already know and have known from the first man and woman out of animal nature; those who first saw life as spirit, recognized the Creator then subsequently rejected him?
“And so I tell you, every human sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”
“Anyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but no one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven either in this world or in the next.”
Matt 12, 31-32
Ash Wednesday – 2009