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Compendium Clip: "Original Sin"

In this “Compendium Clip,” I would like to first consider the original state that man and woman enjoyed with God at the beginning of creation but I especially want to focus on the first human sin as well as the meaning of original sin.  In Adam and Eve’s original condition humanity enjoyed what is called original justice, that is, they were in a state of innocence and holiness before God.  In this condition man and woman had a deep share in God’s divine life and from this friendship with God flowed various other gifts as well. 

First, they would never have to experience death and along with this they knew no suffering.  Moreover, their harmony with God produced various other harmonies as well. One, there was within the human person an interior harmony which prevented any disordered desires. There was also a perfect harmony between man and woman such that, as Genesis says, they could be naked and feel no shame (cf. 2:25). And finally, the first couple was in harmony with all of creation so that their task of subduing the earth was not a burden but a joy.  Nevertheless, through the sin of our first parents humanity was to lose this state of original holiness and justice.

This leads us, then, to the tragic mystery of sin. The only way we can begin to grasp the awful reality of sin, which is present throughout human history, is in the light of divine revelation and particularly in light of the redemption won by Jesus Christ.

So let’s begin to look at the light that divine revelation sheds on the mystery of sin.  We have just seen that God’s original plan for humanity was one of loving friendship and harmony with God and one another.  In this light, then, we can see that sin is a rejection of friendship with God.  And since friendship is a relationship that can only be had freely, we see that sin, at its very root, is an abuse of the freedom with which God created the human person.

We learn from the book of Genesis, which uses figurative language, that in the midst of all the trees in the garden of Eden from which Adam and Eve could freely partake there was also the tree of the knowledge of good and evil about which God said, “in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen 2:17).  This tree was symbolic of the limits that the human person has because he is a creature who is dependent on his Creator as well as subject to the wisdom of His divine laws.  We further learn that the serpent, that is, the devil contradicted God’s command and tempted Adam and Eve to cross these limits saying that they will be like God.  And then, in the midst of this temptation, they gave into the devil’s deception, first allowing trust in their Creator to die in their hearts and, afterward, freely disobeying God’s command.  Seduced by the devil, they wanted to be “like God” (Gen 3:5) yet they wanted this in a way that was entirely contrary to and independent of their Creator.  Ultimately, in their act of disobedience, man and woman preferred themselves over and against God.  Because of this primal sin Adam and Eve were banished from paradise and lost for themselves and for all their descendants the grace of original holiness and justice.

This leads us, then, to the mystery of what is called original sin.  Original sin means that now when a human being is born he or she is deprived of those original gifts that our first parents possessed.  Indeed, since all people descend from Adam and Eve this state of loss affects the whole human race.  And yet, original sin is not a personal act.  A human being does not commit original sin nor is it a matter of imitating another’s fault; rather, it is contracted through the propagation of what is now our fallen human nature.

But now that we have considered what original sin is, let’s look at its consequences for human nature.  First, without being totally corrupted, our human nature is wounded in its natural powers.  We are now subject to ignorance, suffering and the sad certainty of death.  Moreover we are affected by what is called concupiscence, that is, every person is now inclined toward evil and sin and to resist this inclination is a hard battle.  These are some of the reasons why after the fall of Adam and Eve sin spread throughout the world and throughout history. 

Yet, despite the seriousness of the first human sin and its tragic consequences God did not abandon the human race to the power of evil and death; rather, even at the beginning with Adam and Eve God foretold in a mysterious way the good news of his plan of redemption.  We hear this in Genesis 3:15, which is often called the Protoevangelium, that is, the first gospel; here, the Lord addresses the serpent who deceived our first parents and says, “I will put enmity between you and woman, and between your seed and her seed.  He will crush your head and you will strike at his heel.”  This prophecy was fulfilled in Christ, the redeemer, who is the seed of the woman (Mary) and who, through the battle of His suffering, crushed the power and workings of the serpent, that is, He conquered the Evil One in His death and resurrection.  Moreover, the redemption brought about a greater good for humanity than was possible before the fall of Adam and Eve, which is why, during the Easter Vigil, we call their sin a “happy fault” because it gained for us the great and merciful redeemer, Jesus Christ.

To summarize, then, Adam and Eve were created with original holiness and justice but, through their disobedience at the prompting of the devil, lost this grace for themselves and for the human race. This state of deprivation is called original sin, the effects of which have wounded human nature in many ways.  Yet, God did not abandon humanity but in time sent us His Son as our redeemer.  In our next Compendium Clip, as we continue to go through the creed, we will begin focusing on the mystery of Jesus Christ, the Lord and redeemer.

To view the full, illustrated video of this episode of Compendium Clips, visit: www.compendiumclips.com.

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