Human Life Education

Chapter Five: Adam and Eve - Married in Grace

By Fr. Anthony Zimmerman

"From the beginning it was not so," said Christ in response to the question about divorce raised by the Pharisees. He thus affirmed that the Lord had arranged monogamous marriage for our race when He created it. Evolutionists who theorize about animal herds becoming human and mating haphazardly ignore this important fact revealed to us by God.

Monogamous marriage is a one-piece pattern that not only excludes multiple partners and divorce followed by re-marriage; it also excludes willful engagement in sexual pleasure before marriage and outside the context of the marital act. Adam and Eve received this arrangement from God in the beginning and passed it on to their children. They initiated human culture on the basis of complete chastity for the young before marriage, and lifetime faithfulness of married couples to each other. The Son of God, who had established monogamous marriage in the first place, restored it to the pristine condition in the presence of objecting Pharisees:

The Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one?' So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder." They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to put her away?" He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Mt 19:3-8).

With this sure revelation from Christ, Son of God, that our first parents were united in monogamous marriage, we inquire further into the condition of human family life as it was from the beginning.

Original Grace and Revelation

God originally equipped Adam (shorthand name for our first parents) with sanctifying grace, and revealed Himself to them as their Creator and Father. "God created man in his image and established him in his friendship" (CCC 396)."For man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith" (CCC35). To some extent Adam and Eve were able to discern who they were and what life was all about even without this revelation, but God spoke to them clearly, to help them overcome the limitations of natural knowledge:

That is why man stands in need of being enlightened by God's revelation, not only about those things that exceed understanding, but also "about those religious and moral truths which of themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, so that even in the present condition of the human race, they can be known by all men with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error" (CCC 38).

By means of revelation God spoke to Adam and Eve. By means of sanctifying grace He enlightened them from within, and bonded them to Himself. God, by His almighty power, poured a share of His own life into them. He modified and elevated their natural powers of intellect and will, and transformed them into adopted children of God. Grace elevated their natural endowments with new dimensions of being and capacities. His grace worked in a manner comparable to an electric current that lights an incandescent lamp when a switch is turned on. Grace was their ticket to enter the gates of heaven when they would pass from this world to the next.

Grace not only raised and elevated their state of being, it also equipped them to learn to act appropriately as children of God. "The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God" (St. Gregory of Nyssa, cf. CCC1803). Grace purifies and elevates our efforts to acquire human virtues: "Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace" (CCC 1810).

In the same package with grace God gave to our first parents an assortment of spiritual benefits. First of all He infused their minds and hearts with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The theological virtues"dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity" (CCC 1813). Adam and Eve were suffused with help to believe in God as their loving Father, to hope in His help in all things, to love and esteem Him more than themselves or the world around them. Infused virtues are like automated potentials or software, pre-fabricated to enable prompt, steady, and easy application. As Saint Irenaeus (125-203), Catechist of Lyons expressed it: "God, invisible by nature, is mighty, and confers on all a great mental intuition and perception of His most mighty, yes, almighty greatness" (Against Heresies 11 6,1; trans. Saward 32).

Furthermore, grace enriched our first parents with infused intellectual virtues or facilitators for enhanced intellectual honesty and acumen. These virtues facilitated the acquisition of understanding, wisdom, knowledge, art and prudence, and made its contemplation delightful.

And as if that were not enough, grace also drew in its train infused supernatural moral virtues. The moral virtues fortify the will empowering it to perform in a superior manner with ease, like high-wire artists. Infused prudence facilitated adherence to the golden mean; justice inclined Adam and Eve to give to each his and her due; fortitude helped them to meet difficult challenges successfully and consistently; temperance facilitated moderation in eating, drinking, and sex. By pursuing virtue they were on their way to becoming outstanding human persons endowed with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit

We do not assert that the infusion of sanctifying grace into infants and adults at the time of Baptism miraculously imprints finished virtue into their souls; that infants become suddenly wise, moderate, intellectually enlightened and morally firm. Virtue must grow with its practice. We do say, however, that if the infant preserves the state of grace as it grows, the unction of sanctifying grace will anoint his or her naturally good actions to raise them to new intensity and to supernatural dimensions; and the practice of virtue, in turn, by feedback mechanism, enhances to higher perfection, splendor and beauty the image of God in the person who practices these virtues.

Nor do we say that grace does it all alone, without human input and effort. We say that grace enhances nature, not that it substitutes for it. Grace might be compared to "power steering" and "power brakes" in a car. Grace takes over and energizes our human actions when we provide the minimal initiative to start it off. All this should illustrate to us that God intends married couples to live in the state of grace, so that He can help them and their children to live beautifully.

Sin of Our First Parents

Well, Adam sinned. Sin extinguished sanctifying grace from his soul suddenly and completely. Bereft of grace his soul plunged into darkness, like a house when a bolt of lightning blows out the fuse. All the infused virtues were also gone, except faith and hope. The rest were zapped like the flame of a candle snuffed out by an altar boy or girl, leaving only a smoking wick. Gone was supernatural love of God above all things. With God blasted out of supernatural bonding, natural drives were swift to take command and fill the vacuum of vanished supernatural power. Nature loomed big and strong, while God receded into the distance. With the extinction of sanctifying grace Adam and Eve lost the precious infused virtues of intellect and will as well, which had facilitated the practice of all the virtues, like the oil that anointed the muscles of Greek Olympic champions. Gone, finally, was that intellectual refinement of wisdom that had elevated Adam and Eve to a class of nouveau riches who frequented God's company in His exclusive Garden of Eden Club.

Saint Irenaeus lectured the Gnostics of his day because they "reject the commixture of the heavenly wine. They only want to be the water of this world and will not admit God into commixture with them" (V 1,3; Saward 57). We might comment that, with the wine gone out of the drink and only water remaining, life was only worth half of what it was before for Adam and Eve. And the water soon became stale and polluted.

Grace Restored by Christ

But as Saint Irenaeus already taught, Christ applied His merits to Adam and Eve in anticipation of His coming, and restored to them the gift of sanctifying grace. Moreover, other descendants of Adam and Eve could be saved by calling upon the name of the Lord: "By calling upon Him, even before the coming of Our Lord, men were saved from evil spirits, from all demons, and from every apostate power" (Against Heresies 11 6,2). He also wrote:

No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matt 11:27). The word "reveal" does not have just a future meaning, as if the Word only began to manifest the Father when He was born of Mary; it has a general meaning and applies to the whole of time. From the beginning the Son has been present to His handiwork, and reveals the Father to all, to whom He wills, and when He wills, and as the Father wills (IV 6,6; Saward 49).

It is not right to despise our natural bodies and souls that God made, and still makes, to be surpassingly good, even when they are deprived of grace. Human brains have 12 billion neurons integrated and coordinated into a cosmic-dimensioned computer. Human ingenuity was able to land on the moon, and to send a camera to probe for life on Mars. Humanist cultures, such as predominates in Japan, can be charming, warm, neighborly, supporting peace and order, neat, kind to the handicapped. Faith and reason working together can best lead to virtuous life, but even reason alone can do fairly well when pursued with good will. "Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfection of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith" (CCC 1804).

The trouble with human-nature-deprived-of-grace, however, is that the goals and pleasures of this present world are natural to it, whereas heaven is literally "out of this world." Pride, covetousness, lust, gluttony, anger, envy, and sloth grow like weeds when we fail to allow God's grace to guide us. We lose our foundation as a house carried away by a flood. As St. Irenaeus observes, we need grace to put out the wilder energies of nature: "The dew is the Holy Spirit ... We need the dew of God to prevent ourselves being consumed by fire" (111 17,3; Saward 48). The Bible describes vividly the badness of wicked people:

His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
Under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
In hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the hapless,
He lurks in secret like a lion in his covert;
He lurks that he may seize the poor,
He seizes the poor when he draws him into his net (Ps 10:7-9).

Does Baptism restore to individuals the supernatural gifts which original sin stripped from us at birth? Assuredly! That and even more: "Much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man Jesus Christ abounded for many" (Rom 5:15).

Adam and Eve, Our Teachers

Adam and Eve teach us a very important lesson: they did not allow sin to dwell in themselves. They confessed what they did wrong, accepted the consequences, and then got on with life in God's friendship once more. God raised them to the state of sanctifying grace after their confession. They kept their faith in God and so went on to become the parents of our human race. Truly, as Saint Irenaeus advises, they are good first parents, and we should learn from them.

If ever sin enters our lives, let it not stay long. Sin immediately robs us of friendship with God, and empties our characters of all the mighty helps of the infused virtues: of charity for God and for neighbor, of intellectual and moral infused virtues. Every day spent in sin is a wasted day without progress in virtue, without growth in a glorious likeness with God. Parents who spend years and decades in the practice of contraception and in unrepented sterilization for contraceptive purposes do themselves no good; they also deprive their families and their neighbors of a special share in God's warmth and blessings. Even receiving Holy Communion without converting from contraception solves nothing, for sin is a block against receiving grace from the Sacrament. Better to bite the bullet, go to Confession, do penance, and get on with life as our first parents did long ago.

What Adam and Eve teach us is that monogamous marriage is God's original plan for humankind. Christ updated the original plan for the modern world as well. To keep a marriage monogamous and functional and happy, stay out of sin and receive the help of grace. But if you do sin, then, like Adam and Eve, confess and start anew with the new help of grace.

Next Page: Chapter 6: Teaching Teen Chastity
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