The Primeval Revelation

Chapter 14: A Salute to Adam and Eve

We celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day and Founder of our Nation Day, but ignobly ignore our Adam and Eve who gave us our fathers and mothers and George Washington. Church and State ought to enshrine with pomp and pride the memory of our revered first parents. I move that the Church lead the way by establishing a FAMILY FOUNDING DAY, a day on which to pin a carnation on our precious mother Eve, and a rose on our stalwart father Adam. Motives for this abound.

1. Holy Scripture indicates consistently that Adam (shorthand for Adam and Eve) repented of his sin, and that the waiting Lord God rejoiced at the return of this first prodigal son. Sirach, after lauding a parade of memorable patriarchs, priests, prophets and kings, closes his encomium at the feet of Adam, the greatest of them all: "Adam above every living being in creation" (Sir 49:16). The wise King Solomon teaches that God assisted Adam to convert, and then restored him to his primacy over the newly created cosmos: "Wisdom protected the first-formed father of the world, when he alone had been created; she delivered him from his transgression, and gave him strength to rule all things" (Wisdom 10:1-2).

Genesis 3:20 delicately implies that Adam and Eve recommenced the marital embrace after they had confessed their sin and were reconciled with God: "The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living." The Lord approved and gave them a wedding present: And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them" (Gen 3:20). God didn't just drop the clothes before them to be picked up; He Himself helped them into their new outfits which He had tailored for them individually.

Eve glowed each time she became aware that the Lord God gave her another baby: "Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain saying, `I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord'" (Gen 4:1). Again: "And Adam knew his wife again and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, `God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel for Cain slew him'" (4:24).

Finally, Genesis attributes to Adam a long life, which is scriptural code to indicate God's favor: "Thus all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died" (5:5). If Eve lived as long as Adam, the first marriage is pictured in biblical language to have lasted through nine centuries, 70 years short of a millennium.

The Evangelist Luke silhouettes Adam with a sharp spotlight, featuring him as Christ's primal human ancestor in the long line that backs up from "Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos" all the way up to "Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God" (Luke 3:28). The evangelist, writing under divine inspiration, notes Adam's unique distinction as the first son of God who initiates the mediation of human nature to Jesus.

Christ called upon the witness of his ancestry when He re-confirmed monogamous marriage as it was "in the beginning." It was surely not without a sense of pride that Christ pointed out to the Pharisees that Adam had it right, whereas their hardness of heart did not match up with the original model. "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?'" (Mt 19:6). Christ upheld Adam and Eve as models for their imitation. The Church has sufficient evidence in Holy Scripture to give authentic honor to our first parents.

2. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of an immensely important event by which God laid the foundations of Church and State when Adam was in paradise. God enriched Adam not only with the state of grace, but also with the endowment of the primeval revelation which lights up the Ten Commandments more brilliantly than human reason can do by itself. These Ten Commandments are the rock on which Church and State stand through the centuries. The fact that God gave this revelation to Adam in paradise is reason enough for us to celebrate our first parents during the millennium. The Catechism states:

54:"God...wishing to open up the way to heavenly salvation...manifested himself to our first parents from the very beginning. He invited them to intimate communion with himself and clothed them with resplendent grace and justice." 55: This revelation was not broken off by our first parents' sin..."

3. That revelation, with its commandments, has become the Rock of Gibraltar upon which mankind rests its belief in God, and upon which states structure civic law and order. Reason alone, perhaps, would have been too feeble, and too much influenced by political manipulation, to hold firmly through the centuries a universal and certain recognition of absolute human rights that individuals possess, rights that laws must protect. If that is correct, then the original revelation is still today one of the "two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth" (Fides et Ratio). It makes the recognition of absolute values - thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal - prevail even where people do not recognize the Bible and the Gospel.

4. The Liturgy of the Hours dramatizes how Christ, after His death on the cross, lost no time before going down to Limbo to greet Adam and Eve and take them out of their "waiting room." Excerpts from the reading of an ancient homily on Holy Saturday read as follows: "He has gone to search for our first parent...he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve...The Lord approaches them bearing his cross...At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast... Christ...took him by the hand and raised him up, saying, `Awake, O Sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.'" Sentiments of the faithful love to celebrate Christ's immediate remembrance of His first parents after He had redeemed them. An eighth century picture painted on the wall of the lower church of San Clemente in Rome illustrates the endearing scene of Christ reaching out His hand to draw Adam and Eve out of Limbo.

5. Saint Irenaeus did not hesitate to praise and extol Adam (and implicitly Eve) as models for us to imitate. The Bishop of Lyons asserted that Adam promptly recognized his sin and began to do penance by girding himself with prickly fig leaves: "Adam said to himself: `By disobedience I lost the stole of that holiness which I had from the Spirit, and I recognize now that I deserve such a garment which provides no pleasure but bites and stings the body'"(Adversus Haereses III, 23,5).The sorrowful Adam would have borne this penance during the rest of his life, continues Irenaeus, had God not clothed him kindly with skins to replace the prickly covering. The Word, Son of God, then made Adam and Eve undergo various hardships to bring them to a realization of their sin, to do penance, and to enter upon a better way of life. Irenaeus, in a rare exhibit of impatience, branded those who fail to honor Adam and Eve with an anathema sit: "Those who deny salvation to Adam gain nothing by this except that they make themselves to be heretics" (III,23,8). Apparently the Bishop of Lyons, who is called the Father of Catholic Theology, was a zealous pastor who encouraged sinners to repent just as Adam and Eve had done long ago.

6. Pope Saint Leo the Great proclaimed that the saving power of Christ extended not only to the sons of Abraham, but also beyond his time to the even more ancient peoples who lived before the Deluge all the way up to the very beginning of human generations. He did not name Adam as Luke had done, and he more frequently contrasted the sinner Adam with the Savior Christ, but in this passage (Christmas Sermon X:7) he presented Adam as a candidate for eternal salvation.

7. Washington, London, Paris, Rome, Peking, Tokyo and all centers of civic government ought to set up a statue to honor the First Family who gave origin to civic order. The State is the beneficiary of the universal undergirding of human culture which God established through the "Ten Commandments of Eden." Adam and Eve gave the inheritance of recognized rights and duties to our race.

The United Nations in New York and Geneva would not exist unless the human family would, in joint solidarity, agree to recognize the original commandments: Adore the Lord thy God. Honor His Name. Reserve for Him a day of worship. Honor thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. They should not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Thou shalt not covet. Moses received the commandments once more, but apparently with some watering down allowing divorce and polygamy, and with specifics about the Sabbath. The Ten Commandments agree with our reason, but without the firmer undergirding of revelation, our race would likely tend even more than now to resemble a Darwinian struggle for survival by blooded fang and bared claw. The United Nations should recognize its gift from the first parents, especially in regard to the mandates "Thou shalt not kill" and "increase and multiply."

8. We owe our lives to the ancestors who made it possible for us to be born upon this earth. How ungrateful of us if we neglect to invite them to our millennium celebration. The commandment which states: "Honor thy father and thy mother" includes them in the very first place. By collectively honoring Adam and Eve we affirm the family relationship of all members of the human race; we celebrate the fact that we Homo Sapiens people are blood brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts and cousins with a common family tree. As a circle of relatives we ought to set aside a day to join hands, to share good feelings, to inquire about each other's interests and welfare, to share our bread and butter, and to pray together. It can be an occasion to affirm once more that marriage is for life, that Cain must not kill Abel, that we must be responsible stewards of our ecosystem.

9. By honoring our first parents we acknowledge our spiritual debt to them. From them we inherit the primeval revelation which first opened the way to heaven. The common awareness among peoples of our mutual sharing in this primeval revelation is a paved road on which to travel around the world to newly proclaim faith to atheists, to pursue inter-religious dialogue, and to address all peoples of the world directly in the common language of a faith which all peoples can understand no matter what religious banner they may be flying. The new electronic media enable us to do that with a facility never before available to us (cf. Ecclesia in America No. 74). All believers share with each other the faith which Adam handed down to us; all have a right to hear the Gospel which updates the primeval faith and perfects it.

10. "Well," you say, "but Adam and Eve in the Bible are allegorical and symbolic, not individuals whom we can know from history, on whom we can pin a carnation and a rose."

Yes and no. Our race does not have birth and marriage certificates to identify our first parents, nor any contemporary records of their place in "history." Genesis, chapters 1-11, does not contain the kind of history that appears today in our text books. But despite the missing documents, we do have historical first parents, else we would not be here. The Homo Sapiens family tree ascends and converges upon first parents somewhere, sometime, upon those who inaugurated our race. That is not pseudo-science. They raised the first family. All peoples on earth alive today are their descendants. The Church, moreover, is aware that they received revelation from God, who elevated them to the state of holiness and justice (Trent, DS 1511, 1512) which we identify as sanctifying grace (Pope John Paul II, Catechesis, 3 September 1986).

11. The names Adam and Eve which the inspired author of Genesis applies to our first parents lack "historical" documentation, but they give the origins of our race a human face. The name Adam means "mankind" and the name Eve probably means "life." What better names could one choose? The sacred author knew how to teach truths succinctly and delightfully, as Beethoven knew how to write music, and Shakespeare understood how to write drama. Our first parents deserve a name, and it can be none other than Adam and Eve.

12. "But Adam and Eve sinned," you say. "How can the Church honor notorious sinners?"

The Church does this all the time; think of Peter, of Thomas, of Mary Magdalene. "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." The Blessed Virgin Mary is the only saint who was not a sinner.

13. We have fallen into a strange attitude of disrespect for Adam and Eve by only pointing fingers at them for their sin, while forgetting their repentance and their benefactions to us. Perhaps we hold a grudge against them because they bounced us out of paradise by their sin. We may naively imagine that life would be easier for us in paradise, were it not for the sin of Adam and Eve. Let us look into the matter more honestly.

If we sin in our own lives, even after Baptism, after hearing the Gospel, after witnessing the holy lives of Christ, of Mary, of so many saints, can we sincerely believe that if Adam and Eve had not sinned, no one after them would have sinned either? If they had not violated the virginal seal of innocence at their time, can we have any confidence at all that their children or grandchildren would not have committed original sin? Or that we would commit original sin today if none had done so before us?

Had Adam and Eve not sinned, neither their children nor we ourselves would have been born confirmed in grace: "Wherefore neither would the parents have transmitted to their descendants the necessity of not sinning, which is only in the blessed" (Thomas, Summa Theologica, I,100,2). Only the blessed in heaven are confirmed in grace. Even in the absence of original sin we would have to face temptation in our lives today as Adam and Eve were obliged to do in their day. The tree of what is good and what is bad, standing in Adam's paradise, would not have wilted and dropped over if Adam had not sinned. They sinned, so did their children, so do we. "If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:10).

Adam and Eve lost paradise for us indeed, but if they had not done so, their children or we ourselves would almost certainly have done that. We prove it by our own behavior today. We cannot say with certainty that life would be easier for us if Adam and Eve had not sinned.

It is unjust to hold a grudge against our first parents because they sinned. Let us rather follow their example and rise from sin and conquer it with the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as Adam and Eve did before us. Because they rose from sin, the human race could continue. From them descended Joseph and Mary, parents of Our Savior. Remotely we owe to Adam and Eve the beginnings of our faith and the ticket to heaven we already have in hand, which Peter the Gatekeeper will punch for us if we keep it safely.

14. Perhaps it is not appropriate to canonize Adam and Eve through an accustomed Vatican procedure since we lack historical data. The Church has established protocols about a strict examination of doctrine and of holiness of life. She also awaits a sign from God by way of miracles to prove sainthood. An appropriate manner would be a memorial like Thanksgiving Day, Father's Day, Mother's Day, or George Washington's Birthday, making it a civic and ecclesiastic holiday.

Next Page: Chapt: 15 The Long Wait From Adam to Christ
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