Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7
The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.
Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east,
and placed there the man whom he had formed.
Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow
that were delightful to look at and good for food,
with the tree of life in the middle of the garden
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals
that the LORD God had made.
The serpent asked the woman,
“Did God really tell you not to eat
from any of the trees in the garden?”
The woman answered the serpent:
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
it is only about the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden that God said,
‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'”
But the serpent said to the woman:
“You certainly will not die!
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods
who know what is good and what is evil.”
The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together
and made loincloths for themselves.
The Fall of Adam and Eve is a mystery wrapped in a conundrum.
Although they had everything in that bucolic first garden, including and especially the unimaginably sublime gift of seeing and conversing with the Creator (“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” –Genesis 3:8), they still chose disobedience and betrayal.
All because of the sin of grandiose narcissism — of wanting to be “like gods,” who would determine for themselves “what is good and what is evil” although they already knew right from wrong. As the Book of Jeremiah 31:33 says, when God created humans, He’d embedded the knowledge of what is right and wrong within each of us:
“I will put my law within them
and write it on their hearts and minds.
I will be their God
and they will be my people.”
In wanting to be their own gods, that is, with their own conception of right and wrong, our first parents contravened the First Commandment (“You shall have no other gods before me.” –Exodus 20:3). Another way to say “wanting to be their own gods” is “Do as thou wilt” — the motto of satanist Aleister Crowley and the church of Satan, and the zeitgeist of our time.
That first sin by our first parents was so cataclysmic that it fundamentally changed the natural order of the world. Henceforth, God would no longer be theirs, and they would no longer be His people.
A door was opened to chaos, and a price must be paid for being human. Where once was joy and ease, there would be banishment, toil, pain, hardship, sickness, disease, and eventual death (“with painful labor you will give birth to children“; “by the sweat of your brow”; “for dust you are and to dust you will return”). Humankind’s relation with other creatures and the physical environment turned askew as “visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.”
So catastrophic was the breach that human nature itself became perverted. Henceforth, all of Adam’s progeny would be born with the stain of Original Sin — “tinder for sin” (fomes peccati) and inclined to evil. As St. Anselm lamented¹:
“I fell before my mother conceived me. Truly, in darkness I was conceived, and in the cover of darkness I was born. Truly, in him we all fell, in whom we all sinned. In him we all lost.”
So immense was our first parents’ fall that only God Himself, in the person of the Son, could make amends — by becoming incarnate, to be tortured and die on a cross.
And so we come to Lent.
Since Jesus prepared Himself for His public ministry in 40 days, Christians imitate Him with prayer and fasting during this time of Lent to prepare for Holy Week. In remembrance of how Christ our Lord willingly suffered and died for our sins, we are asked to pray, fast, and make a sacrifice during Lent by surrendering something that gives us pleasure, and/or by doing something good that we don’t ordinarily do.
Psalm 51:3-6, 12-14, 19
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a contrite, humbled heart….
May the love and peace of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,