Advent – A Franciscan Perspective (continued)

The Mystery of the Incarnation as Revealed to Adam Before the Fall
Yes, before the fall God revealed to Adam the mystery of the Incarnation. I was actually introduced to this Tradition by St. Thomas Aquinas ( Summa II-II, Q.2, art.7 – “I answer that..”; Summa III, Q.1, art.3 – Objection 5). Note that he never debates the Tradition, but upholds it and seeks to defend his position while maintaining this Tradition [Thomists in general accept this Tradition: see Just Thomism for a brief discussion on the subject]. So for Aquinas this Tradition is to be defended at all costs. Ironic since today it is almost unknown, at least in the Catholic circles (academic and spiritual) that I have been acquainted with for the last 25 years.

So where does St. Thomas get this Tradition? [Quick answer… Scripture and the Church Fathers] And if God had revealed the mystery of the Incarnation to Adam before the fall what does this mean with regards to God’s plan for the coming of Christ? [Quick answer… God willed Christ to be Mediator of grace and glory sin or no sin]

Let me invoke the aid of Fr. Dominic Unger, OFM Cap., since he has already done this research for us. In his “Franciscan Christology” he draws out both of these points. He writes:

The fact that Christ was Mediator of Adam and Eve in the state of innocence is a proof of Christ’s universal mediatorship. The incarnation was revealed to Adam and Eve in the state of innocence. This we shall prove below from the fact that Adam prophesied that the union between Eve and himself was a type of the union between Christ and His Church. We have to show that the matrimonial union of Adam and Eve prefigured the union between Christ and His Church, and that Adam realized this and foreknew the incarnation already in the state of innocence.

But if the incarnation, if Christ, was revealed to Adam in the state of innocence, it was with the purpose that Adam had to believe in Christ as his Mediator of grace and glory. Adam had to believe in Christ then already as his necessary Mediator. But if Christ was Mediator already in the state of innocence, then we can no longer speak of His coming merely to redeem. He was predestined absolutely as Mediator from the beginning. And since the greater is not willed primarily for the less, Christ was willed primarily for His own glory. All authors will readily admit that Christ was willed primarily for Himself if we can prove that His existence does not depend on sin.

Note that we can separate this argument from the argument of mediatorship, and show that by the very fact that God revealed Christ to Adam in the state of innocence, God intended Christ to exist absolutely and independently of sin, or else this revelation was a pure fiction on God’s part, a thing that is below the dignity of God and incompatible with His holiness…

So it is really the major of the argument that must be proved from Tradition. We must prove that Adam really had foreknowledge of the incarnation in the state of innocence.”

That’s the lay of the land: If God revealed the mystery of Christ to Adam in the state of innocence, then Christ’s predestination is absolute and does not depend on sin; then Christ’s coming at Bethlehem is the center of God’s creative plan, center of the universe. The fact that God adds mercy after the fall to His original, immutable plan of love in the Baby Jesus makes His birth all the more important and beautiful. Jesus comes first as “Emmanuel,” as God-with-us; because of sin and our need for Redemption He comes also to suffer the bitter Passion, die on the ignominious Cross, and rise victorious from the tomb. The Infant cradled in the Virgin’s arms on the Holy Night of Christmas is Christ, our King and Redeemer. Advent is rightly a preparation for the coming of the King into the world and into our lives.

Now let us continue Fr. Dominic Unger’s insights.

After God created Eve from the side of Adam, Adam said:
This now is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh (Gen 2:23-24).

Centuries later the great Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians exhorting the husbands to love their wives. He appeals to the love of Christ for His Church and then quotes verse 24 of Genesis. And he adds: “This is a great mystery – I mean in reference to Christ and the Church” (5:32). Ever since St. Paul wrote that, the writers of the Church have taken the words of Genesis to be a prophecy of the union of Christ and His Church, and they have held that Adam foreknew the incarnation which God revealed to him at that time. Let us listen to two Doctors of the Church, two eminent Scripture scholars. First, St. Jerome:

For this reason a man shall leave… in one flesh (Gn 2:24) –  The first man and first prophet Adam prophesized this of Christ and the Church: that our Lord and Savior would leave God His Father and the heavenly Jerusalem His mother, and come to earth for the sake of His Body the Church, and from His side to make her, and for her sake the Word was made flesh. (In Eph., lib. 3 – Pat. lat., vol. 26, col. 535C)

Next St. Augustine:

That ecstasy which the Lord cast into Adam, that he might sleep a deep sleep, is correctly understood to have been case for this, that through such ecstasy his mind might be participant of the angelic court, and entering the sanctuary of God understand the last things.  Awaking then as it were full of prophecy, when he should see brought to him the woman from his rib, he would continually praise that great Sacrament which the Apostle commends: “Behold now…” (Gn 2:24; Eph 5:32).

Although Scripture testifies these words were spoken by the first man, in the Gospel the Lord says God spoke them.  For he says: “Do you not read that he made man from the beginning, he made him male and female?  And he said: For this reason…” (Mt 19: 4-5)  –  that thereby we might understand in view of the ecstasy which preceded in Adam how he could have spoken divinely as a prophet. (De Genesi ad litteram, lib. 9, c. 19, n. 36 – Pat. lat., vol. 34, col. 404)

It would seem most natural to argue that if Adam had knowledge of the incarnation before his fall, as a very great good and as the means of his grace and glory, then Christ was not dependent on the fall…

Agreed. Fr. Dominic’s point seems abundantly clear and for this reason it puts St. Thomas Aquinas on the defensive regarding his position of a relative primacy of Christ . There is another early Church writer who confirms this interpretation and it is worthy of mention. Tertullian writes:

What had he [Adam] that was spiritual? Is it because he prophetically declared the great mystery of Christ and the church?  (Eph 5:32) This is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and he shall cleave unto his wife; and they two shall be one flesh. (Gn 2:23-24) But this (gift of prophecy) only came on him afterwards, when God infused into him the ecstasy, or spiritual quality, in which prophecy consists. (Treatise on the soul, Ch.21)

To be continued…