The Fall of Man
by Rev. Roderick MacEachen


Man was pure, innocent and holy when he came from the hand of his Creator.  God raised him to a supernatural state.  He made him His son by adoption.  He made him their to eternal beatitude.  "We are the sons of God . . . and if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God."  In the beginning man was endowed with divine grace.  He could grow in the grace of God.  He possessed virtues.  He was free from concupiscence.

Adam and Eve were not ashamed of their nakedness.  "They were both naked; to wit, Adam and his wife; and were not ashamed."  After they had fallen into sin, they were ashamed.  They covered their nakedness.  This shows that concupiscence came upon them.  It brought that sense of shame which we call modesty.

Before their fall there ws no cause for shame since here was no knowledge of carnal passion.  They were like little children who, because they feel no concupiscence, are not ashamed of their nakedness.  Man's passions were in complete subjection to his will.  His desires were all regulated by reason.  He knew no excess in his pleasures.  He was moderate and temperate.

In the beginning, man was not subject to death.  Had he remained obedient to God, he never would have died.  This is a doctrine of Faith.  The council of Milan II, Can. I, says: "Whoever says that Adam, the first man, was made mortal, so that whether he sinned or sinned not he should have died in his body (that is, he should have gone out of the body not from the deserts of sin, but from the necessity of nature), let him be anathema."

The immortality which Adam enjoyed was not the same as that of the glorified body in Heaven.  Adam had to nourish his body with food.  "Of every tree, thou shalt eat."  Like all material things the body would have been naturally subject to corruption.  However, God decreed that it should pass to its glorified state in Heaven without undergoing death and corruption.

It is not revealed how God bestowed this gift of immortality on Adam.  He may have done so n a supernatural manner by a miracle.  Yet, He may have given him natural means to preserve his body from destruction.  This is suggested by the "tree of life."  Faith does not decide this speculative question.  It's sufficient to know that there was no sickness nor suffering nor death on earth in the beginning.

God gave a command to Adam and Eve.  They were not to eat the fruit that grew on the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  "But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat."  God demanded obedience of them under severe penalty.

"For," He says, "in what day so-ever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die."  This was called the "tree of knowledge" not because it contained natural properties which could give knowledge.  By eating thereof our first parents were to learn by sad experience the nature of evil.

Eve was tempted by the serpent.  "Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God had made.  And he said to the woman: 'Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of Paradise?'  And the woman answered him, saying: . . . of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of Paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat; and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die.'  And the serpent said to the woman: 'No, you shall not die the death.  For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as gods knowing good and evil.'"

By the serpent is not meant a mere brute.  A serpent is not a rational animal.  It does not possess the power of speech.  It was Satan who spoke in the serpent.  "By the envy of the devil, death came into the world."  "The old serpent who is called the devil and Satan, who seduced the whole world."

Eve listened to the words of the tempter.  She was charmed at the prospect of being like God.  "And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold: and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat."

The sin was committed.  They had disobeyed the direct command of God.  The creature had rebelled against his Creator.  They had incurred the death penalty.  "By the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners."  Pride was the motive of their sin.  "Pride was the beginning of all sin."

After Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, "the eyes of both of them were opened."  They realized their fault; their conscience smote them and they were ashamed.  "Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of the Lord God."

"The first man sinned mainly by desiring to be like God in the knowledge of good and evil as the serpent suggested to him.  He wished to know before- hand that good or evil should befall him.  In the second place, he sinned by desiring to be like God, to act of his own power.  He wished to be able to seek beatitude by his own natural resourced. . . . He wished to be equal to God so as to depend on himself alone and disdain the divine ordinance that had been given him."

Adam and Eve were protected by God's grace until pride arose in their hearts.  Pride urged them to strive for greater excellence.  Then curiosity prompted them to seek more knowledge.  Then gluttony suggested that the fruit was good.  Then infidelity to God impelled them to believe the words of the devil.  Then disobedience led them to transgress the command of God. 

It could never have occurred to Adam and Eve to doubt the sincerity of God's threat, had not Satan suggested it.  God had told them they would die if they ate the forbidden fruit.  Satan tells them they will not die, but will become great as God Himself.

Though the act of eating the forbidden fruit was slight in itself, the sin was most grievous.  In its effect, it was the gravest sin ever committed by man.  Adam and Eve were both grievously guilty.  Eve's malice seems to be greater because she believed the words of the serpent and seduced her husband.  However, Adam possessed great perfection of intellect and will.  There is nothing to excuse him from guilt.

By sin our first parents lost sanctifying grace.  They became subject to all kinds of sufferings and to death.  They lost the virtues with which God had endowed them.  They lost the infused knowledge they had received in creation.  Their intellect was darkened and their will was weakened.  They lost God's favor and incurred the rigors of His justice.  They were given over to the servitude of Satan.

"To the woman, the Lord God said:  I will multiply thy sorrows and they conceptions: In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children; thou shalt be under thy husband's power, and he shall have dominion over thee.  And to Adam, He said: Because thou hast harkened to the voice of thy wife and hast eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work; with labor and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life.  Thorns and thistles shall eat the herbs of the earth.  In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth! . . . and the Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure."

The sin of Adam and Eve is called Original sin because it was committed at the very origin of the human race.  Adam and Eve are the parents of the whole human family.  As such they transmitted their sin to all posterity.  We all inherit the sin of our first parents.  As they conceived us in the state of sin so we are born in the state of sin.  For us original sin is a sin of nature, not a personal sin.  We do not inherit the actual sin of Adam.  We inherit a nature that has been tainted by sin. 

The narration in Genesis which descries the fall of man is not a mere fable or allegory.  It is not a mixture of fiction and history.  The forbidden fruit is not a mere allegory.  There is no authority for the opinion that it symbolizes carnal passion.  The narration of Genesis is purely historical.

It seems incredible that anyone would reject the doctrine of original sin.  We need not seek far for the proofs of the Fall.  Man bears within his beast the strongest evidence of the Fall.  His very nature proclaims a knowledge of better days.  He chafes under the trials and miseries of life.  He can never become resigned to his present lot.  He craves for knowledge of the world around him.  He is as one groping in the dark.  He yearns for peace and rest.  He longs for a better world.

The world is filled with sorrow and sadness, pain and suffering.  Nothing is lasting.  Joys turn to sadness.  The brightness of love and life is swallowed up in death.  Great institutions are built up but to decay.  Life is a ceaseless struggle.  Immorality consumes virtue that has been patiently cultivated.  Selfishness, greed and corruption are rampant amongst men.  Men become slaves to their passions.  They weep for their weakness and then return to their sin.  To be virtuous they must labor and strive with all their heart.  To be wicked they need but follow the bent of nature.  St. Paul expresses it: "I find then a law that when I have a will to do good evil is present with me."

On all sides there is evidence of a great catastrophe.  "Mysterious, variable, inexplicable man is manifestly overthrown.  He is a palace that has crumbled to pieces, and has been rebuilt with its ruins; where you behold some parts of an imposing appearance, and others extremely offensive to the eye; magnificent colonnades which lead to nothing; lofty portions and low ceilings; strong lights and deep shades; in a word, confusion and disorder pervading every quarter."

"What remains then but that the cause of these evils is either the wickedness or weakness of God or the punishment of the first and original sin?  But because God is neither wicked nor weak, it remains then, contrary to your wishes, and you are forced to admit it, that the heavy yoke would not rest upon the sons of Adam . . . if they had not merited it by original sin."

Man has marred the beauty of his own nature.  All other works of creation fulfill their destiny without opposition.  Man alone must struggle to maintain his position.  Of all the living creatures on earth, man alone must weep and mourn.  It is the result of sin.  "By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned."

By his sin Adam brought upon himself and his posterity not only corporal death, but also the death of the soul.  By sin man lost eternal happiness.  He was excluded from Heaven.  He lost his original justice and became an enemy of God.  He could never atone for his offense against God.  He was doomed to live and die estranged from God.  He had lost sanctifying grace which alone could make him a friend of God.

The gravity of an offense is measured by the dignity of the one offended.  God had united man to Himself.  Man had cut himself off from God.  The offense was against an Infinite Being; as such it was infinite.  God had made the bond; man had severed it. God alone could restore this union.  Just as God gives corporal life, man may destroy it.  Yet neither he nor all the men of earth can restore it.

The justice of God demanded that there be a meet atonement for man's sin.  Unless man be raised from the spiritual death into which he had cast himself, he must certainly pass to eternal damnation.  Man had chosen for himself.  Eternal joy and eternal reprobation had been set before him.  He had chosen eternal reprobation.

But God in His mercy loved him.  He promised him a Redeemer.  This made it possible for man to escape the everlasting fate that had befallen him.  God in due time would send His Own Divine Son to redeem man from sin.  He alone could furnish the infinite expiation required for sin.  He should become man, suffer and die for the sins of man.  He should be born of woman.

A woman had been the cause of sin.  A woman should bear the Redeemer of the world.  The serpent had tempted the woman to sin; she should crush the head of the serpent.  "I will put enmities between thee and the woman . . . she shall crush they head."