Thursday, August 10, 2006

Destined To Be In Christ Before Sin

Consider the Distinction Between the “Sacrament of Creation” (Matrimony) and the “Sacrament of Redemption” (The Cross)

The human person is ordained to fulfillment in Jesus Christ not because of sin but because of the original intention of the Creator at the moment of creation before sin. The meaning of every man, then, is Jesus Christ, and the anthropology that grounds every human action for every man is that of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is, then, the meaning of every man “before” - as it were - the salvation from sin. To this effect, John Paul II, in his exegesis of Ephesians, chapters1[1]-5 distinguishes between the “sacrament of creation” (“the sacramental `beginning’ of man and of marriage in the state of original justice [or innocence”] marriage”[2]) and the “sacrament of redemption.” They are two moments of “gracing.”

With regard to the first, John Paul says: “This salvific initiative comes forth from God, the Creator, and its supernatural efficaciousness is identical with the very act of the creation of man in the state of original innocence. In this state, already beginning with the act of the creation of man, his eternal election in Christ has borne fruit. In this way, one must recognize that the original sacrament of creation draws it efficaciousness from the `beloved Son’ (see Eph. 1, 6, where the author speaks about `his grace, which he has given to us in is beloved Son’). As for marriage, one can deduce that – instituted in the context of the sacrament of creation in its totality, or in the state of original innocence – it was to serve not only to extend the work of creation, or procreation, but also to spread the same sacrament of creation to further generations of human beings, that is, to spread the supernatural fruits of man’s eternal election by the Father in the eternal Son, the fruits man was endowed with by God in the very act of creation.
“Ephesians seems to authorize us to understand Genesis in this way, and the truth about the `beginning’ of man and marriage contained in it.”

With regard to the second, he says: “In Ephesians 5, 31, when the author appeals to the words of the institution of marriage in Genesis 2, 24 (`For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and unite with his wife, and the two will be one flesh’), and immediately after this declares, `This mystery is great; I say this with reference to Christ and the Church’ (Eph. 5, 32), he seems to point out not only the identity of the Mystery hidden in God from eternity, but also the continuity of its realization between the primordial sacrament connected with man’s supernatural gracing [that is, endowment with grace] in creation itself and the new gracing – which was brought about when `Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her, in order to make her holy’ (Eph. 5, 25-26) – an endowment with grace that can be defined in its entirety as the sacrament of redemption. This redemptive gift of self `for’ the Church also includes – according to Pauline thought – Christ’s giftos self to the Church, in the image of the spousal relation that unites husband and wife in marriage. In this way, the sacrament of redemption clothes itself, so to speak, in the figure and form of the primordial sacrament. To the marriage of the first husband and wife, as a sign of the supernatural endowment of man with grace in the sacrament of creation, corresponds the marriage, or rather the analogy of the marriage, of Christ with the Church, as the fundamental `great’ sign of man’ supernatural gracing in the sacrament of redemption, of the gracing in which the covenant of the grace of election that was broken in the `beginning’ by sin is renewed in a definitive way.

“The image contained in the passage quoted from Ephesians seems to speak above all about the sacrament of redemption as the definitive realization of the Mystery hidden from eternity in God. Indeed, in this mysterium magnum, everything that Ephesians talks about in chapter 1 is definitively realized. It says, in fact, as we remember, not only that `in him [that is, Christ] he has chosen us before the creation of the world to be holy and immaculate before him’ (Eph. 1, 4); John Paul II’s addition), but also, `in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace. He has abundantly poured it out on us’ (Eph. 1, 7-8). Man’s new supernatural endowment with the gift of grace in the `sacrament of redemption’ is also a new realization of the Mystery hidden from eternity in God, new in comparison with the sacrament of creation. At this moment, endowment with grace is in some sense a `new creation.’ It differs, however, from the sacrament of creation inasmuch as the original gracing, united with the creation of man, constituted that man `from the beginning’ through grace in the sate of original innocence and justice. Man’s new gracing in the sacrament of redemption, by contrast, gives him above all the `forgiveness of sin.’ Still, even here `grace’ can `superabound’ as St. Paul expresses himself elsewhere: `Where sin abounded, grace superabounded’ (Rom. 5, 20).

“On the basis of Christ’s spousal love for the Church [the original sacrament of creation], the sacrament of redemption – fruit of Christ’s redeeming love – becomes a permanent dimension of the life of the Church herself, a fundamental and life giving dimension. It is the `Mysterium magnum of Christ and the Church, the eternal mystery realized by Christ, who `gave himself for her’ (Eph. 5, 25), uniting with her with an indissoluble, just as spouses, husband and wife, unite in marriage. In this manner, the Church lives from the sacrament of redemption and on her part completes this sacrament, just as the wife in virtue of spousal love, completes her husband, which was in some way already brought out `at the beginning’ when the first man found in the first woman `a help similar to himself’ (Gen. 2, 20).”

Redemption is, then, a restoring of man as “ipse Christus.” Man was created in Christ – “Ipse Christus” - before sin. Therefore, there is no such thing as “natural” man. To be truly man is to be Christ.

[1] “Blessed by God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. In him he has chosen us before the foundation of the world to be holy and immaculate in his sight in love, predestining us to be his adoptive sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise and glory of his grace that he gave us in his beloved Son
[2] John Paul II, TOB op. cit. 507.
[3] Ibid. 506-507.
[4] Ibid. 507-509.