The Redemption of Mankind
by Fr. Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
In the biblical account of the beginning of the human race, the fall of our first parents introduced conflict, suffering and death into the human scene. They lost the supernatural life of grace that made them children of God, and were reduced from a state of friendship with God to one of enmity with God. Not only could mankind do nothing of itself to regain the gifts that were lost, but heaven was closed to the human race. In addition, our first parents incurred for mankind an infinite debt of punishment for which man was utterly helpless to make reparation.
They lost the harmony between flesh and spirit, the perfect subordination of the former to the latter. The will was weakened, their intellect was obscured so that they often chose evil under the appearance of good, and they were left with an inclination to seek what pleased them rather than what pleased God. Had Adam not sinned, all the gifts he enjoyed before the fall would have been inherited by their descendents. Because of the fall, every descendent of Adam comes into this world deprived of those gifts, inheriting a wounded will and intellect, an inclination to evil, and a lack of subordination of his bodily appetites and passions to his intellect and will. Such was the pitiful plight of our first parents after their rebellion against the one limitation that God had placed on their freedom.
In response to the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God could have simply pardoned them and their descendents without requiring any reparation. Or He could have lessened His gift to mankind, making their ultimate goal a purely natural happiness after death. Again, He could have inflicted eternal punishment on them immediately as He did with the fallen angels. But this was not in keeping with God’s salvific plan of mercy and justice for the human race. The divine response was not slow in coming. As the first man and woman had rebelled at the instigation and deception of the devil who appeared in the form of a serpent, a Divine Person possessing a human nature and a woman would in time undo the damage our first parents had brought upon the human race, and would conquer decisively the devil and his angelic cohorts:
“And the Lord God said to the serpent, because you have done this ... I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; she shall crush your head, and you will lie in wait for her heel” (Gen. 3:15).
Those words might be paraphrased as follows: Since you have made use of a woman to lead mankind into sin, I will make use of a woman to bring about the redemption of mankind. The woman I will choose and prepare, inferior to you by nature, will be superior in grace and glory to what you were before your fall, and more powerful than you and all your rebellious followers.
Never for a moment will you be able to seduce her as you did Eve, or have dominion over her. With the power of her divine offspring, her “seed,” she will crush your head. She will be my instrument in your humiliating defeat, and your eternal shame and confusion.
TO KNOW HIM: THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE
The above article is an excerpt from To Know Him: The Way, the Truth and the Life, Vol. II, by Fr. Paul Duffner, founder and former Director of the Rosary Center. These volumes are a collection of essays published in the Rosary Center's newsletter over the course of more than twenty years. Fr. Duffner shines the light of St. Thomas Aquinas, Scripture, Tradition and the words of the Popes on the most fundamental truths of Catholic faith and morals.
Available online - Volume 1, Volume 2.
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Fr. Peter Do, O.P.