The Creation of Men and Angels: The creation of the second sex

This is one in a series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries. The previous post is here. More information on the Bossuet Project is here.

In producing the other animals, God created the two sexes together; And the formation of the second is a singularity of the creation of man.

How useful it was for man to be introduced into this paradise of delights, into a vast land which God had placed in his power, and in the midst of four great rivers, the rich waters of which brought treasures. Moreover, it was under a sky so pure that, without being obscured yet by the thick clouds which cover our own, and produce storms, a mild heat rose from the earth, which was distilled in the dew and which watered the earth and all its plants? Man was alone and the only one of all animals, for he saw all the others shared and paired in two sexes, and, the Scriptures say, there was only the man who did not found help like him. Solitary, without company, without conversation, without sweetness, without hope of posterity; and not knowing to whom to leave or with whom to share this great inheritance and so many good things which God had given him, he lived tranquilly, abandoned to his providence, without asking anything. And God himself, not wanting to leave any fault in his work, said these words: It is not good that man should be alone, let us give him a help who is like him.

Perhaps he will form the second sex as he had formed the first? No; He wants to give the world, in both sexes, the image of the most perfect unity, and the future symbol of the great mystery of Jesus Christ. That is why he draws the woman from the man himself, and the form of a superfluous rib which he had purposely put in his side. But to show that this was a great mystery, and that it was necessary to look with purer eyes than the corporeal, the woman is produced in an ecstasy of Adam. And it was by a spirit of prophecy that he knew the whole design of so fine a work. The Lord God sent Adam a sleep; a sleep, say all the saints, which was a rapture and the most perfect of all ecstasies: and God took Adam’s place, and filled it with flesh. Do not ask God why, wishing to draw from the man the companion he gave him, he took a bone rather than flesh; For if he had taken flesh, one might have asked why he would have taken flesh rather than a bone. Neither do we ask him what he added to the side of Adam, to form a perfect body. Matter is not missing to him, and, however that may be, this bone softens in his hands. It was from this hardness that he wished to form those delicate and tender members, in which, in innocent nature, nothing should be imagined that was as pure as it was beautiful. Women have only to remember their origin, and, without praising their delicacy too much, think, after all, that they come from a supernumerary bone, in which there was no beauty except that which God wished to put there.

My God, what vain speeches I foresee in readers at the account of this mystery! But while I tell them of a great and mysterious work of God, that they enter into a serious mind, and, if possible, in some sentiment of that admirable ecstasy of Adam, during which he built up Adam’s wife, in order to make us see in the woman something grand and magnificent, and as an admirable edifice in which there was grace, majesty, admirable proportions, and as much utility as ornament.

The woman thus formed is presented from the hand of God to the first man who, seeing in his ecstasy what God was doing, said, “This is the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh.” It will be called virago, because it is made of man, and “man will leave his father and mother, and he will be united to his wife.” One can believe by this word that God had formed the woman of a bone clothed in flesh, and that only bone is named as prevalent in this formation. Whatever may be the case, without stopping at any more curious questions, and observing only in one word what appears in the sacred text, let us consider in spirit this mysterious bride, that is, the holy Church drawn up, and as torn from the sacred side of the new Adam during his ecstasy, and formed, so to speak, by this wound, the whole consistency of which is in the bones and flesh of Jesus Christ, which is incorporated by the mystery of the Incarnation and that of the Eucharist, which is an admirable extension of it. He leaves everything in order to be united to him: he leaves his father, whom he had in heaven, and his mother the synagogue from which he came forth after the flesh, in order to attach himself to his wife, gathered from among the Gentiles. It is we who are this bride; It is we who live by the bones and flesh of Jesus Christ, by the two great mysteries we have just seen. It is we who are, as St. Peter says, this spiritual edifice and the living temple of the Lord, built in spirit from the time of the formation of Eve, our mother, and from the beginning of the world. Let us consider in the name of Eve, who signifies the mother of the living, and the Church, the mother of the true rivers, and the blessed Mary, the true mother of the living, who bore us all with Jesus Christ whom she conceived by the law. O man! This is what is shown to you in the creation of woman, in order to prevent by this seriousness all the frivolous thoughts which pass in the minds of men to the remembrance of the two sexes, since only sin has corrupted the institution. Let us return to our origin, let us respect the work of God and his original design; let us take away the thoughts of the flesh and the blood, and do not plunge us into this mud, while in the narrative we have just heard God takes so much care to draw us out of it.

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