Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 7, Enormity of Adam’s sin.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

Who can say how enormous the crime of having fallen was, having recently left the hands of God; in such great happiness, in such great happiness of not sinning? Here are already two causes of enormity; the happiness of the state from which all need was banished, and the happiness of persevering in this blessed state, from where all greed, ignorance, error and infirmity were removed. The precept, as we have seen, was only a gentle test of subjection, a slight brake of free will, to make it clear to him that he had a master, but the most benign master, who kindly imposed on him the sweetest and lightest of all yokes. Nevertheless he fell, and Satan was the victor. Although it is hard to know how sin has been able to penetrate, it is enough that man has been drawn from nothingness, to carry his capacity in his roots; it is enough that he listened, that he hesitated to end up at the result.

To these two causes of the enormity of Adam’s sin, let us add to it the extent of such a great crime, which takes into itself all crimes, by spreading in the human race the desire which produces them all; by which he gives death to all his children, who are all men, all of whom he delivers to the devil to slaughter them, and co-operates with him whose son of God said for this reason, that he was a murderer from the beginning. But if he was homicidal, Adam was the parricide of himself and all his children whom he slaughtered, not in the cradle, but in the womb of their mother, and even before birth. He slaughtered his own wife again, because instead of bringing her to the penance that would have saved her, he completes killing her with complacency. O the greatest of all sinners! Who will give you the means to rise from such a dreadful fall? What haven will you find against your conqueror? What goodness will you have? Only the goodness of God; but you can not do it, and this is the most unfortunate effect of your fall: you can only flee God, as we will see, and increase your sin. At least let us at least fear the sin which has conquered us in our strength.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 6, Adam and Eve perceived their nudity.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

And immediately their eyes were opened; and being certain that they were nude, they covered themselves with fig leaves sewn together, and made themselves a girdle; the original door, clothing around the loins. Alas! we begin to dare not speak of what followed in our history, where it begins to seem to us something that modest lips cannot express, and that chaste ears cannot hear. Scripture wraps itself up here and only tells us a hint about what our first parents felt. Hitherto their innocent nudity did not trouble them. Do you want to know what it did to them? Consider that they covered themselves, and with what. It is not against the wounds of the air that they cover themselves with leaves; God gave them skin for this purpose and clothed them himself. Here it is only the eyes and their own eyes that they want to protect themselves.They need only leaves, only they have chosen larger and thicker ones so that the eye can pierce them less. They perceived it for themselves, and so their eyes are open. They were not blind before, as some interpreters have believed; would have been, Adam would neither have seen the animals or even Eve whom he named, nor Eve have seen either the snake or the fruit. Say then that their eyes were opened to them, it is an honest and modest way to express that they felt their nudity, and it was by this means that they began, in their misfortune, to know evil. In a word, their spirit, that had risen against God, could no longer contain the body to which it was to command. And here, unrestrained after their sin, is the cause of shame that until then they did not know. Let us wrap this up, so as not to return to this shameful disorder. We are all born of it, and it is by this that our birth and conception, that is to say, the very source of our being, is infected by original sin. O God! where are we, and from what state are we fallen!

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 5, The temptation and the fall of Adam. Reflections of Saint Paul.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

Eve took the fruit and ate it, and gave it to her husband who ate it. Adam’s temptation and fall pass in a few words. The first and most beautiful commentary we have on this matter is this one from St. Paul: Adam was not seduced, and Eve was seduced in her prevarication. It must be understood in two senses that Adam was not seduced. He was not seduced, first of all, because it was not to him that the seducer first attacked; secondly, he was not seduced, because at first, as the holy doctors interpret it, he yielded rather to Eve by complacency rather than be convinced by his reasons. The holy interpreters, and, among others, St. Augustine, expressly say that he did not wish to grieve this one and dear companion, conjugali necessitudini paruisse, nor to leave in his domestic and in the future mother of all his children an eternal obstacle. In the end, however, he gave into seduction; forewarned by his complacency, he himself began to taste the reasons of the snake and conceived the same hopes as his wife, since it was only through him that they had to pass to all his children, where they made all the ravages that we still see among us.

Adam believed that he would know good and evil, and that his curiosity would be satisfied. Adam believed that he would be like a God, author by his free will of the false happiness which he affected, which satisfied his pride; from where he fell into the revolt of the senses, he sought to flatter them in the exquisite taste of the forbidden fruit. Who knows if then, already corrupt, Eve did not start to sound too pleasant? Woe to the man who can please himself in something other than God! All pleasures besiege him, and, either in turn or all together, they make it law. Be that as it may, the sequel will make it appear that the two spouses became a trap one to the other; and their union, which ought to have been always honest had they persevered in their innocence, had something of which modesty and honesty were both offended.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 4, Answer of Eve and reply of Satan who reveals himself.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

We eat all the fruits of paradise; but, for the tree in the middle, God forbade us to eat the fruit and touch it, on pain of death. Such was Eve’s answer, where there is nothing but truth, since she only repeats the command and words of the Lord. It is therefore not a question of answering well or of saying good things, but of saying them appropriately. Eve ought not to have spoken at all to a tempter who came to her to ask for reasons of a supreme command, which was only to obey, and not to reason. How many times have we been deceived? While saying good things, we talk with temptation; but we must end business at once. It was the case, not to discuss, but to practice the commandment of God, and to be careful, under the pretext of giving reason to the seducer, not to prolong the time of seduction. The Son of God has given us another example in the time of his own temptation. The words of the Scripture which he alleges are not an dialogue for reason with the tempter, but a specific refusal, with this denouncement: Go away, Satan, to the place that curious Eve wishes to reason, and to hear the reasoning of the serpent.

So he also sees his strength inpereptively increase. As he saw that Eve was dazzled by the novelty, and already entered into the doubt that he wanted to suggest to her, he does not hold back any more and he says to her bluntly: You will not die, because God knows that in the day that you eat of this fruit, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil. He insinuated by these words that God had attached to the fruit of this tree a divine virtue by which man would be enlightened on all things that could make him good or bad, happy or unhappy. And then, he says, by so beautiful a knowledge, you will become so perfect, that you will be like gods. In this way, he flatters pride, he piques and excites curiosity. Eve begins to look at this forbidden fruit, and it is a beginning of disobedience, for the fruit that God forbade touching should not even be looked at complacently. She saw, says the Scripture, that it was attractive at sight, good to eat, pleasant to see, and she forgot nothing that could satisfy her. It is to desire to be seduced more than to be attentive to the beauty and taste of what had been forbidden. Here she is occupied with the beauties of this forbidden object, and convinced that God was too severe to prohibit them the use of such a beautiful thing, not dreaming that sin does not consist in using things bad by their nature, since God had neither done nor could do such, but to misuse the good. The tempter did not fail to join the suggestion and, so to speak, the whistling inside to outside, and he tried to light the desire that Eve had not known before. But as soon as she began to listen and reason on such a precise command, to this beginning of infidelity, one can believe that God also began to precisely withdraw his grace, and that the desire of the senses followed closely the disorder that Eve had already voluntarily introduced into her mind. So she ate fruit, and the serpent remained victorious. He did not push the temptation from the outside further; and, content to have instructed and persuaded his ambassador, he left the rest to seduced Eve. Notice that he had spoken to her not only for her, but also for her husband, not saying to her: You will be, and: Why did God forbid you? but: You will be like gods, and: Why did you make this prohibition? The devil was not mistaken in believing that this word carried by Eve to Adam would have more effect than if he had borne it himself. So, at one blow, three great wounds. Pride came in with these words: You will be like gods; These too: You will know the good and the bad, they excited curiosity; and these attentive glances at the pleasure and good taste of this beautiful fruit brought into the marrow the love of the pleasure of the senses. Here are the three general maladies of our nature with which we are afflicted; and St. John has put them together in these words: Do not love the world or all that is in the world, because all that is in the world is the desire of the flesh, that is to say, manifestly the sensuality, or desire of the eyes, which is curiosity, or finally the ambition and pride spread throughout all life, which are the proper names of the third vice, with which nature and human life are infected.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 3, The tempter proceeds by underhanded questioning to first produce a doubt.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

Why did the Lord forbid you to eat from this tree? and a little after: You will not die. The result of these words shows that he wanted to mislead Eve; but if he had first set forth to her the error in which he wished to lead her, a manifest contradiction to the command and word of God, he would have inspired her more with horror than with the desire to listen to him; but before proposing the error, he begins with the doubt: Why did the Lord forbid you? He dares not say: He has deceived you, his precept is not right, his word is not true; he asks, he questions, as if to be educated himself, rather than to instruct the one he wanted to surprise. He could not begin at a more insinuating or delicate place.

Eve’s first mistake is to have listened to him, and. to have entered with him in reasoning. As soon as he tried to make her doubt God’s truth and justice, she ought to have closed her ear and withdraw. But the subtlety of the request made her curious, and so she entered into conversation and perished there. The first fault of those who are wandering, either by the error of the spirit or by seduction, and the misleading of their sense, is to doubt. Satan says, every day, to the heretics and to all who are drawn into their pleasures and passions, this unfortunate Why; and if he succeeded against Eve before concupiscence and passions, is it any wonder that he has such prodigious success with this method? Let us flee, flee, from the first Why, from the first doubt that begins to form in our mind: plug the ear; for, as long as we waver, we will perish.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 2, The temptation. Eve is attacked before Adam.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

Lord, make me understand the depths of Satan and the unbounded intricacies of this spirit, which you have been pleased to preserve all its subtlety, all its depth, all the natural superiority of the genius it has over us, to be used in the trials into which you wish to place our loyalty, and to make known magnificently the power of your grace.

This is the first work of this dark spirit. His evil and jealousy lead him to destroy the man whom God had made so perfect and so happy, and to subjugate him to whom God had given so much power over all bodily creatures, so that, unable to overthrow the throne of God himself, he overthrows him as much as he can through the man whom God has raised to such a high power.

We must, then, consider how he succeeded in this work, in order to know how we are to resist him, and to raise ourselves from our fall, that is to say, to raise up again in us the overthrown dominion of God.

We were, indeed, below the angel; but, as we have seen, a little below, for we were equal in the happiness of possessing the sovereign good; and, like an angel, we had intelligence and free will, aided by grace, and capable, with that grace, of rising to that blessed joy. We could easily resist Satan, who had lost grace and wanted to make us lose it also. No matter how much advantage he had in the way of intelligence, far from being able to force us, the grace which we had, and which he had rejected and entirely lost by his fault, rendered us his superior in strength and virtue. Thus he could do nothing against us except by persuasion, and it also flattered his pride to subdue our minds to his by skill, to trap us in the snares which he held out to us.

The first effect of this artifice is to have tempted Adam through Eve, and to have begun to attack us through the weaker part. However perfect she was made in body and still more in sprit, when the first woman immediately emerged from the hands of God, she was, according to the body, only a portion of Adam, and a diminutive type. It was in proportion nearly to the same spirit, for God directed in his work a wisdom which arranged all things with a certain propriety. It was not Eve, but Adam who named the animals: it was to Adam and not to Eve that he had brought them. If Eve, like her beloved companion, had participated in her dominion, it remained to the man a primacy which he could lose only by his fault and by an excess of complacency. He had given the name to Eve, as he had given it to all animals, and nature meant that it was somehow subject to him. It was, therefore, in him, the superiority of wisdom; and Satan comes to attack him by the weakest place, and, so to speak, the least fortified.

If this artifice succeeds in this mischievous spirit, it is not surprising that he continues it, and that he is still trying to defeat man by women, though in another way; because he did not yet have desire. He raised up his own wife against Job, and raised against him this domestic enmity, to try his patience. Tobias, who was to be after him the model of this virtue, had in his house a similar persecution. The greatest kings have fallen by this artifice. Who does not know the fall of David and Solomon? Who can forget the weakness of Herod and the murderess of St. John the Baptist? The devil, by attacking Eve, was preparing in woman one of the most dangerous instruments for the loss of the human race; and it is not without reason that the wise man said that she had subjugated the most powerful and given death to the most courageous.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 1, The Snake

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

The snake was the most refined of all animals. Behold, in the apparent weakness of such a strange beginning in the recital of our misfortunes, the admirable depth of Christian theology. Everything seems feeble, dare we say it; everything here looks like a story: a serpent speaks, a woman listens, a man so perfect and enlightened is led to a crude temptation, the whole human race falls with him into sin and death. All of this seems senseless. But it is here where the truth of this sublime sentence of St. Paul begins: what is apparent folly in God is wiser than the wisdom of men, and that which is in God a apparent weakness is stronger than the strength of all men.

Let us begin with the refined nature of the serpent, and do not regard it as refinement of an animal without reason, but as the finesse of the devil, which with divine permission had entered into the body of that animal. As God appeared to man in bodily form, so it was with angels. God speaks to Adam, God brings the animals to him and brings him his wife whom he had just taken from himself; God appears to him as something that walks in paradise. There is in all this another aspect, though it is not expressed. It was proper, with man being composed of body and soul, that God made himself known to him according to both: according to the senses as well as the spirit. It was the same with the angels who conversed with man in such a form as God permitted, and in the form of animals. Eve therefore was not surprised to hear a serpent speak, as she had not seen God appear in a bodily form. She felt that an angel spoke to her, and it only seemed that she could not make out whether she was a good or a bad angel, since there was no obstacle that the angel of darkness would be transformed into an angel of light.

Here then is something to elevate ourselves to something higher than what appears, and we must consider in the serpent’s speech a secret permission of God, by which the tempting spirit presents itself to Eve in this form.

Why did he determine this proud angel to appear in this form, rather than another? Although it is not necessary to know, the Scriptures insinuate by saying that the serpent was the most refined of all animals, that is, the one who presents himself in the most supple and hidden way, and which, for many other reasons which are developed in the sequel, better represented the devil in his malice, snares, and then his torture.

Ignorant men would have Eve at first, instead of hearing the serpent, frightened, as we do at the sight of this animal, without thinking that the animals subject to the dominion of man had nothing awful for him in the beginning. On the contrary, as it were, the animals crawled before him, the serpent included, by a divine mark as if printed on his face, which kept them in subjection. The devil, therefore, did not have to worry about frightening Eve with the form of the snake, nor being harsh to weaken her will by a kind of force; but this cunning spirit went by speech and subtle insinuations which we shall see.

Up to this point everything appears only excellent in the nature of man, to whom all animals seem submitted, even those which now naturally give us the most horror. Jesus Christ re-established this dominion in a higher way, when he said, recounting the wonders that faith will do in those who believe: They will subdue serpents, and the poisons they drink will not harm them. This miracle will be accomplished in an admirable way, if among the many errors, temptations, illusions and, so to speak, in a corrupt environment, we know, with the grace of God, to keep our pure heart, our simple and sincere mouth, our innocent hands.

The Core Problem With Liberal Arts Curricula/Degrees

I’ve taken flak for saying this in other contexts, but this comment on a frustrated history PhD’s failure to land a tenure-track position hits the nail on the head:

my own experience has been very similar although now i’m glad that i left the humanities and i believe that the humanities themselves should be completely erased as actual graduate disciplines. so many wasted minds, so much wasted capital for really very little societal value and much much grief to very smart individuals only to keep up a very vague idea that a university teaches you “how to think” or how to “read” or “how to write.”

the irony is that, given the current way in which most writing and reading occurs, taking a humanities course in milton, cervantes, or baudelaire may actually make you a worse writer and reader for today’s environment… but i digress.

i encourage you to think of this as an opportunity and to go outside of the field completely. i myself am now a software engineer although i once did a phd in comparative literature. it is possible to change, and it can be very fulfilling.

Painting Ourselves Into a Corner on Porn

Ross Douthat’s idea to ban porn is entirely sensible:

In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine there is a long profile of a new kind of pedagogy unique to our particular stage of civilization. It’s called “porn literacy,” and it involves explaining to young people whose sexual coming-of-age is being mediated by watching online gangbangs that actually hard-core pornography is not an appropriate guide to how the sexes should relate.

For anyone who grew up with the ideals of post-sexual revolution liberalism, there is a striking pathos to these educators’ efforts. The sex education programs in my mostly liberal schools featured a touching faith from the adults in charge that they were engaged in a great work of enlightenment, that with the right curricula they could roll back the forces of repression and make sexuality a place of egalitarian pleasure and safety for us all.

Although he puts it differently, Douthat has put his finger on the central dilemma of feminism and the #MeToo movement: when you live in a society whose elites believe that the central purpose in life is to get laid, high, or drunk, getting away from anything that encourages sexual activity simply cannot happen, or life loses its significance.  As a consequence they have painted themselves into a corner, and are not big enough to either admit it or seek alliances (which Douthat recalls from the 1980’s) with people who have common cause on at least this issue.

For the #straightouttairondale Set, the Canonisation of Paul VI is a Brown Pants Moment

It’s coming soon:

Acclaimed Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli reports that a unanimous vote has taken place at a meeting of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, positively recognizing a purported miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini, 1897-1978). This development effectively paves the way for the Pontiff’s ‘canonization.’

But the #straightouttairondale people aren’t happy about it, to say the least:

The ‘canonization’ of Papa Montini is nothing else than a ‘canonization’ of the sordid agenda and disastrous orientation of Vatican II, the abysmal Novus Ordo Missae, and the embarrassing entirety of post-conciliar legislation and innovation.

This is unsurprising.  Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI had as their basic mission the walking back from many of the changes that took place under Paul VI.  That, of course, would include the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which was in many ways spoilt by its leadership.

And as for me?  I think that my fate as a Roman Catholic was sealed by his death in 1978, when I came back three years later things were not moving in a nice direction for those of us who were the product of the previous decade.

It’s also worth noting that most of the Catholic music linked to here came from Paul’s pontificate.