Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 13, The clothes and the injuries of the air.

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 the Lord God made garments of skins for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. Man becomes not only mortal, but exposed, by his mortality, to all the injuries of the air from which a thousand kinds of diseases are born. This is the source of the clothes that luxury makes so beautiful; the shame of nakedness has begun. Infirmity spread them all over the body; luxury wants to enrich them and mixes softness and pride. O man! come back to your origin! Why do you puff yourself up in your clothes? God first gives you nothing but skins for you to wear; poorer than the animals whose furs are natural to them, infirm and naked that you are, you find yourself having to borrow first; your lack is infinite; you borrow from everywhere to adorn yourself. But let us go to the beginning, and see the principle of luxury; after all, it is based on need: one tries in vain to disguise this weakness by accumulating the superfluity for the necessity.

Man has used the same in all the other of his needs, which he has tried to forget and cover by adorning them. Houses which are decorated by architecture, in their depths, are only a shelter against the snow and the storms, and the other injuries of the air; the furniture is, at their root, only a cover against the cold; these beds made so beautiful are, after all, only a retreat to support weakness and relieve work by sleep: it is necessary every day to go to die, and to pass so much of our life in this nothingness.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 12, Adam’s torture, and first the work.

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.

God said to Adam: Because you have listened to the word of your wife. This is where the accusation begins: the man is convinced at first of going along too much with the woman; it is the source of our loss, and this evil is renewed only too often. Let us continue: Because you have eaten fruit that I have forbidden you, the earth is cursed in your work; you will only eat your bread with the sweat of your face; and the rest. It is where the torture begins; but it is expressed by terrible words: The earth is cursed in your work; the earth had not sinned, and if it is cursed, it is because of the work of the accursed man who cultivates it: fruit is not torn from it, and especially the most necessary fruit, except by force and endless work.

Every day of your life, the cultivation of the earth is a perpetual care which leaves us at rest neither day nor night nor in any season: at every moment the hope of the harvest and the unique fruit of all our labors can escape us. We are at the mercy of the inconstant sky, which rains upon the tender shoot, not only the nourishing waters of the rain, but also the rust of the blight.

The earth will produce thorns and bushes. Fertile in its nature and producing the best plants by itself, now if it is left to its natural state. It is fertile only in weeds; it bristles with thorns: menacing and heartbreaking on all sides, it seems to even want to refuse us the freedom of the passage, and we can not walk on it without a fight.

You will eat the grass of the earth. It seems that, in the innocence of the beginning, the trees must of themselves offer and furnish to man a pleasant food in their fruits; but since the envy of the forbidden fruit had made us sin, we are subject to eating the grass that the earth produces only by force; and the wheat, of which the bread is our ordinary food, must be watered with our sweat. This is what these words insinuate: You will eat the grass, and your bread will be given to you by the sweat of your face. This is the beginning of our misfortunes; it is a continual work that alone can conquer our needs and the hunger that persecutes us.

Until you return to the land of which you were formed, and you become dust. There is no other end of our labors or rest for us, except death and the return to the dust, which is the last annihilation of our bodies. This object is always present to our eyes; death presents itself on all sides, the very earth which we cultivate puts it incessantly before the sight; it is the spirit of this word: Man will not cease to work the earth from which he is taken, and where he returns.

Man, behold your life, eternally torment the earth, or rather torment yourself by cultivating it, until it receives you yourself, and you rot in its bosom. Awful rest! Oh, sad end of continual work!

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 11, Eve’s torment and how it is changed into a cure.

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 Lord said to this woman: I will multiply your calamities and your births; you will give birth in pain. Fertility is the glory of women; it is there that God puts his torment: it is only at the risk of her life that she is fertile. This torture is not peculiar to women; the human race is completely cursed from conception and birth, confusion and pain, and on all sides surrounded by torment and death. The child can not be born without putting his mother in danger; neither can the husband become a father without risking the most precious half of his life. Eve is unhappy and cursed of all her sex whose children are so often murderers; she was made to be to man a sweet companion, his consolation, and to make the sweetness of his life; she was proud of this goal, but God mixed in subjection, and it changed this sweet superiority he had first given to man into a bitter domination. He was superior by reason, he becomes a severe master by temper; his jealousy makes him a tyrant: the woman is subject to this fury, and in more than half the earth, women are in a kind of slavery. This hard empire of husbands and this yoke to which the woman is subjected is an effect of sin. Weddings are as often a torture as a sweet liaison; and one is a hard cross to the other, and a torment of which they cannot be delivered from: united and separated, we torment each other. In the spiritual sense, they are born only with difficulty; all the productions of the spirit cost him; worries shorten our days: everything that is desirable is laborious.

By the redemption of the human race Eve’s torment changes into grace. His first punishment made his fertility perilous; but grace, as says St. Paul, makes that she is saved by the production of children. If her life is there exposed, her salvation is assured, provided that she is faithful to what she is asked to be, that is to say that she remains in the conjugal faith, in a chaste love of her husband, in sanctification and piety, as natural to her sex; banning the vanities of adornment and all softness, by sobriety, moderation and temperance, as the same Saint Paul adds.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 10, More Excuses.

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 God said to Eve, Why did you do that? She replied: The serpent deceived me. But why did you let yourself be fooled? Did you not have all your free will and grace at the same time? Why did you listen? Conviction was easy; but God leaves the effect to the conscience of Eve; and turning towards the snake, whose pride and stubbornness did not allow him to apologize without asking why, as he had done to Adam and Eve, he told him decisively and simply: because you you did it, you will be cursed among all the animals: you will walk on your stomach, and the earth will be your food. Here are three characters of the serpent; to be in execration and horror more than all other animals; it is also the character of Satan, whom everyone curses, to walk on his stomach, to have only low thoughts, and, what amounts to the same thing, to feed on the ground, it is to say, of earthly and corporeal thoughts, since his entire task is to be our tempter, and to plunge us into flesh and blood. What follows further illustrates the character of the devil, who is forced to bear wounds behind and below. This is what God explains with these words: You will trap him with snares and bite his heel. As, therefore, the characteristics of the devil were to be represented by those of the serpent, God, who foresaw it, determined him to use this animal to speak to Eve, so that being in the image of the devil by his snares, he then represented the punishment; so that these characters, which we have just designated, are associated in parable with the serpent and in truth with the devil.

Consider for a moment how God brings down this proud spirit, swollen with his victory over mankind. Which other has won so completely? By a single stroke, the whole human race becomes the captive of this proud winner. Praise yourself for your conquests, mortal conquerors: God who has humbled the Serpent in the midst of his triumph will beat you down.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 9, The Order of God’s Justice.

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.

Here we must compare the order of the crime with the order of divine justice. The crime begun by the serpent is continued in Eve, and is finished in Adam; but the order of divine justice is to attack the head first. This is why he first attacks the man, in whom was, in the fullness of strength and grace, the fullness of disobedience and ingratitude. It was to him that the totality of original grace was attached; it was to him that the great gifts had been communicated; and to him that the great precept had been given and signified: it is through him that God begins; the examination then passes to the woman, it ends in the snake, and nothing escapes its censure.

Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 8, The presence of God is fearful for sinners: our first parents increase their crime by seeking excuses.

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.

As God was walking in paradise (for, for the reasons that have been said, we saw that he appeared to them under visible figures), they heard the noise. Adam and Eve hid in front of the face of the Lord, in the thickness of the wood of paradise. And the Lord God called Adam and said to him, Where are you? And Adam said unto him, I have heard the noise of your presence in paradise, and I feared it, because I was naked, and hid myself. And God said to him, But who showed you that you were naked, except that you ate the fruit that I had forbidden you?

It is said in Scripture that God was walking in the air at noon. These things, in themselves so appropriate to the majesty of God and to the idea of ​​perfection which he has given us of himself, warn us to resort to the spiritual sense. The midday, which is the time of the great heat of the day, signifies the burning heat of the justice of God, when it comes to avenge sinners, and when it is said that God, in this heat, walks outdoors, that is to day he tempers by kindness the intolerable heat of his judgment; for it was already a beginning of kindness to be willing to take Adam back, instead that, without taking him back, he could throw him into the underworld, as he did to the rebellious angel. Adam had not yet learned to take advantage of these reproaches, to breathe in this softer air: full of the terrors of his conscience, he hides in the forest and dares not appear before God.

We have seen the sinful man who can not suffer himself; but his nakedness is never more frightful to him than in relation, not to himself, but to God, before whom everything is naked and uncovered, to the innermost crevices of his conscience. Against such penetrating eyes, leaves are not enough. Adam searches for the thick forests, and yet he can not find something that will cover. It must not be imagined that he thought he could escape the invisible eyes of God. At least he tried to save himself from his visible presence, which had too much of a hold on him, just as those who will shout at the last judgment will do: “Mountains, fall on us; hills, bury us.” But the voice of God pursues him. Adam, where are you? How far from God and from yourself, in what an abyss of evil, in what miseries, in what ignorance, in what deplorable distraction!

At this voice, astonished, and not knowing where to go: I hid myself, he said, because I was naked. But who told you that you were naked, the Lord said, except that you ate forbidden fruit? Adam said to him, “The woman whom you have given for a companion has given me fruit, and I have eaten it.” It is here that excuses begin: vain excuses that do not cover the crime and discover pride and rudeness. If Adam, if Eve had humbly confessed their fault, who knows how far God’s mercy would have been? But Adam casts the blame on the woman, and the woman on the serpent, instead of only accusing their free will. Such frivolous excuses were represented by the fig leaves, by the thickness of the forest, which they thought they would cover them. But God shows the vanity of their excuse. What is the use of the man to say: The woman you gave me for a companion? He seems to attack God himself. But had God given him that woman to be the companion of his disobedience? Should he not govern her, straighten her? It is therefore the height of the crime, far from confessing it, to want to blame it on his unhappy companion, and on God himself who had given her to him.

Let us not seek an excuse for our crimes; do not cast them aside on the weak part which is in us. Let us confess that reason should preside over and dominate his appetites. Let us not seek to cover ourselves: put ourselves before God; it may be then that his goodness will cover us with himself, and that we will be of those of whom it is written: Blessed are those whose iniquities have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered!

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.