Life and death. Each of us is born to die. But the passage of a body from conception to physical death is only part of the story of a human life. Every human being has a rational, immortal soul that God infuses into him at the moment of his conception. That soul is the animating principle of the human body. It is the state of the soul which determines where the body will spend eternity after the Second and Final Coming of Our Lord at the end of time. And it was to make it possible for all souls to live in the glory of the Beatific Vision of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that Our Lord endure His fearful Passion and Death.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man, is the New Adam. His death on the Cross put an end to power of sin and death forever. His perfect obedience to the Father's will canceled out the disobedience of the first Adam in the Garden of Eden. The shedding of His Most Precious Blood on Calvary paid back the blood-debt that finite beings owed their Infinite Creator. His forty hours in the tomb prior to His Resurrection on Easter Sunday give us the hope of eternal joy. He underwent His death so that we could live. Yet nearly 2,000 years after He instituted the New and Everlasting Covenant of the New Passover from death to life, so few of His followers truly understand how they are to fashion everything in their lives--and in that of their societies--in light of the mysteries of our redemption.
There is a simple explanation for the fact that most baptized Christians do not understand the mysteries of salvation: they have never been instructed in them. If people do not understand what happened in the Garden of Eden, then they will have no understanding of their own identity as fallen creatures in need of redemption. And if they do not understand their identity as fallen creatures in need of redemption, then they will look to everything except the true religion instituted by Our Lord at the Last Supper to save them from the problems of the world. Like many of the people of Our Lord's time who were looking for a political or secular savior, so are many people today looking for their salvation in all of the wrong places, especially in politics, politicians, political parties, ideologies, and in government programs.
The truth of the matter is, of course, that the Triune God--the Infinite Being, the Uncreated Good, the Uncaused Cause--created both the invisible and the visible worlds out of love. He is a community of love consisting of three Divine Persons, each with His own distinctive identity and mission. The love of each of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity for each other is meant of its nature to be bestowed on others. He created the angels, pure spirits with possessing an intellect and a will, out of love. And He created human beings out of love. But God's love is not an act of sentimentality. Not at all. God's love is an act of the Divine Will. He created angels and men out of love so that they would love Him, their First and Last End. He willed their good, which is the possession of His glory for all eternity.
However, God created angels and men as free beings. He wanted his creatures to choose to serve Him out of love, a return of love to Love Himself. Although He knew that certain of the angels, headed by Lucifer, would make an irrevocable choice against Him, God bestowed a free will upon angels in order to show forth His omnipotence. He wanted to teach men that it was the misuse of free will that caused the rebellion of Lucifer. And He wanted to teach them that it was Lucifer's hatred of Him that would impel the fallen angel to lead them to misuse their free wills against Him.
Satan hates God. He does not have to believe in God, for He knows Him. He knows God and he hates Him. "Non serviam est!" ("I will not serve) is the devil's motto. Our ancient adversary knows God, hates Him, and refuses to serve Him, the very antithesis of the purpose of human existence, which is, naturally, to know, to love, and to serve God here on earth in order to be happy with Him for all eternity in Heaven. The devil hates us because we are made in the image and the likeness of the One he hates, namely, God. That is why he wants to deceive us into mimicking him by disobeying God and serving ourselves--to the detriment of ourselves and those around us. The Master of Lies and the Prince of Darkness was permitted by God to tempt our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden.
Adam and Eve had been created by God and placed in a world of Original Innocence. They possessed the preternatural gifts of a perfect human nature, one unspotted by sin. They had a superior intellect and a superior will. And they had a delicate balance between their higher rational faculties and their lower sensual passions. Adam and Eve were in harmony with God, and they were in harmony with each other. They were in harmony with the natural world. There was work without sweat and painless child-birth. The Gates of Heaven were opened to them.
God commanded only two things from our first parents. He asked them to love Him in return for all that He had bestowed upon them, including life itself. And He commanded them not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He knew full well that they would succumb to the allure of the tempter. But He wanted the human race to understand that His love for us is so perfect that He will never force Himself upon us. He wants us to choose to love Him of our own free wills. And He wants us to realize how the misuse of our free wills leads to unhappiness and misery, that we are utterly lost without Him and His Holy Church. He wanted us to know that our souls face eternal death without Him.
The Devil appealed to Eve's pride when he manifested himself as a serpent in the Garden of Eden. He wanted Adam and Eve to be robbed of their birthright of the possession of the vision of God in Heaven. He wanted them to be in a state of war with God and with each other. He wanted them to live lives of despair. He wanted them to hate God as he did.
Eve, the Mother of the Living, did as the serpent wanted, eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, believing that she would be like unto God, knowing all things. Her act of prideful disobedience tied shut the Gates of Heaven. Adam did as she had requested, and his act of disobedience irreparably wounded human nature itself. Original Sin entered the world. Adam and Eve lost the preternatural gifts that had been bestowed upon them by God at their creation. Their intellects were darkened and their wills weakened. The delicate balance between their higher rational faculties and their lower sensual passions was overthrown in favor of the passions. All of the problems of the world--death, disease, injustice, war, poverty, work with sweat, painful childbirth, hatred, gluttony, envy, lust, anger, pride--descended upon the human race. Man had disobeyed the Infinite Being.
God did not abandon His creatures, however. He knew that He would personally enter human history to redeem them, to make it possible for men to overcome the effects of original sin and actual sin in the world if they cooperated with the graces He would win for them on the wood of the Holy Cross. "O happy fault, O necessary sin, which made possible so great a Redeemer," the Easter Exsultet proclaims. Yes, the felix culpa of Adam and Eve made it possible for us to know how much God loved us, that the Father would send His only-begotten Son to be made flesh in the virginal and immaculate womb of our Blessed Mother.
In the mystery of His Divine Providence, God wanted to prepare the human race for the redemption. He works in His time, not ours, something that we have to be reminded of all times, especially in light of the difficulties Holy Mother Church is facing at the early beginnings of the Third Millennium. All of the pages of the Old Testament point to the First Coming of Our Lord. They detail how meticulously God prepared His Chosen People for His own entry into human history in order to redeem the human race.