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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Original Sin and Redemption




Juan de Mesa (1583–1627) 
Christ on the Cross 
about 1618–1620
Polychromed wood 
100 x 65 x 22 cm (39 3/8 x 25 9/16 x 8 11/16 in.) 
Archicofradía del Santísimo Cristo del Amor, Collegiate Church of El Salvador, Seville


Juan Martínez Montañés (1568–1649) and unknown painter 
Christ on the Cross (Cristo de los Desamparados)  Christ of the Helpless 
1617 
Painted wood 350 x 200 x 57.5 cm (137 13/16 x 78 3/4 x 22 5/8 in.) 
Church of the Convent of Santo Ángel, Carmelitas Descalzos, Seville


Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) 
Saint Luke Contemplating the Crucifixion   San Lucas como pintor, ante Cristo en la Cruz
1650 
Oil on canvas 105 x 89 cm (41 5/16 x 35 1/16 in.) 
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

The Crucifixion is often visually and symbolically linked to Original Sin and the Fall of Man. 

It was said  that Jesus' cross was made of wood taken from the tree that carried the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve. 

In most depictions, there is a skull at the foot of the cross. 

The skull identifies the hill as Golgotha, the 'place of the skull'. It also represents Adam, since the site of the Crucifixion was believed to be Adam's burial place

These stories and images attempt to demonstrate that the Fall of Man and Original Sin together with the Crucifixion are inextricably linked,

The Catholic concept of "Original Sin" cannot be read as an isolated doctrine about the inherent nature of mankind If it were it would be a doctrine of great pessimism which envisaged Man as a creature of depravity

But the Doctrine has to be read alongside the Revelation that Christ is the second Adam, the Redeemer of all sin . and that all are free to accept or reject Him

Jesus nullifies Adam’s sin, and allow humans once again to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of God`s Paradise. He will restore eternal life on earth for all mankind

The Catechism puts it this way:
389 The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the "reverse side" of the Good News that Jesus is the Saviour of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. The Church, which has the mind of Christ, knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ

But the church`s formulation of the concept of Original Sin has to be distinguished from other conceptions of Original Sin promulgated by other Christian denominations such as Pelagianism and Calvinism:
406 The Church's teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine's reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God's grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam's fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable

As a result the Church stresses the importance of the grace of God as well as the free will of mankind (as distinct from predestination)


The dialogue between Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3: 1 - 21 illustrates  the point when Jesus says to Nicodemus: “The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert” (John. 3, 14).  In 1988 Blessed Pope John Paul  II reflected on the dialogue between Nicodemus and Jesus in a homily in Lesotho . He preached many times on the theme of Original Sin and the Redemption by Christ. 

See also 
Part II, (especially section 4) of Dominum et vivificantem,  18 May 1986
General Audience September 10, 1986
General Audience  September 17, 1986
General Audience September 24, 1986
General Audience  October 1, 1986
General Audience  October 8, 1986
General Audience October 29, 1986

Apart from the Catechism and the exposition of Original Sin and Redemption in a recent report of the International Theological Commission entitled “The Hope of Salvation for Infants who Die Without Being Baptized” (On whether the Doctrine of Limbo is still valid) one of the great expositions of the theme is in one of the last Encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII in 1900 entitled Tametsi Futura Prospicientibus (On Jesus Christ the Redeemer)

For modern mankind it is a profoundly optimistic doctrine and not one of despair and misanthropy

"The human race, exiled and disinherited, had for ages been daily hurrying into ruin, involved in the terrible and numberless ills brought about by the sin of our first parents, nor was there any human hope of salvation, when Christ Our Lord came down as the Saviour from Heaven.  
At the very beginning of the world, God had promised Him as the conqueror of "the Serpent," hence, succeeding ages had eagerly looked forward to His coming. The Prophets had long and clearly declared that all hope was in Him. 
 The varying fortunes, the achievements, customs, laws, ceremonies and sacrifices of the Chosen People had distinctly and lucidly foreshadowed the truth, that the salvation of mankind was to be accomplished in Him who should be the Priest, Victim, Liberator, Prince of Peace, Teacher of all Nations, Founder of an Eternal Kingdom.  
By all these titles, images and prophecies, differing in kind though like in meaning, He alone was designated who "for His exceeding charity wherewith He loved us," gave Himself up for our salvation. And so, when the fullness of time came in God's Divine Providence, the only-begotten Son of God became man, and in behalf of mankind made most abundant satisfaction in His Blood to the outraged majesty of His Father and by this infinite price He redeemed man for His own.  
"You were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver . . . but with the precious Blood of Christ, as of a lamb, unspotted and undefiled" (1 Peter i., 18-19).  
Thus all men, though already subject to His Kingly power, inasmuch as He is the Creator and Preserver of all, were over and above made His property by a true and real purchase. "You are not your own: for you are bought with a great price" (2 Corinthians vi, 19-20).  
Hence in Christ all things are made new. "The mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed to Him, in the dispensation of the fullness of times to re-establish all things in Christ" (Ephesians i., 9-10).  
When Jesus Christ had blotted out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, fastening it to the cross, at once God's wrath was appeased, the primeval fetters of slavery were struck off from unhappy and erring man, God's favour was won back, grace restored, the gates of Heaven opened, the right to enter them revived, and the means afforded of doing so.  
Then man, as though awakening from a long-continued and deadly lethargy, beheld at length the light of the truth, for long ages desired, yet sought in vain. 
First of all, he realised that he was born to much higher and more glorious things than the frail and inconstant objects of sense which had hitherto formed the end of his thoughts and cares.  
He learnt that the meaning of human life, the supreme law, the end of all things was this: that we come from God and must return to Him.  
From this first principle the consciousness of human dignity was revived: men's hearts realised the universal brotherhood: as a consequence, human rights and duties were either perfected or even newly created, whilst on all sides were evoked virtues undreamt of in pagan philosophy.  
Thus men's aims, life, habits and customs received a new direction. 
As the knowledge of the Redeemer spread far and wide and His power, which destroyeth ignorance and former vices, penetrated into the very life-blood of the nations, such a change came about that the face of the world was entirely altered by the creation of a Christian civilisation.  
The remembrance of these events, Venerable Brethren, is full of infinite joy, but it also teaches us the lesson that we must both feel and render with our whole hearts gratitude to our Divine Saviour. 
4. We are indeed now very far removed in time from the first beginnings of Redemption; but what difference does this make when the benefits thereof are perennial and immortal? He who once bath restored human nature ruined by sin the same preserveth and will preserve it for ever.  
"He gave Himself a redemption for all" (1 Timothy ii., 6)."In Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians xv., 22). "And of His Kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke i., 33).