A reader has a question about Mary and Eve

A reader has a question about Mary and Eve April 11, 2019

He writes:

I have a few questions and thought you might be able to point me in the right direction.  I teach a PSR class for 7th grade.  We were discussing Mary as the new Eve and it stirred up some thoughts/question on the subject.  In pondering Mary as the new Eve, it seemed like denying this claim (which several of my family members do as they have left the church) would somehow imply that it didn’t matter if Eve sinned.  So that’s kind of the heart of the question, did Eve eating the forbidden fruit make a difference?  My first inclination is that all sin matters or has some impact, so it must have.  I just can’t find anyone who has commented on it from a Catholic perspective.  In reading Genesis, nothing happens immediately after Eve eats the fruit, but only after Adam eats do they realize they are naked.  Any thoughts on this one?  Do you know of anyone who has written about this topic?

Sorry for my slowness to reply.  I’m not clear what a PSR class is but I gather it is some form of religious ed? I’m not clear why seeing Mary as the new Eve, untying through her obedience the knot Eve tied in her disobedience, makes Eve’s sin not matter. That seem to me to be like saying that Fire Departments make arsonists not matter or trauma surgeons make stabby thugs not matter. I don’t follow the logic.

Original sin is a fundamentally social sin.  Indeed, it is so intensely social that it infects the whole human race.  In the image of God created he man, male and female created he them.  So the disobedience of both Eve and Adam matter.  Both woman and man reject God in the mythic telling of the fall in Genesis 3. ‘Myth’ here does not mean ‘non-historical’.  It means that a real event in human history—our species’ rejection of God—is told in non-newspaper language just as the story of David’s real sin with Bathsheba is told in Nathan’s story of the rich man who stole the poor man’s ewe lamb. It is true that Paul tends to speak of our being sinners ‘in Adam’ not in Eve.  But he also regards Eve as responsible too (2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:13-14).

The point of the Genesis narrative is that human nature, both male and female, was damaged beyond our ability to repair by our rejection of the offer of divine life implicit in the call to obedience to God.  The ripples from that primordial catastrophe radiate out and ramify in countless ways.  Man and woman both fracture and distort their relationship with God (which is why they hide from him.)  But their relation with their own bodies is distorted too (hence their shame at their nakedness, something no other creature experiences).  Their relationship with each other becomes one of power, not love.  Their relationship with the earth is distorted—an extension of their warped relationship with their bodies, which are just the most intimate pieces of earth they know.  And the damage will echo down through time as the thing they lost—participation in divine life—is lost for their children too.  So Genesis will keep telling a fall story over and over.  Cain and Abel. The flood.  The tower of Babel.

Original sin, like blindness, is real, but is not a thing.  It is the lack of something, the hole in the donut, the presence of God in the soul that should have been there, but is not.  As Augustine said, ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless till they rest in you.’  Mary, by the grace given her in Christ, begins the process of undoing the knot of original sin in her ‘yes’ to God, imaging the ‘yes’ that the Bride who is the Church gives to the Bridegroom who is the Last Adam.

Hope that helps.


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