Standing Against the Serpent: Healing the Hurt of Original Sin

Authored by Lisa Marino in Issue #35.4 of The Sower

In this article, Lisa Marino highlights the centrality of the “gift of self,” not only in God’s divine initiatives throughout salvation history but also within the love between husband and wife. The self-emptying of spouses, in fact, finds its source in God and is a luminous sign for the world of how God gives himself to us in how he loves.

God is the Ultimate Gift-Giver. He is at once both Gift and Giver, in the beginning creating us through a gift of his own life: "...the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being" (Gn. 2:7). God doesn't merely give us a thing—He gives us a Person, himself, and so this Gift has his qualities: it is enduring, active, alive.

A gift needs a receiver, and God himself prepares us to receive his gift. We were made explicitly for this. We were created by receiving this gift. We are most fully human when we continue to receive God's gift and, being made "in the divine image" (Gn. 1:27), in turn make a gift of ourselves. By recapitulating this gift of self, we live fully as an image of God, giving ourselves just as God gives himself. Indeed, "Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself" (Gaudium et Spes, no. 24).

In the Garden of Eden the serpent lies to Eve, telling her that God made the rule against eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in order to keep her from becoming "like gods." Eve understands from this that to be like God she would have to grasp the fruit for herself. Denying that God already made her "in his image" and that he was already making a gift of himself to her, Eve considers the fruit and then grasps at God instead of receiving him, losing exactly him whom she is seeking. In the process she also loses herself, ending up less like God than before. She denies herself the quality of "receptivity," believing that if God is not the kind of God to give himself freely to her, then she could not possibly be the kind of person made expressly to receive his love. This is, of course, all a lie, perpetrated by the "father of lies"(Jn. 8:44).

God does not abandon us in this lie, and immediately promises a Savior. As a living down payment on this promise, God contradicts the serpent's lie by continuing to make a gift of himself throughout salvation history. He gives himself in the Law, in the Prophets, and in many ways great and small until He gives himself in the manger and on the cross.

The fullness of God's promise is realized through Jesus in the Paschal Mystery. We receive forgiveness from original sin, poured forth from the side of Christ and into us in Baptism, but still the “temporal consequences of sin remain..." (CCC 1264). Some of the hurt that remains is the difficulty of believing that God is making a gift of himself to us, and that we are actually made from the beginning to receive him. We question whether he listens to our prayers, we look for a thousand comforts to fill our loneliness, still forgetting that "our hearts are restless until they find rest in you, O Lord" (St. Augustine).

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