Rorate Caeli

Original Sin: A Sermon

By Father Konrad zu Loewenstein, FSSP
Sermon delivered on the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, 2018

My dear people, if the clergy has taught certain doctrines for well nigh 2000 years and has now stopped teaching them, this can only be a consequence of the fact that the are no longer considered 'relevant'. But when we examine them in detail we discover in fact that they are of essential importance, concerning, as they do, Eternal Life and how to attain it, as well as Eternal Damnation.

Examples of these doctrines are:

That the Devil exists; that Hell exists and is eternal; that if some-one dies in mortal sin, he will go to Hell; If someone dies in the state of Grace, by contrast, he will go to Heaven, or to Purgatory and then to Heaven. Examples of mortal sin are impure acts of all types (including that which is alone and contraception), blasphemy, Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, the concealment of a mortal sin in Confession (To be mortal, we note, a sin must of course be committed in full awareness with deliberate consent).

Further examples: there is only one Faith and only one Religion and that is the Catholic Faith and Religion. Only these will lead to Heaven. There is only one Church and that is the Catholic Church: the rest are all false and do not lead to Heaven. Yes, there is only one Church, my dear people, and that is our glorious Catholic Church: Immaculate, Sinless, infallible, and the Possessor of all Truth. There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church (extra Ecclesiam non est salus).

The meaning of life is the sanctification of the soul, there is no other meaning. To this end, Faith and Grace are necessary and the practice of the virtues, of which one of the most glorious is chastity. Necessary also is mortification, penance, merits, and prayer. Of great importance is the prayer of meditation (and I do not mean the Buddhist type), contemplation, and the practice of the presence of God. Indulgences are also of great value for our sanctification. Grace brings with it the most Blessed Trinity into the soul. God loves each person with an unequal love, according to the person's degree of sanctity, or in other words amiability: the better the person, the more God loves him/her, and the higher degree of glory that person will receive for all eternity in Heaven.

Why are such doctrines no longer considered 'relevant'? Because they are 'negative'. Devil, Hell, sin, Purgatory, mortification; the thought that not all will be saved, that the other 'religions' are not salvific; that some are better than others and so on, are evidently disturbing, and represent a challenge for a carefree, sweet and easy life-style where it's enough to be 'nice', and where Heaven is like this life, only better.

Among the doctrines no longer preached is the doctrine of Original Sin. This doctrine is considered eminently negative, in its relation to Death, suffering, Hell, the Devil, Fallen Nature, the necessity for asceticism and so forth. And yet because it has been preached by the Church always (up till recently) and everywhere, and because of its necessary connection to defined Dogmas, such as the necessity of baptism for salvation and that of the Immaculate Conception, must itself be considered infallible.

The Bible Commission set up by Saint Pius X, one of the very greatest Saints of modern, and indeed, of all times, declared that the account of Original Sin in Genesis must be taken in a literal sense in regard to the following elements:

1. God issued a commandment to the first man to make trial of his obedience;

2. The man transgressed the commandment, seduced by the Devil under the form of a serpent;

3. The first parents were excluded from the original state of innocence.

The first thing to note, my dear people, is that Adam and Eve are real people, the first parents of the entire human race. The human race does not descend from different couples in different places, but from one couple, this couple; it does not descend from a series of apes either. I should hardly need to say this...but I shall.

When the Bible Commission tells us that they were "excluded from the state of innocence" what does this mean? To understand the effects of Original Sin, we must first understand the nature of Original Innocence. Adam and Eve had received certain gifts which transcend the entire capacity of human nature, namely:

a) Supernatural Grace - which unites man to God;

b) the capacity neither to suffer or to die;

c) clarity of intellect and strength of the will;

d) the complete control of all the inferior faculties of the soul, that is to say the movements of the mind and the senses: the passions and the emotions.

All this they lost for themselves; and because they acted as representatives of the whole human race, they lost also for the whole human race. My dear people, just think of the significance of this doctrine. Without Original Sin we would never have had to suffer, nor to die. We would have been in complete control of all our emotions, with a clear intelligence and a strong will. As it is, we are conceived without Grace; we suffer and we die; we find it hard to understand, to exercise our will; we recoil from hardships; our feelings and emotions assail us like spoiled children in search of gratification (as St. John of the. Cross puts it) - anger, fear, lust, despair, inept joy, sadness, the inordinate desire to see, to know, and to possess. A further consequence of Original Sin is our subjection, at least in part, to the Devil's influence and power.

Looked at another way, we could ask ourselves why God would have created man with all such defects? The question is often asked in regard to suffering, but it can equally well be asked in regard to death, an entirely abhorrent process, and the disordered emotions and appetites. The answer is of course that God created everything good, as we read in Genesis, but man, by his sin, introduced into it a principle of degradation.

The other day, my dear people (if you will excuse a biographical note) I was travelling in a train across Switzerland. Outside: the beautiful green countryside, hills and trees, lakes and mountains. Inside, rather less beautifully, a quotation written on a sort of frieze on the wall of the train: "Human nature is good", signed Jean-Jacques Rousseau (a modern so-called 'thinker', of the so-called "Enlightenment" - where we may say in the words of Holy Scripture: "Light is put for darkness and darkness for light").

Human nature, my dear people, is not good, or not wholly good. It is fallen and corrupt - not totally, as the heresiarch Martin Luther was pleased to opine, but partly corrupt. Human nature retains its orientation to God as absolute Truth and absolute Good, but it is disordered and has acquired properties and tendencies which distance it from Him - from Truth and Goodness - and attach it to the self, to the finite and limited things of this world - to possessions, to information, to self-gratification and pride, all of which lead in the end only to imperfections, sin, Hell, and nothingness.

The present age, my dear people - we only have to look around us - represents the final blossoming of Fallen Nature in an incommensurable flower of evil, exuding everywhere its poisonous, asphyxiating miasma. "Human nature is good" cry forth its 'thinkers', its fallen masses with their dead and sorrowing eyes, their drugs, their labyrinthine promiscuity, their gender "theories", their massacre of the innocents, their music and all their arts characterized by a singular lack of harmony and Divine order. "Human nature is good" echo the psychiatrists, deftly taking their fees, as they seek to assuage the disordered passions of their clients with worldly maxims, somniferents and anti-depressants, as though peace and happiness were merely a question of the choice of the right pill.

And the Churchmen of to-day in general, my dear people, are silent, but should you wish to enter a theology library and go to the section on Spirituality, you would find a complete consensus on the part of all the Churchmen of the past on this point, as well as all the Fathers and Doctors of the Church and all the Saints that have ever lived.

Human nature is fallen. Our task is to combat it with discipline and patience, and to pursue the opposing tendency of the soul which leads to God; to re-orient the soul to the True and the Good, to bring it back to life and heal and illuminate it with Grace and all the sacraments; to practice the Cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and moderation - and especially in that part of moderation which is chastity; to combat the weakness of the intellect and the will, and our recoiling from hardships, and all our disordered passions; to grow in Faith, Hope and Charity so that as a result of our discipline and patience, the lower faculties of the soul may be again subjected to the higher faculties - to the intellect and the will -, and the intellect and the will subjected to Faith, and Faith subjected to God.

The consequence will be that the soul, now well-ordered, will be at peace, which in this world is the greater part of happiness; and under the guidance of Faith, Hope and Charity will find ever less bitterness even in suffering and in death - those two profound bodily wounds inflicted on us by Adam.

"The creation is subject to vanity" says St Paul in to-day's Epistle, "it groans and gives birth even up to now...We too groan, even though we have already begun to reap the spiritual harvest waiting for the adoption of the sons of God: the redemption of our body in Christ Jesus Our Lord". We are subject to vanity because having lost the clarity of intellect and the strength of will, we are drawn by our senses and emotions towards nothingness and the void. We groan because we suffer in this life: we groan like a woman in child-labour, labouring as we are to give birth to a new life, the life of glory. This life exists in us already, but we must bring it to its term, to its perfect fruition in Heaven.

This we do by the work of discipline on ourselves that I have attempted to outline, whereby our soul, ordered to God, may sail in calm across the dangerous paths of the earthly ocean to the harbour of eternal blessedness, as we pray with the sublime and sovereign words in to-day's Collect: "Grant we beseech thee O Lord, that the course of this world may peacefully be directed for us in Thine order, and that the Church may rejoice in tranquil devotion, through Christ Our Lord, Amen".

For the Feast of St. Ephraem, the following day

"There will be a time when they will not bear sane doctrine, but will heap up masters according to their desires, itching with their ears, and will avert their hearing from Truth and turn to fables." So the Epistle of to-day, my dear faithful, for the Feast of the Doctor of the Church St. Ephraem, the Syrian.

Is St. Paul not also speaking about our present time? Catholic doctrines are no longer taught, are considered negative: the Devil, Hell, mortification, even discipline. Instead new ideas: the Church is not necessary, all Religions lead to God, we'll all be saved anyway, no-one goes to Hell, or it doesn't exist, or it's empty anyway... after all God is good. God is good, we're all good, human nature is good, X or Y is good - alright they're living together unmarried, but they're good. Impurity? What's that got to do with it? They're not harming anybody, are they?

New teachers: Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest, preaching Pantheism: All is God. God is the World. We are in evolution to becoming God. The Cosmic Christ. Darwin: We came from the apes, from "pre-hominids". It sounds scientific, does it not?. So what are we, then? Apes or God? or apes becoming God?

New ideas and new teachers heaped up according to our desires, so that we can do what we like. After all we are apes - or God. Morally it comes to the same thing. And self-professed Catholics believing such things, itching with their ears for novelties, turning from Truth to fables... turning from the Truth which is God: Being Itself, the Most Holy Trinity, together with all the Catholic dogmas which are centered on Him; turning to fables: constructs of the intellect, figments of the imagination, born of passing desires, castles in the air, vapour in the air dispelled by the rays of the morning sun, insubstantial, transient, leaving nothing behind, like arrows passing through the air around which the air closes again, or like the furrows of a ship in the boundless ocean, passing, falling away, dissolving into nothingness.

And this rather than a life based on reality: on the Truth that is God, on the Rock that is Christ, in the house which will not fall in the tempest, in the boat which alone will survive the inundation, leading a serious, disciplined life according to reality, according to the objective canons of the True and the Good, amassing treasures in Heaven where moths will not enter, nor rust, nor thieves, but which with our patience, discipline, and sacrifice will ensure our eternal inheritance in the eternal Heart of God, with Our Blessed Mother, St. Ephraem, Doctor of the Church, and all the angels and saints.

May the Holy Name of Jesus be praised forever! Amen.