Necessary Sin?

In a few days time, we will light the Paschal Candle, and hear the beautiful words of the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation. We use some of the words from that beautiful proclamation to explore some of the days of Holy Week


Have you seen those ‘video trials’ where children are left in a room with a bowl of sweets, and told not to eat one until the parent returns?  The next few minutes are filled with angst and temptation, as the child considers whether or not to have a sweet or two.  Surely, no one would notice.  Sometimes, one sweet leads to another which leads to another, and an empty bowl!  Such videos are often quite humorous  but they also share something of what it means to be human!

Perhaps it was inevitable that Adam, the figurative first man, would go astray.    Given the freedom to make decisions for himself, the liberty to live as he pleased, it’s not surprising that some of what he did fulfilled a need for selfish gain, to try to make him greater than he was, rather than living according to God’s plan.

God doesn’t operate us like robots, does not control us or pull our strings.  We are not puppets for his pleasure.  He does not make us love him or live for him.  After all, who can be made to love anyone? And so God gives us complete freedom to do as we please and yet all the time calls us closer to him, wanting us to be drawn into a loving relationship.

In Holy Scripture, Jesus is called ‘The Second Adam’ and at the Easter Vigil, the Exsultet proclaims, ‘O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!’

It may seem a strange way to describe ‘sin’ as ‘necessary’  But here is meant perhaps the sense that Adam’s sin was bound to happen, considering the freedom he has been given.  It’s into the mess of humanity, the grit and grime of sin, that Christ takes flesh.  He becomes human in every way except sin, says St Paul.

His saving love takes him to the pain of the cross.  Usually on Good Friday, the faithful are invited to offer a physical gesture of veneration by approaching the unveiled cross to bow, to touch, to kiss.  We draw close to Christ, to kiss salvation, to embrace Love who has embraced us.  He is our glorious Redeemer.

This article featured in our Holy Week booklet, “This is the Night: at home with Holy Week’ distributed in our Lenten resource boxes

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