Elevation of Man
ELEVATION OF MAN
In the abstract, the elevation of man means God's gratuitous assigning to man of a sole supernatural destiny (the beatific vision) together with the means necessary and suitable for the attainment of this end. In the concrete, it means the Father's plan for incorporating man, creature and sinner, into Christ the Savior. In epitome, it means the new Adam, Christ, head and members. From all eternity the Father has predestined us "to become conformed to the image of his Son, that he should be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom 8.29).
Elevation in the First Adam
The Book of Genesis (2.4b–3.24) describes man's origin according to the Yahwistic tradition; the description is primitive, anthropomorphic (Yahweh is a potter working in clay) and contrasts with the later, stylized record of the priestly code preserved for us in Gn 1.1–2.4a (where God has merely to issue a command and things spring into being). Our concern is solely with man's elevation in our first parents. In picturesque and allegorical language, their elevation is depicted as a state of privilege destroyed by sin. Thus Adam is made outside the garden, in the desert, and then transported into Eden, where he lives on terms of familiarity and friendship with Yahweh (what later theology will call the state of grace), enjoying easy access to the tree of life. With Eve he goes about in unblushing nakedness. Sin enters and all is changed. Deprived of their privileges, Adam and Eve are driven out of the garden, back into the desert.
Reflecting on this inspired account, the Church has come to recognize in our first parents what it names the state of original justice, comprising gifts both supernatural (deification) and preternatural (immunity from concupiscence and from bodily death). Taking their stand on Gn 3.16–19, Fathers of the Church (e.g., Augustine, Chrysostom) and theologians have commonly attributed to Adam a state of felicity exempt from bodily aches and woes, and enriched with the possession not only of the supernatural knowledge of faith but also of divinely infused natural knowledge proportioned to his privileged state, necessary for his self-guidance and for his position as founder of the human race (see knowledge, infused).
However, in crediting Adam with exceptional talents and virtuosities, sobriety is always to be commended. Modern thinkers incline to regard as otiose the elaborate "might-have-been" speculations of, say, F. Suárez (De op. sex dierum 5; Vivès ed., 3:380–447). The sacred writer was probably not at all trying to report on a particular geographical locality of idyllic amenities where our first parents spent some months of happiness; it may well be that he intended to make no statement either about an actual place or about a considerable sojourn in it. Perhaps his interest was centered exclusively in asserting a state or condition, so that his formal teaching might be condensed as follows: our first parents were invested with high privileges forfeited through their disobedience.
Moreover, an excessive lingering over Adam's situation before the Fall could betray a harmful misplacement of accent. An enlightened Christian does not cultivate a nostalgia for paradise, a sighing for a lost age of gold. He is not a pessimist lamenting Adam's sin as the irreparable primeval catastrophe that casts its melancholy shadow over the whole of subsequent history. Rather he will regard this first phase in man's elevation as radically orientated to the second; he will remember that Adam is no more than the type of Christ to come (τύπος το[symbol omitted] μέλλοντος: Rom 5.14).
Restoration in Christ
St. Leo the Great (d. 461) wrote: "What fell in the first Adam, is raised up in the second" (Serm. 12.1; Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 54:168). St. Paul three times compared Christ with Adam: 1 Cor 15.21–22; 44–49; Rom 5.12–21. The elevation of man lost by original sin is restored by Christ. He, then, is the reconciler, the redeemer, and the renewer. The cumulative force of this trio of typical Pauline expressions means a return to a previously existing state of friendship, freedom, familiarity, or peace [see F. Zorell, Lexikon Graecum NT (Paris 1931) under ἀποκαταλλάσσω, καταλλάσσω, καταλλαγή, ἀπολύτρωσις, ἀνακαινόω, ἀνακαίνωσις, ἀνανεόω]. Hence there is some factor common to both elevations, essential to each. What is this common element? It is undoubtedly the state of grace or deification, comprising the twofold basic gift of indwelling Spirit (see indwelling, divine) and created, habitual grace; then the infused theological and moral virtues, together with the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. Thus arises a divinized man, a sharer in the divine nature, an adoptive son of the heavenly Father, holy, capable of meriting, heir to the beatific vision. Such a precious complex of gifts, whether in the first or second elevation, can issue only from divine love—for the grace-life is nothing but the self-communication of the Triune God out of personal love. But there is a difference. If Adam's grace-life was, like ours, given in love (ἐν ἀγάπῃ: Eph 1.4), it was not given in the beloved (ἐν τ[symbol omitted] ήγαπημέν[symbol omitted]: Eph 1.6), in Christ. If Adam had gratia Dei, he did not have gratia Christi. The measure of the difference between the first and second elevation is Christ. Restoration, then, means full incorporation into Christ through the Sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) so that man, though stricken with the double unworthiness of creature and sinner, is nevertheless made a full member of the mystical body of christ. He enters into the Church with its divinely guaranteed teaching and governance of men, with its liturgy (above all, the Mass and the Sacraments). He treats as his own the Scriptures, the Mother of God, and the saints. The specific difference marking man's elevation in Christ can be summed up in the sacramental character—if this is correctly understood: in Adam man was elevated above all by grace; in Christ he is elevated by grace together with the distinct entity of the sacramental character [see Heythrop Journal 2 (1961) 318–33].
Relationship between Two Elevations
A triple task confronts us here: first, to explain a negative proposition; second, to explain a positive proposition; third, to assess some difficulties.
Not God's Master Plan. The elevation in Adam was not God's master plan.
First Reason. For this negative assertion, the first reason is based on the sovereignty of God. To identify man's elevation in Adam with God's master plan in the sense that Adam's sin wrecked it, as it were forcing God to concoct some fresh, second-best scheme, is to derogate from God's supremacy. It implies that the will of a creature can be the last and complete explanation of events, whereas in fact it can never wield more than a proximate, partial, and always an essentially subordinate control. Such is the unequivocal teaching of St. Paul. Commenting on God's predilection for Jacob over Esau, he affirms: "for before the children had yet been born, or had done aught of good or evil, in order that the selective purpose of God might stand, depending not on deeds, but on him who calls, it was said to her [Rebecca], 'The elder shall serve the younger' … So then there is question not of him who wills nor of him who runs [τρέχοντος], but of God showing mercy" (Rom 9.11–16).
Second Reason. That revelation proclaims Christ as the center of all (Col 3.11), the goal of God's eternal decrees, is the second reason for this negative assertion. Though second in the course of time, Christ takes precedence over Adam and all others, being the first-born both of every creature in general and of the dead in particular; all things were made through Him, directed toward Him (εἰς α[symbol omitted]τόν: Col 1.16), and established in Him, head of the Church, redeemer (Col 1.15–20), recapitulator (Eph1.10).
Third Reason. One is forbidden, thirdly, to identify God's master plan with the elevation in Adam because this latter, while assuredly revealing God's love, does not equally manifest His mercy. Yet revelation lays stress on the manifestation of mercy as God's aim in creating. (A reflection of this appears, e.g., in the Collect, tenth Sunday after Pentecost: "God, you make known your limitless might above all by sparing and showing pity….") If God wants to reveal His inmost being throughmercy, He has to choose an order into which sin enters. Adam's sin, then, is woven into the pattern of God's plan. Together with the sins that follow, it forms the raw material, so to speak, on which God's mercy works. At the Easter Vigil, the Church pronounces Adam's guilt fortunate—it won for us such and so great a Redeemer: "O felix culpa quae talem ac tantum meruit habere redemptorem." St. Irenaeus (d. c. 202) asserted boldly that since the Son of God preexisted from all eternity precisely as Savior, He needed sinners to save, otherwise His role of Savior would be futile: "Cum enim praeexisteret salvans, oportebat et quod salvaretur fieri, uti non vacuum sit salvans" (Adversus haereses 3.22.3; Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne, 7:958). The implication, of course, is that the Father, because He predestined His Son precisely as Savior, deliberately chose a scheme in which there would be sinners. Such a notion may jolt any who forget that it is in fact only an echo of St. Paul: "For God has shut up all in disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all" (Rom 11.32; cf. Gal 3.22; Rom 3.9–19; 5.20). Further, St. Paul himself has a parallel in the suggestion of many passages from the Gospels: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk 19.10); "For I have come to call sinners, not the just" (Mt 9.13). Such words are commonly interpreted as expressions of Our Lord's kind and pitiful heart. They have, in fact, a deeper significance: they bear witness to God's eternal choice of the glorification of mercy as His goal in creating, to His selection of a fallen world as providing scope for His mercy. Christ's characteristic consorting with sinners, so scandalous to the Pharisees, was a visible symbol of His Father's eternal selection of such a world where sin, freely committed by men, abounds in order that redemptive grace might superabound (cf. Rom 5.12–21). The return of the prodigal son is celebrated to the chagrin of the elder, irreproachable brother (Lk 15.25–32)—a predilection that the liturgy (Saturday after second Sunday of Lent) tellingly parallels with the preference shown to Jacob over Esau (Gn 27.6–40). Adam's sin, like Rebecca's trickery, can provoke only divine reprobation—yet both throw open the doors to the Almighty's selective purpose, that mystery of salvation kept hidden from the beginning of time in the all-creating mind of God (cf. Eph 3.9).
Thus the elevation in Adam, far from being God's master plan, is not even on a footing of equality and coordination with the later phase. It can claim only a priority of time; its very raison d'être and intelligibility depend on the restoration in Christ that it, as a subsidiary and preparatory episode, ushers in.
Superiority of Restoration in Christ. The restoration in Christ enjoys positive superiority over the original elevation in Adam.
St. Paul and the Fathers. This is the emphatic teaching of Rom 5.12–21, where the work of Adam and of Christ are sharply contrasted. According to Paul, Christ did not merely undo the harm spread by Adam's sin; He goes far beyond readjusting the balance; He endows us with much more than was forfeited in Adam [see Rom 5.15: "… much more has the grace of God … abounded unto the many (πολλ[symbol omitted] μ[symbol omitted]λλον … ἐπερίσσευσεν)"; 20: "grace has abounded yet more ([symbol omitted]πµρεπερίσσευσεν)"]. St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) thus urges Paul's thought: "Christ did not only profit us in the measure in which Adam harmed us, but much more and better (ἀλλὰ καì πολλ[symbol omitted] πλε[symbol omitted]ον καì με[symbol omitted]ζον)" (In ep. ad Rom. hom. 10.2; Patrologia Graeca 60:476). And again: "…Paul did not say grace abounded but super-abounded … it is as though one did not simply rid a man of his fever but made him handsome, robust and honored; or as though one did not merely feed a hungry man but made him master of much money and constituted him a high-ranking administrator" (ibid. 10.3; Patrologia Graeca 60:478–79). St. Paul's affirmation of the superiority of our elevation in Christ is caught up and repeated again and again by the writers both of antiquity and of more recent centuries. To mention a few: St. Ambrose [De instit. virg. 17.104; De Jac. et vita beata 1.6.21; Ennarr. in ps. 39, 20 ("Felix ruina, quae reparatur in melius.")], St. Cyril of Alexandria [see H. du Maunoir, Dogme et spiritualité chez s. Cyrille d'Aléxandrie (Paris 1944) 175–78, 293–97], St. Leo the Great, and St. Bernard. St. Francis de Sales may be taken as the spokesman of this massive tradition: "Our loss has been to our profit, since in fact mankind has received from its Savior more grace through the Redemption than it would ever have received through the innocence of Adam, had he persevered in this" [Traité de l'amour de Dieu (Annecy 1894) 2.5].
Liturgy. Likewise bearing witness to the primacy of the restoration in Christ is the liturgy. At the Offertory of the Mass, mingling water with wine, the priest recites an ancient prayer whose drift is not invariably correctly seized. A comparison is drawn between the wonderful dignity of the first creation and the still more wonderful restoration: mirabilius reformasti. It is beyond cavil that in the language of the early Church the dignity of man's creation meant Adam's being equipped with his supernatural and preternatural gifts. In the decrees of the early councils, in patristic literature, in the classical texts of the liturgy man is considered not philosophically or as a rational animal, but historically, i.e., as endowed with God's love in Adam, or as under his curse through original sin. At the Easter Vigil, the prayer concluding the first prophecy expresses exactly the same idea as this Offertory prayer.
Assessment of Difficulties. A number of theological problems arise when one has such an understanding of man's restoration as is outlined above.
God, Author of Sin? If, in order to display mercy, God chooses a world in which sin destroys the elevation in Adam, is not God the author of sin? The answer is negative. God does not cause sin, but He does permit it as consequent upon the free play of man's will. Always and everywhere God seeks the positive good that is Christ and the imitation of Christ; He permits sin only in that perspective. Never could God, without gainsaying His very being, choose sin for its own sake. Man, on the contrary, can will moral evil—the sole thing he can create because it is pure destruction. It might be added that God's fore-knowledge of sin does not undermine man's freedom, which God always respects. What violates freedom is an inward constraint on the will. The fact that an event, fore-known by God, inevitably must happen implies a necessity extrinsic, not intrinsic, to the will.
Evils Consequent on Sin. But did not Adam's sin unleash the pack of trials, sorrows, and evils that still affect men? How, then, can the restoration in Christ be anything more than a poor substitute, at best enabling us to save something from all that was lost? Again, even if God, in pardoning the sinner, shows greater liberality and love, is not the very need of mercy sheer loss? Surely it is better not to need, than to need, mercy? Lastly, is not the forgiven sinner, disfigured with the scar of his sin, less resplendent than Adam arrayed in original justice?
To such questions it may be replied that God's pardon is creative. It is not simply a declaration that all is forgiven and forgotten, leaving the sinner inwardly the same. Like the command at the beginning of time that caused the world to exist, God's decree of remission effects an inward change, a regeneration, a miraculous transformation, as St. Paul plainly assures us: "If then any man is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old things have disappeared; something new is there" (2 Cor5.17). "For his workmanship we are, created in Christ Jesus…" (Eph 2.10). Perhaps one should rethink the seemingly paradoxical words of Our Lord: "… there will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, more than over 99 just who have no need of repentance" (Lk 15.7). In cold reality, how can there be more joy (whether in heaven or on earth) after sin than before it? Is this text to be dismissed as divine hyperbole and rhetoric? Possibly the solution lies in the creativeness of divine forgiveness. Because the miraculous transformation wrought by the Father's mercy in Christ positively transcends in value an innocence never lost, therefore the joy over the conversion of even a solitary sinner eclipses the joy over innocence persevered in. To be quite concrete: a converted sinner (like Paul, Augustine) who, with the utmost generosity, is incorporated into Christ outshines the angels who never sinned; for he is in Christ Jesus; they are not. For lovers of God, all things (therefore even sin, as SS. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas expressly maintain in their writings) work together for good (Rom 8.28).
Loss of Preternatural Gifts. Even after the Redemption, concupiscence and death, with their attendant drawbacks, tragedies, and even horrors, reign in the world: surely Adam, equipped with integrity and immortality was much better off.
One way of replying to such a statement is to emphasize that the man incorporated into Christ has incomparably more precious gifts—e.g., the Sacraments. No preternatural gift can do what every Sacrament does—to wit, give, ex opere operato, not only a new bond with the Mystical Body but also grace. Penance and the Eucharist in particular, when fittingly and frequently received, aid a man continuously to approach more and more that self-mastery given by integrity; simultaneously, of course, they advance his holiness, his capacity for meriting, and the apostolic worth of his life. Finally, they are his warrant for the eventual resurrection of his flesh.
Furthermore, the trials, sufferings, sorrows, humiliations, weariness, and temptations associated with concupiscence and death take on for the man reborn in Christ a new sense and value. First, they can be used as honorable amends for his own shortcomings and sins; second, properly handled, they can very effectively promote his own holiness; third (and this is the capital consideration here), they have a crusading quality. It was through suffering and death that Christ redeemed the world. He seeks the cooperation of Christians in this supreme work. He invites them to make up in their own flesh what is wanting in His sufferings for the sake of His Body, the Church (Col 1.24). Thus Christ invests the hardships of life with a dynamic and apostolic purpose. Under Him, inspired by His example, in solidarity with Him, Christians are to be cooperators in the salvation of their fellowmen. The means above all to be used, those of Christ Himself, are to the hand of every mortal man—self-denial, suffering, and even death. Christians must accept these not in a spirit of grim stoicism and fatalistic resignation; rather they must welcome them with apostolic joy ("I rejoice now in the sufferings…" Col 1.24; cf. Acts 5.41). They may even go so far as St. Paul—boasting of their fraility, need, and weakness, so that the strength of Christ can rest upon them and be thrown into relief: "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12.10); "I know whom I have believed" (2 Tim 1.12); "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Phil 4.13). They will draw consolation from the thought that Christ has pronounced blessed those who suffer for love of Him (Mt 5.1–12).
Sin and Mercy. If the manifestation of divine mercy is so great a good, then the more of it the better. Hence, ought not a man sin with abandon so as to afford God wider scope for mercy? St. Paul has anticipated this objection; he asks (Rom 6.1) whether it follows that we ought to go on sinning, to give still more occasion for grace. And he answers: "By no means! For how shall we who are dead to sin still live in it?" (Rom 6.2; note also the following verses.) Our faith, which prompts us to regard Adam's sin as fortunate for us, likewise teaches us that sin is the chief evil, that the end does not justify the means (cf. Rom 3.8) and that the whole posterity of Adam needs Redemption. In harmony with our faith, St. Thérèse of Lisieux asserted that in preserving her from mortal sin God showed greater love and mercy than in liberating Magdalen from many mortal sins. In an absolutely peerless way, God displayed love and mercy toward His Blessed Mother: all others are at best liberated from sinfulness; she alone was preserved from it in whatever form, being redeemed most eminently. As a daughter of Adam, born into the human race through the normal processes of generation, she ought to have had sin. In fact, by a singular privilege of redemptive grace, she was kept utterly innocent. But while the innocence neither of Adam before the Fall nor of the loyal angels came from the Redemption in Christ, hers did. More closely united to Christ than any other creature, full of grace and therefore (redemptive grace is dynamic and apostolic) the special consort of the Redeemer in the salvation of others, paragon of the redeemed, Mary gives perfect expression to the surpassing excellence of the restoration in Christ.
See Also: friendship with god; grace, articles on; grace and nature; holy spirit, gifts of; incorporation in christ; jesus christ (in theology) 3 (special questions), 12. primacy; justification; man 3; obediential potency; rebirth (in the bible); recapitulation in christ; redemption; beatific vision; destiny, supernatural.
Bibliography: j. schildenberger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 1:127–30. j. chaine, Catholicisme. Hier, aujourd'hui et demain, ed. g. jacquemet (Paris 1947–) 1:127–29. l. vaganay, ibid. 1:129. thomas aquinas, Summa theologiae 1a, 94–102; 1a2ae, 85.2. c. boyer, Tractatus de Deo creante et elevante (5th ed. Rome 1957). p. galtier, Les Deux Adam (Paris 1947). f. prat, The Theology of St. Paul, tr. j. l. stoddard, 2 v. (Westminster, Md. 1958) v.2. j. f. sagÜÉs, Sacrae theologiae summa, ed. fathers of the society of jesus, professors of the theological facilities in spain, v.2 (3d ed. 1958) 2.2:675–812. m. flick, "Il dogma del peccato originale nella teologia contemporanea," in Problemi e orientamenti di teologia dommatica v.2 (Milan 1957) 89–122. r. carpenter, "Mirabilius reformasti," Nouvelle revue théologique 61 (1934) 338–49. a. vitti, "Christus-Adam," Biblica 7 (1926) 121–45, 270–85, 384–401.
[j. p. kenny]
"Elevation of Man." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 24, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/elevation-man
"Elevation of Man." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved March 24, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/elevation-man
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.