Feast of the Glorious Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven
Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Genesis is rightly called the “book of beginnings,” because every important institution originates in Genesis. Moreover, when God reveals the origin of an institution, like Holy Marriage, before the Original Sin, He also reveals that institution to us in its ideal form, so that we can know how it is supposed to function in the “restoration of all things in Christ” that His grace makes possible. In this newsletter, I would like to focus on an aspect of Holy Marriage that God revealed at the very beginning of the sacred history of Genesis, before the Original Sin, thus indicating that it is an essential and fundamental aspect of His ideal plan.
No Contradiction Between Genesis One and Genesis Two
Contrary to the vast majority of contemporary Biblical scholars who are sure that they know better than the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, there are not two contradictory accounts of creation in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 and 3. Many scholars today argue that the simultaneous creation of man as male and female in Genesis 1 contradicts the account of the creation of man before woman in Genesis 2 and shows that these chapters are not meant to be understood as historical narrative. In reality, with the possible exception of St. Augustine, whose reasons for proposing a simultaneous creation of all things are explained here, none of the Fathers saw this as an example of a contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2, understood as historical narrative. Hence, the great Belgian exegete Cornelius a Lapide, summing up the teaching of the Fathers and Doctors, wrote:
Scripture does not say, “He created him;” it says “He created them,” specifically Adam and Eve. In other words, He created Adam a male and Eve a female. Therefore, it is clear that their names are announced by way of anticipation, for Moses has not yet described Eve’s creation, even though she was made on this same sixth day. (He reserves her creation for Genesis 2:22).
Genesis 1 gives God’s summary of what He did in the work of creation before there were any witnesses. Genesis 2 focuses on the details of the creation and early history of Adam and Eve. Genesis One tells us that God created man on the sixth day of Creation, after He had created all of the different kinds of plants and animals:
And He said: Let Us make man to Our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. And God created man to His own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth. And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat: And to all the beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon. And it was so done (Genesis 1:27-30).
The Complementary Roles and Shared Mission of Adam and Eve
As Mike Gladieux has demonstrated in How Moses Wrote Genesis, the account in Genesis 1 was almost certainly given to Moses directly by God. It establishes that God created man male and female from the beginning; that He made them to have dominion over the whole Earth; and that this would entail having children and raising them to be good stewards of creation. Genesis 2 takes a closer look at the creation of Adam and Eve and reveals that God created Adam first, body and soul, and allowed him to seek a companion among the animals so that he would realize his need for a help-mate specially designed for him. Genesis 2 also reveals Adam’s vocation to be a priest in relation to his wife, to their future progeny, and to the whole creation. He receives the Word of God directly from God not to eat of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. According to Moses, Adam dresses and “keeps” the Garden of Eden, the same word that the Lord will later use to describe the fulfillment of priestly religious duties such as the Passover ritual (cf. Exodus 12:24).
God allows Adam to encounter the various kinds of animals to help him to realize that none of them is a suitable “help-mate” for him. But he does not need to “go courting.” In the exalted state of holiness in which God has created Him, Adam wants nothing but to love, praise, and adore God with his every thought, word, and action. While Adam remains in that exalted state, it is a simple matter for God to put him into a deep sleep, and to form from his own flesh the perfect “help-mate” for him. God’s identification of the woman in relation to Adam as a “helper like him” (Gen 2:20) from the beginning reveals that husband and wife in Holy Marriage are equal in dignity because of their common nature but complementary in roles within their relationship. God makes Adam the head of his wife and family and gives Eve the role of helping her husband to carry out the mission entrusted to him. Eve receives this role before she has any children to care for. To be Adam’s helper is essential to Eve’s relationship with her husband. But her ability to fulfill her role depends to a great extent on the way that Adam fulfills his role as teacher and guardian.
Moses does not tell us exactly why Eve succumbed to satan’s temptations. In retrospect, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Eve would have been more resistant to satan’s temptation if Adam had made her more of a sharer in his mission of dressing and “keeping” the Garden. It is easy to imagine that in Eve’s original exalted state of holiness, the consequences of deviating from God’s commandment, which she had received through her husband, were almost inconceivable. But God holds Adam responsible not so much for failing to make Eve a sharer in his mission of “keeping” the Garden before her transgression as afterwards. Thus, St. John Chrysostom has God address Adam after the Fall in these words:
Even if your wife prepared the way for your transgressing My command, you were not without guilt. You should have regarded My command as more worthy of trust. And, beyond dissuading yourself alone from eating, you should have demonstrated the gravity of the sin to your wife as well. After all, you are head of your wife, and she has been created for your sake; but you have inverted the proper order: not only have you failed to keep her on the straight and narrow but you have been dragged down with her, and whereas the rest of the body should follow the head, the contrary has in fact occurred, the head following the rest of the body, turning things upside down (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis, Homily 17).
Shared Mission in the Lives of Married Saints
Although the sinless period in the life of Adam and Eve was short-lived, the lives of married saints offer many beautiful examples of husbands and wives who fulfilled the complementary roles that God assigned to them at the foundation of the world. Consider the example of St. Ferdinand III and his help-mate, Queen Joan of Ponthieu. During the great siege of Seville (1247-1248) Queen Joan arranged for the production of an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary named by St. Ferdinand III “The Virgin of the Kings” when the king’s army seemed to be stalemated before the massive walls of Seville. It was through this image that Our Lady spoke to St. Ferdinand at a moment of profound discouragement and gave him the guidance that led to the miraculous occupation and conquest of that city of 166 towers.
King St. Ferdinand III and Queen Joan of Ponthieu
A more recent example of shared mission in holy matrimony can be found in the marriage of Japanese convert and radiologist Takashi Nagai (1908-1951) and his wife Midori (d. 1945), a descendant of the Catholic families evangelized by St. Francis Xavier and the Japanese Martyrs. After being converted to the Catholic Faith in large part by the prayers and holy example of his future wife and her family, Nagai married Midori and worked as a radiologist in Nagasaki, the ancient center of Japanese Christianity. His responsibilities as a radiologist did not prevent him from seeing his work as a mission to build up the Kingdom of God with his wife and four children. Midori served as president of the association of the women of the Urakami district, while Takashi served as an active member of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and visited his patients and the poor, bringing them practical help, consolation, and food. On several occasions Takashi met St. Maximilian Kolbe who lived from 1931 to 1936 on the outskirts of Nagasaki where he started a monastery. Midori was incinerated by the atomic bomb dropped on the Catholic neighborhood of Nagasaki, leaving behind only the charred beads of the Rosary that she carried. Dr. Nagai spent the rest of his life urging the survivors of the A-bomb to unite their sufferings to the sufferings of Christ for the peace of the world. The story of his and his wife’s shared mission is told very beautifully by Fr. Paul Glynn in his work A Song for Nagasaki, one of the most beautiful portraits of a Catholic marriage that I have ever read.
Maria Midori Moryama
Dr. Paul Takashi Nagai
(mourning his wife in 1946)
The Need for Teaching on Shared Mission in Holy Marriage
When one reflects on the beauty of shared mission in the lives of married saints, one realizes the great need for teaching on this theme, both for young men and for young women who discern a vocation to Holy Marriage. The young man who discerns a vocation to Holy Marriage should ask God to reveal his mission to him as the head of a Christian family. The young woman who discerns a vocation to Holy Marriage should also seek a husband who will not only be a faithful, loving spouse and provider, a holy, firm and loving teacher and guide to their children, but also a man with a desire to contribute to the building up of the Kingdom of God through his work. His work could be farming, a profession, or a business conducted honestly and faithfully for the glory of God and for the building up of His Kingdom, but whatever it is it should be viewed as a mission that husband, wife and children can carry out together through their joint prayers and efforts.
“In Genesis 2: Teaching Its Truth to Women,” author Kimberly Hartke has described the liberation she experienced when she took God at His Word in Genesis 2 and understood her calling to be a “help-mate” to her husband. Since her own awakening, she has helped many other women to find fulfillment in their marriages by recognizing their calling to be help-mates to their spouses. Because this seems to be such an important and neglected part of the traditional Catholic understanding of Holy Marriage, I would like to ask readers of this newsletter who have testimonies of their own on this topic – either from your own experience or from your observations of other holy marriages – to please write a brief testimony and send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Through the prayers of the Mother of God, gloriously assumed into Heaven, may the Holy Ghost keep us faithful to our Heavenly Bridegroom in every moment of our lives – as our Blessed Mother was faithful in every moment of her life.
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. Douay Rheims Bible tabs fundraising campaign: As many know, the Douay Rheims Catholic Bible is the most accurate English Bible translation that safely translates key words upholding the Creation-Providence framework. For newcomers the Douay Rheims Bible can be a little challenging because of the ancient naming of many of its books differs from modern Bibles. To make it easier to read, a faithful Catholic in North Carolina is organizing a campaign to raise the necessary funds to help manufacture high quality Douay Rheims Bible tabs (Old & New Testaments). A donation of $15 will get you one set ($30 two). To learn more visit this website here.
 CORNELIUS A LAPIDE, Commentary on Genesis 1-3 (Mt. Jackson: Kolbe Center, 2019).